Image courtesy of El País. Written by Àngels Miralda.
Tasked with representing an institution, securing funding, and important organisational structures, the position of director is a demanding task. What happens when it all goes wrong? In this series, we uncover stories of crime, desperation, political defiance, or corruption in museum leadership.
Consuelo Císcar served as the director of the IVAM (Valencian Institute of Modern Art) from 2004-2014. In 2014, an avalanche of accusations was brought against her, conjecting a misuse of power within the position. Coupled with investigations into her acquiring practices, Císcar was not only ousted from the directorship but also landed a prison sentence.1 During the final court ruling, she admitted to fraudulent expenditure of public funds through the purchase of artworks made by her son—the Spanish artist Rafael Blasco (aka Rablasci)—to favor his career. Ciscar used her position to place her son in international exhibitions and used public funds to purchase her flights and hotel stays to attend the vernissages.
However, she was not the only person at the institution charged with fraud. Financial Director Juan Carlos Lledó was charged as a “knowing accomplice,” and the businessman Enrique B. Martínez Murillo was found guilty of falsifying financial documents. Císcar’s illegal activity stops here, but she is known to have rubbed shoulders with other characters accused of similar financial crimes.
Císcar studied business and achieved a Master’s in Museology and Communication before becoming the director of the Valencian Fine Arts Museum, where she worked from 1995-2001. Afterward, she became an acting member of the right-wing Popular Party of Spain (PP). She comes from a political family: her brother is another member of the PP, and her husband, Rafael Blasco, a politician who has flip-flopped between the right-wing PP and the socialist party PSOE.
Císcar had many connections with important faces from the Spanish world of politics and finance. Among them was Gao Ping, an important collector from China who immigrated to Spain in the 1980s and whose success in business had catapulted him into the upper echelons of Madrid’s financial elite. Ping founded the Fundación Arte y Cultura (Foundation for Art and Culture) as well as the Beijing Centre for Iberian Art - the first Spanish art centre in China. In 2008, he organized the exhibition “55 Days” in the IVAM together with Consuelo Císcar: a large-scale exhibition of Chinese contemporary artists in the Valencian capital.2 While all of this activity points to a dedicated collector who not only invested in contemporary art but offered opportunities of exchange for young artists, it occurred parallel to an illegal operation that defrauded millions from the Spanish tax authorities.
Consuelo Ciscar at the opening of an IVAM exhibition with Gao Ping in 2008. Photography by Tania Castro.
In 2022, a Spanish court opened a case against Ping as well as the porn actor Nacho Vidal as the leaders of a criminal organization dedicated to falsifying documents with the aim of defrauding the Kingdom of Spain of millions of Euros in import and export taxes. Members of the Spanish police force were also implicated as accomplices in this activity for accepting bribes to “look the other way.”3
Consuelo Císcar was also accused of malpractice in relation to the purchase of works by the sculptor Gerardo Rueda but was absolved by a court after evidence was provided that the sale value was under the amount paid for similar works in private collections.4 Císcar was removed from her position, but her actions affected not only her reputation but also that of the museum. The next director of the IVAM, José Miguel García Cortés, began his job with the duty of cleaning up the name of the humiliated museum, stressing the important cultural services the museum provides.
Consuela Císcar leaving court. Courtesy of LEVANTE-EMV.
The IVAM, now directed by the art historian Nuria Enguita, has recently put together a dynamic program of modern art and contemporary artists from Valencia and beyond as the museum settles back into an improved reputation. While the days of Císcar are long over, the recent history of corruption and nepotism, not only in the cultural field but in general politics, still sits as a sour memory within the artistic community whose resources in this region of Southern Europe are already stretched thin.