Dali, Miro, Picasso. Spanish artists who changed the world in the first half of the 20th centuryth century? how about the second half? The half who grew up and worked under the shadow of Francisco Franco’s authoritarian rule?
Their story will be told in the exhibition “Under the Shadow of Dictatorship: Creating a Spanish Museum of Abstract Art” at the Meadows Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas from February 26 to June 18, 2023. increase.
The ‘Spanish Museum of Abstract Art’ referred to in the title is the Spanish Museum of Abstract Art founded by the painter Fernando Zobel (1924–1984). It opened to the public on July 1, 1966 as the nation’s first collection of abstract art.
“The Museo de Arte Abstracto Español was born in Spain, which was essentially a cultural desert, with few or no collections and institutions, and little infrastructure dedicated to modern and contemporary art,” says author, history House, Juan March Director of Museums and Exhibitions Foundation Manuel Fontan del Junco writes in the exhibition catalogue.
Dictators tend to have that effect on art. Franco’s greatest contribution to contemporary art came in a perverse way.
In 1936, he led an army against Spain’s democratically elected government, igniting the Spanish Civil War until his nationalist forces came to power in 1939. He enlisted the help of the Nazis to defeat his Republican opponents, who wanted to show off the superiority of their modern air force, and in 1937 the airstrikes of Guernica, Spain, killed three of the population there. A minute of him died or was injured. Civilian.
In response to this atrocity, Picasso painted Guernicadefinitely the 20 best paintingsth century.
Museo de Arte Abstracto Español
“The Franco regime didn’t support abstract art,” Clarisse Fava-Piz, the exhibition’s curator, told Forbes.com. “Artists have had difficulty accessing contemporary works of art and have had no exhibition space or venue to display their work.”
Spanish artists took matters into their own hands, formed collectives, and traveled extensively to art capitals such as Paris and New York to stay up to date with contemporary ideas.
“Spanish abstract artists were participating in the same artistic conversation, questioning traditional modes of expression and experimenting with materials, beyond the limits of the frame,” said Favapiz.
After the war, the Spanish Museum of Abstract Art was the culmination of their self-made efforts to keep Spain connected to the increasingly abstract contemporary art.
A wholly Zóbel private initiative, the museum aimed to cultivate a national audience for Spanish abstract art. In addition to supporting the creation of contemporary art, the museum brings together a community of artists and manages the museum together with Zóbel, making it the first artist-run museum in the country.
Its stunningly beautiful location makes it easy to overlook its revolutionary historic mission.
“Housed in the spectacular Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses) in the historic clifftop town of Cuenca, 100 miles southeast of Madrid, the museum is set in a 15th-century architectural setting overlooking an impressive natural landscape. It showcases Spanish abstract art and is the most memorable museum experience for visitors,” said Fava-Piz. “The curators carefully integrated paintings and sculptures into the unique spatial environment of the historic building. This unconventional approach yielded a powerful aesthetic experience.”
Alfred H. Barr Jr., founder of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, described the museum as “the most beautiful little museum in the world” after visiting it.
Now undergoing renovations, the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español, with more than 40 works from a collection of more than 30 artists, is the nation’s premier center for arts and culture exhibition, research, and education. You can visit the Meadows Museum. Spain. For many of the works, this exhibition marks their first departure from Cuenca and their debut in the United States.This will be the exhibition’s only stop in the United States
A first-of-its-kind in-state artwork exhibition at the Spanish Museum of Abstract Art, showcasing a comprehensive selection of Spanish abstract paintings and sculptures by artists active in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Their work exhibits resilience, profound creativity, and a special sense of pushing boundaries in the context in which the work is produced,” Favapiz said. “What sets these artists apart from their contemporaries is the diverse range of their artistic practices, which experiment with the language of abstraction, especially in the use of materials in their works. There are so many types of artistic experiments, including mirrorless favorite materials, wire mesh, Manuel Rivera, wood, Lucio Muñoz, Antoni Tapies’ famous “material paintings”. ”
Franco turning around
After and because of the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s Spain was weak, poor and internally divided. Sitting on this fence spared Spain the worst of the war’s devastating consequences, but the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe had spawned Spain. have been excluded.
A weak, impoverished and cracked state seemed to be Spain’s long-term future, and while the dictator may not be keen on contemporary art, he generally has a knack for taking advantage of opportunities. Franco’s opportunity came with the Cold War. Franco was a devout anti-communist dating back to the Civil War. This made him attractive to the United States.
Franco’s regime, which from the mid-1950s had discouraged artists from working outside the bounds of the realist artistic tradition, began to embrace the successes of the country’s abstract artists at international fairs abroad. I was.
“During the Cold War, cultural patronage became an important strategy for the Spanish regime in its pursuit of diplomatic relations with Western democracies. His efforts to re-establish diplomatic relations, marked by Spain’s accession to the United Nations in 1955, led to a reassessment of cultural policy,” explains Faba Pitts. “Using cultural diplomacy as a key component of the nationalist agenda, the regime promoted Spanish abstract artists as members of the international avant-garde, while at the same time emphasizing the ‘Spanishness’ of their art. ”
The Spanish government sponsored an ambitious program of exhibitions in Paris (1959), New York (1960) and London (1962).
Cultural diplomacy was also an American tool. MoMA and the CIA worked together during the Cold War to demonstrate Western freedom through the lens of art.
Spain remained under Franco’s rule until his death in 1975. The country will transition to democracy within a few years.
Picasso died in 1973. Guernica It was not screened in Spain while Franco was in power. The future management of the painting was entrusted to MoMA. In 1981, an agreement between the museum and Spain sent the painting to democratic Madrid, where it has remained ever since.
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