Romania’s Ministry of Culture is fending off social media sneers after appointing a pop star to represent one of the country’s most prestigious 20th century sculptors.
Officials hoped that pop sensation Irina Rimes could give renowned artist Constantin Brâncuși a new lease of life amongst Romania’s youth by acting as his official “ambassador”.
But a press conference launching the project for Brâncuși’s National Day (timed to fall on the artist’s birthday, 19 February) instead sparked scandal and reinforced divisions in Romania’s cultural landscape.
The ministry’s choice, 28-year-old Rimes, rose to fame in Romania in 2016 thanks to her melancholic single “Visele” (“Dreams”). With two albums and over 250K Youtube subscribers, she is one of the most prominent pop singers on the Romanian music market.
“I don’t know if I am the best choice [to take on this role] but I do know that we, Romanians, have a culture we can take pride in,” Rimes said in the conference. “Our country has been put on the cultural map of Europe by personalities, geniuses, that people have been talking for centuries, including Brâncuși.” Asked about her involvement, Rimes said she would rely on her outreach to her 800K Instagram and Facebook followers, “I will probably post about [the Brâncuși National Day]. I will speak with my people through a post.”
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Endless column of light . #Repost @adinaszy ・・・ ~To see far is one thing, Going there is another~ C. Brancusi . . . #coloanainfinitului #endlesscolumn #brancusi #constantinbrancusi #sculpture #sculptureart #sculpturework #romania #artist #romanianartist #romaniansculpture #romaniansculptor #art #greatart #greatartist #romanianartist #romanicelebri #pieceofart #park #inthecity #sunset #sky #colors #decembersunset #december #instapic #instaphoto #instaphotography #mytown
But Rimes’s vague speech generated an uproar in the national press and on social media. High-profile journalists and writers expressed their disdain at the Ministry’s “ridiculous” choice, often with sexist, classist and racist undertones (Rimes was born in a village in Moldova and was mocked for certain phrases typically used there).
Indeed, the other choice of ambassador for Brâncuși’s National Day, writer and literary critic Alex Ștefănescu, was left largely without comment.
Others defended Rimes but accused the Ministry for not “preparing” the artist and making sure she has “background knowledge” before speaking publicly.
Rimes posted a photo of herself looking at Brâncuși’s Infinity Column in the sculptor’s native Targu-Jiu, inviting her followers to join the celebrations at the National Museum of Art in Bucharest. So far, the post engaged far more people than the Culture Ministry’s post (but fewer than her selfies with puppies and safari animals).
If nothing else, the media frenzy introduced Rimes’s audience to Brâncuși, and the avant-garde sculptor’s fans to the freshest Romanian pop – although neither artist got the best intro.