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The collection

The collection of Spanish Contemporary Art

Through a small but significant group of carefully chosen works—primarily paintings and sculptures—the Museu Fundación Juan March aims to present the main trends and artists within twentieth-century Spanish art, with a particular focus on recent decades.

Inevitably, this brief introductory text cannot refer to every work and each artist, group or tendency represented in the collection, due to its richness and variety, and also because many of these artists defy rigid categorization due to their highly individual output. Nonetheless, through their works, each and every one of them has contributed in defining the current state of art in Spain.

Colección de arte abstracto - Museu de Palma
Colección de arte abstracto - Museu de Palma

Inevitably, this brief introductory text cannot refer to every work and each artist, group or tendency represented in the collection, due to its richness and variety, and also because many of these artists defy rigid categorization due to their highly individual output. Nonetheless, through their works, each and every one of them has contributed in defining the current state of art in Spain.

As such, the collection shows how the twentieth century was defined by the formal and stylistic discoveries made by a series of artists who coincided in Paris, the capital of modern art until at least the midtwentieth century. Names such as Juan Gris, Julio González, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso—all represented in the museum—have become universally known as the creative figures who led the break from tradition brought about by the early avant-garde movements.

It was in the second half of the twentieth century that Spanish modern art grew and evolved through the emergence of aesthetic trends such as informalism, geometrical abstraction and magic realism, which assumed a course that ran parallel to international visual art movements, but which possessed its own distinctive character and expressivity. One of the connecting links within this new artistic dynamism of the 1950s and 1960s was Fernando Zóbel, who founded the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca in 1966 with the collaboration of Gustavo Torner and Gerardo Rueda. This institution would become the key reference point of contemporary art for both the visiting public and Spanish artists until the founding of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid in the 1980s.

The Museo de Arte Abstracto Español is also managed by the Fundación Juan March, which received Zóbel’s endowment and expanded it from 1980 onwards. Thus, the Cuenca museum can be seen as an "brother" to Palma’s Museu Fundación Juan March—it was the starting point for its collection, from which an independent museological plan has evolved at its own pace, reflecting the particular characteristics of Palma’s museum.

Colección de arte abstracto - Museu de Palma
Colección de arte abstracto - Museu de Palma

Displayed side by side in the Museu Fundación Juan March’s exhibition halls are works by the artists who shared the spirit of those decades, giving rise to a fascinating network of mutual influences. Within the context of informalism, for example, Antoni Tàpies’ calm, material-based abstraction is juxtaposed with the cry for freedom best expressed in works by Antonio Saura, Rafael Canogar, Manuel Millares or Luis Feito, all of whom updated the most characteristic traits of the Spanish cultural tradition through expressivity and emotion.

Tàpies’ presence is particularly notable in the museum due to the quality and quantity of his works on display. An internationally renowned artist, Tàpies turned the wall—his preferred theme— into an enormously evocative surface. His investigations of specifically painterly elements also enabled him to transcend traditional pictorial illusionism, while his interest in the everyday, the insignificant and the tangible reality of objects brought him close to Zen philosophy and the aesthetics of contemplation.

Special mention should also be made of the Basque sculptors Jorge Oteiza and Eduardo Chillida, who are significantly represented in the museum and who formulated their own distinctive idioms in the 1950s, as did Tàpies and Pablo Palazuelo. The latter is a unique artist whose work, dominated by a lyrical and transcendental understanding of geometrical and rhythmical values, is difficult to classify and cannot easily be located within the context of analytical abstraction.

With the intention of rethinking Basque art and sculpture through an affirmation of its identity, Oteiza systematically investigated the void, on occasions exploring its expressive capacity and on others avoiding any type of symbolism in order to focus on the geometry of the volume that defines it.

On the other hand, Chillida, whose work was characterized by an equally profound asceticism, meditated on space, working directly with iron and the technique of forging in order to convey the intensity and tension of a direct blow applied with the full weight of the body. Moving between classicism and primitivism, Chillida’s work reveals his interest in nature and in man’s ability to transform it into art.

Characterized by its dense, disturbing mood, the art of Lucio Muñoz, who worked with wood to create his expressionist pieces, also reflects this intention to reinvigorate the Spanish cultural tradition. This is also the case, albeit from a realist viewpoint, with the work of Antonio López García and Julio López Hernández, both of whom have produced figurative works of an enigmatic, even hermetic, symbolism that associates them with the tradition of magical realism. Another very different connection to tradition was established by José Guerrero, an artist whose entire career falls within the conte xt of American abstract expressionism and who investigated the limits of color and its vibrations while continuing to evoke a certain Spanish mood.

Finally, a conscious opposition to informalism defines the work of artists such as Eusebio Sempere and Andreu Alfaro, who were active during the years when international geometrical abstraction prevailed but who set out to produce a type of abstract art based on the experimental tradition of the constructivist avant-gardes. Sempere’s work is based on geometrical analysis, as can be appreciated in his paintings, silkscreens and sculpture. Alfaro, on the other hand, drew on the air with iron and stainless steel, searching for a simplicity and precision that retain an element of symbolism. As a result we could say these two artists represent the opposing extreme of abstraction in Spain.

Within the context of a reinvigorated figuration that allied itself with popular culture and that contained a degree of social critique, Eduardo Arroyo, Juan Genovés and Equipo Crónica constructed narratives referring to individual or group experiences that were often related to pop art in the visual devices they employed.

Decades of ebullient creative activity gave rise to a type of contemporary Spanish art characterized by its avoidance of dogma and the coexistence of extremely varied artistic trends. A succession of artists thus investigated the limits of art, generating new languages. The early 1970s saw an initial opening up to Europe and the acceptance of the most cutting-edge tendencies within minimalism and, particularly, conceptual art. Spanish art was now fully open to experimental trends of a different type, which shared the characteristic of not being expressed through the traditional media of painting and sculpture.

Colección de arte abstracto - Museu de Palma
Colección de arte abstracto - Museu de Palma

Opposing those approaches, artists working in the 1980s set out to regain ground with a renewed form of abstraction based on "pure painting." Painters such as José Manuel Broto, Miguel Ángel Campano, Gerardo Delgado and José María Sicilia first presented their works at this point, marking a new moment of euphoria in painting along with artists such as Luis Gordillo; figurative painters such as Guillermo Pérez Villalta; abstract artists such as Albert Ràfols-Casamada, Jordi Teixidor and Soledad Sevilla; and the visual investigations of Juan Navarro Baldeweg and Darío Villalba.

A unique figure among Spanish artists of the 1980s is the Majorcan Miquel Barceló, considered by many at that period to be the prototype of the "young artist," although few predicted the relevance he would subsequently achieve both in Spain and internationally. Barceló has gradually consolidated his language, which is based on a repertoire of characteristic themes primarily derived from nature and on a very specific use of traditional visual resources taken to their extremes.

Coinciding with this return to "pure painting," the 1980s also manifested a new and marked interest in sculpture. Deploying very different approaches, artists such as Sergi Aguilar, Juan Bordes and Susana Solano reawakened a seemingly dormant medium, and by continuing the direction initiated by conceptual art installations and interventions they succeeded in going beyond the limits of traditional sculpture and achieved creative maturity.



Fundación Juan March
Contact
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+34 91 435 42 40 – Fax: +34 91 576 34 20
http://www.march.es