Cuenca Exhibition

59 Fans by 59 Artists

November 8, 2013June 15, 2014
Joan Miró
Joan Miró
Wood; gouache on cloth; mounted on plywood and cardboard
11 5/8 x 18 15/16 in. (29.6 x 48.1 cm)

In 1971, as part of a charity auction, thirty artists and writers were each asked to decorate a hand fan. The resulting collection of fans was acquired in its entirety by Carlos de Aguilera i Fontcuberta, who in turn commissioned the same work from a series of artists who had not participated in the initial project. In the end, the set came to include fifty-nine fans. In November 1971, they were presented to the public at Trece gallery in Barcelona.


The exhibition 59 Fans by 59 Artists presents that collection, which as Rafael Santos Torroella put it in the text published by the gallery on the occasion comprises a series "in which all of the recent ''isms,'' represented by their foremost practitioners, have had the opportunity once again to pay tribute to the ''eternal feminine.''"


Antoni Tàpies
Antoni Tàpies
Wood; acrylic and wood on cloth; mounted on plywood and cardboard
11 3/4 x 19 1/8 in. (29.8 x 48.6 cm)
Eusebio Sempere
Eusebio Sempere
Wood; gouache and acrylic on cloth; mounted on plywood and cardboard
11 13/16 x 19 1/8 in. (30 x 48.5 cm)

Indeed, the collection does provide a good reflection of the artistic scene in Spain at the time, in which painters and sculptors of various stripes were working simultaneously. The set of fans encompasses artists from the historical avant-gardes (Dalí, Miró, Caballero), from the Paris School (Clavé, Grau Sala), and from the period of artistic renewal of the late 1940s led by the group associated with the journal Dau al Set (Cuixart, Guinovart, Tàpies). Likewise, there are artists with ties to Art Informel, as it manifested itself in Catalonia (Hernández Pijuan, Ràfols Casamada) and in Madrid, with the group known as El Paso (Canogar, Millares, Rivera, Serrano, Francés) and artists in their circle (Farreras, Hernández Mompó, Lucio Muñoz). Geometric abstraction also has its place here (Gabino, Sempere), as do the artists who worked in the context of the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español (Torner, Zóbel). Artists from the generation of the 1960s are represented principally by Catalans (Arranz-Bravo, Artigau, Llimós, Sala), and the collection is rounded out by a series of artists active in the following decade (Gudiol, Maya, Muntadas, Soler Pedret).


Hand fans, in general, have figured in Spanish painting as an emblematic element since Sánchez Coello's female portraits, nevertheless, what these contemporary Spanish artists communicate in their fans is far removed from traditional approaches. Faced with the challenge of decorating a fan, they gave shape to their artistic preoccupations as if the support were no different from canvas or paper. The form of the fans undeniably limited the range of possibilities, but many of the results were in perfect consonance with the aesthetic trajectory of each artist.


Such is the case, for example, with Joan Miró, who confidently executed a series of colorful, markedly simple ciphers that are related to his Constellations series. Antoni Tàpies, meanwhile, applied the paint directly in an approach characteristic of his brand of Art Informel and included the cross that we identify with his personal repertoire of signs. Eusebio Sempere alternates the colors in each of the folds of the fan, recalling the optical effects of his geometric abstraction. Manuel Millares takes the fan as an occasion to produce an example of the mysterious, undecipherable, seemingly ancient writing that was a focus of his work in the early 1970s.


Manuel Millares
Manuel Millares
Wood; inks and felt tip pen on cloth; mounted on plywood and cardboard
11 3/4 x 19 1/8 in. (29.8 x 48.6 cm)
Antoni Muntadas
Antoni Muntadas
Wood; acrylic and felt tip pen on cloth; mounted on plywood and cardboard
11 5/8 x 19 3/16 in. (29.6 x 48.8 cm)

The artists approached the various elements of the support differently, however. While some viewed the fan decoratively, without altering the fuente (the rigid, folding base of the fan), such as Araujo, Burguillos, Gabino, and Ràfols-Casamada, others treated the object as a whole, altering both the fuente and the país (the cloth portion), as did Artigas, Francés, Llimós, and Muntadas. In this sense, Rafael Canogar's use of the fuente is particularly interesting: it conceals the bodies of figures that act out a scene conveying a social critique.


Artists were not the only participants in the project, however. Writers who were also interested in drawing, such as Alberti or Neruda, also created fans.


With 59 fans that belong to a private collection, this exhibition includes an important segment of artists featured in Fundación Juan March's collection, particularly those from the generation of the 1950s, represented in the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca and in the Museu Fundación Juan March in Palma.