Culture will pay 30 million euros to businessman José María Lafuente for his 20th century art archive

The Council of Ministers has finally agreed to buy the dairy businessman José María Lafuente your file for 27,795,045 euros, which will be paid in eleven annual installments (until 2032). In addition, a center associated with the Reina Sofía Museum will be created in Santander to house the pieces of the set, in the former headquarters of the Bank of Spain. The rehabilitation will be carried out by the Santander City Council, which has announced an investment of 11 million euros for the conversion of the building into a museum, where part of the 133,000 documents, photographs, manuscripts, magazines, letters, books, posters, catalogs will be exhibited. and pamphlets from the Cantabrian archive, which never raised the possibility of donation to the State. It is the most expensive archive purchase ever signed by the Ministry of Culture, as reported to this newspaper from the Archives area of ​​the portfolio directed by Miquel Iceta.

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“It is a collection of documents, not an organic set of documents”, they point out from the Archives area, although they recognize that it can be called an archive. From this area, they acknowledge to elDiario.es that paying such a high amount for a file can generate a problem of inflation of the price of those that can be offered from now on to be part of public collections. In fact, the total budget for Archives in 2022 is 32 million euros.

The closest purchase to this happened in 2010, when the then minister Ángeles González-Sinde, today president of the board of trustees of the Reina Sofía Museum, acquired the archive of Carmen Balcells (1930-2015) for 3.5 million euros. The memory on paper of the most important literary agent of literature in Spanish, was made up of original works or manuscripts of Nobel Prize winners for Literature such as Mario Vargas Llosa or Gabriel García Mázquez and others by authors such as Ana María Matute. The documents rest in the General Archive of the Administration (AGA), in Alcalá de Henares, and represent more than 2,500 linear meters of documents.

Unique in counterculture comics

“From what the director of the Reina Sofía Museum tells me, this archive is extremely important. Without him we would not understand what happened from the fifties onwards, in Spanish culture. And we owe this to the interest of a collector who was obsessed with not losing this material”, Miquel Iceta explained last March, on the roof of the Reina Sofía Museum, before the monthly meeting of the Qualification Board, Valuation and Export of Heritage Assets. That day it was reported that in 2021 the investment of the Ministry of Culture in the purchase of art for the public collections of the State reached 5.9 million euros, a figure that "almost doubles that of the previous year." But that is far from the almost 30 million euros that will be paid to Lafuente.

The decision of the Council of Ministers puts an end to an operation that started in 2014, when José María Lassalle, Secretary of State for Culture with the PP and also Cantabrian (Lafuente was born in Lugo but a year after he lived in Cantabria), proposed a purchase option similar to the Carmen Cervera operation: immediate delivery and payment after ten years. The management of the Reina Sofía Museum said then that it was "the most important private archive in Europe" and that with it the museum would become "a documentary benchmark for Latin American museography." However, the firm did not find a solution due to the economic aspirations of the collector and the successive crises that the country has been going through since then.

Among the documents in the José María Lafuente archive are artist's books, photobooks, documentation of performances, actions, magazines, fanzines, works of experimental poetry and original comics. From Culture they point out that the archive is specialized in the history of 20th century art in Latin America, the United States and Europe, "with a particular emphasis on Spain." The Ministry clarifies that the funds acquired are "exhaustive and unique" in areas such as futurism, Dadaism and surrealism, Russian avant-garde and Soviet artistic production, typographic revolution of the early twentieth century and in the artistic production networks of the second half of the century. XX.

In the set, they inform from Culture, two great periods are distinguished: the first, from 1900 to 1945, and a second period that covers the year 1945 to 1989. Funds of artists such as Sol LeWitt, Ulises Carrión, Ray Johnson, Gianni Bertini stand out. , José Luis Castillejo, Henri Chopin, Edgardo Antonio Vigo, George Maciunas or Marcel Broodthaers. The Ministry of Culture considers that the José María Lafuente archive "is only comparable to two of the most important private collections in the United States and Europe: the Merrill C. Berman Collection and the Edigio Marzona collection." They also assure that it is unique "for the representation of the Spanish counterculture and comics of the 1970s and 1980s, with unique collections of publications and authors: Ajoblanco magazine, Star magazine, Nazario, El Cubri, Ceesepe, etc."

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