Conservation Heritage Chile

Structural damage in Santiago

Chilean museum runs out of funds to re-open its doors in time for the country’s bicentennial celebrations

Closed due to earthquake: Santiago's Museo de Arte Contemporaneo

NEW YORK. ­­The crumbling façade of Santiago’s Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC) will not be restored in time for the country’s bicentennial celebrations this month. The 100-year-old neoclassical-style building located in the city’s historic Parque Forestal neighbourhood was badly damaged in February’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake. The tremor, the second most powerful in Chile’s history, destroyed the museum’s dome, galleries, balustrades and cornice, the latter of which dropped onto the main entrance’s staircase, blocking access to the museum.

Francisco Brugnoli, the museum president, explained that budget deficits have precluded a full reconstruction of the museum, which houses one of the most extensive collections of Chilean art in the world. To date, $60,000 has been allocated to fix the interior and the dome, as well as fortify the façade. But to reopen the entrance, $236,000 must be raised. According to Brugnoli, the government will not fund the final repairs. “Due to a budget deficit we are not able to resume reconstruction,” he said. “As a result we are campaigning to raise both national and international private funds to restore our programme.”

Funding efforts have included an initiative spearheaded by Swiss artist Louis von Adelsheim. Directly after the earthquake struck, Adelsheim visited Santiago to create a documentary about the damaged Parque Forestal structure, as well as the museum’s second branch in the Quinta Normal district, which also suffered severe structural damage estimated at $400,000. Adelsheim’s 11-minute film, entitled A Movement for the Reconstruction of MAC, 2010, which screened at this year’s Art Basel fair, raised a total of $20,000 dollars, which was subsequently allocated to the Parque Forestal site. The artist will continue his fundraising efforts, which includes a screening of his film at Art Basel Miami Beach in December.

According to Brugnoli, the German government has given almost all the money needed for the Quinta Normal site. The donation will enable the museum to finish repairs by March 2011.

It is likely the problems will worsen considering cutbacks for the cultural sector are on the horizon. According to a source close to Chile’s Council of Arts and Culture, the 2010 budget of $120m will likely decrease by 20% when the newly elected president, Sebastián Piñera, reveals his 2011 budget this December. Meanwhile, the total coast of the quake is estimated at between $15bn and $30bn, or up to 15% of Chile’s gross domestic product.

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