Look back (Debate), The last volume of collected essays by the writer Félix de Azúa (Barcelona, 1944), traces "a kind of art history that starts in the Paleolithic paintings and reaches until after the death of art". A death that the professor of Aesthetics, academic of the language and EL PAÍS columnist It situates at some point in the seventies. The book consequently gives off an inevitable farewell aroma, and can be read an elegy complement to its classic Dictionary of the arts. Compiled by the publisher Andreu Jaume, the texts, lectures, articles and a couple of unpublished, touch between erudition and irony issues such as topics that still adhere to the paintings of Goya, the ability for the aesthetic reinvention of the city of Munich or the transition between the Ancien Régime and Romanticism, perhaps the period in the history of art that he has studied most devotedly throughout his career. The interview was held on Monday at a shopping center near his home in Madrid, a city with which he lives a true idyll since he moved in 2011 from Barcelona.
Question. After leaving teaching … Does he continue to encourage writing about art?
The State cares little about the existence of the Prado … come on, it matters 20 million. But of course, football cares 1,000 million.
Answer. No. It's over. I have two or three conferences pending. I am interested in the theoretical problems related to the image, but no longer the strictly artistic matters. Art is a closed activity, a bit like mosaic or theology, a finished thing. What is done in today's art belongs to the world of tourism, leisure and sports. Pure mass entertainment.
P. In the book he arrives at Anselm Kiefer, who is in a way an old-fashioned artist, a history painter.
R. All art is old. To deal with current art, we must talk about things that fit better in the entertainment section than in the culture section.
P. The so-called new artistic practices that emerged half a century ago never interested you?
The museums were always for the researchers, for the students, not for these floods of people, although it seems very good that they go
R. At the beginning of the seventies, there were things of some substance, especially for the part of land art. They were creators who still had an ambition. Although it gave me more laughter than horror, even something of [Joseph] Beuys interested me … but already then everything was shooting towards the show. A paradigmatic case are Christo's involvement. I was already beginning to think about how to take pictures. This is the case with the Guggenheim in Bilbao, which is very photogenic, but behind it there is no idea …
P. In one of the essays of the book he writes: "[El arte contemporáneo funciona como] a mechanism opposed to that of vanitas baroque, in which only the excellence of the bill could inspire reflection. Now it is the reflection that justifies a trivial work ".
R. Yes, but they are not ideas. What we now call art are occurrences, anybody has them. There are a thousand each week and those that can be paid with grants come in. The others stay at home, keep them for karaoke. There is no need to know anything to be an artist …
P. Something will have to do with this support in the market, people who want and pay for these occurrences.
R. What we said, tourism is nothing but market.
Digital newspapers look like a real newspaper only residually
P. What do you think of the fascination of contemporary culture with a figure like Banksy?
R. First, he is a painter of simple figures; It does not pose any problem, everyone understands it. He presents himself as a superior moral being, who judges the wickedness of the world (and that always tastes very much). And then it's free, you find your things on the street. Finally, there is the assembly of art dealers, who are so desperate, they have to see if they can sell graffiti. Everything seems to me a great triviality.
P. Miquel Barceló, on the other hand, is interested. He dedicates one of the written articles ad hoc for the book …
R. I am particularly interested in his facet as a painter. When it came up, it looked like a kind of Spanish Kiefer from those eighties …
P. In the book he takes Delacroix, for example, to explain the social changes in 19th century France. Do you think that the current art will give clues to understand our world to those who look for them in two centuries?
R. If we call art, which is an abuse, what dealers, museums and gallerists call art, I do not think that any future generation has an interest in finding out anything, because there is nothing to find out about. They will do it through movies, from the youtubes, from the moving image. And for the books, of course, I predict a resurgence of that culture in the coming years.
P. And journalism?
If we call art, which is an abuse, what dealers, museums and gallerists call art, I do not think that any future generation is interested in finding out about anything, because there is nothing to find out about
R. I'm afraid I see it more difficult. Obviously, I refer to journalism on paper, which is the only thing I understand as journalism. Just as jumping onto a stage and eating a cockatoo may seem like art, although it is not art but residually, digital newspapers look like a real newspaper only residually.
P. Do you take the trouble to see exhibitions of contemporary art that you so dislike?
R. You have no choice, because they are everywhere. They are in places impossible to avoid, such as museums, the subway, the newspaper, the street, the news … I understand that you have to fill many hours, and doing journalism is expensive. On the other hand, sending a man with a camera to see one who is getting a carrot through an ear is very cheap …
P. In Arco, which is celebrated in a couple of weeks, they do not wait for you, I imagine …
R. No no. I only went once, because they invited me to eat …
P. What did you think about the controversy of the last edition, when they removed the piece from Santiago Sierra Political prisoners in contemporary Spain?
R. Sierra is a man who earns a lot of money based on people saying he is an imbecile. He is very clever.
P. Would you say that we are still immersed in postmodernity or have we already passed the screen?
R. Postmodernism certified the death of art, and now we live art after the death of art, as I said [el crítico Arthur C.] Danto. This death can be very long, as long as the companies that have recycled the art for their interests persist. Art, as it was in the last thousand years, is finished.
P. But at the same time, more people than ever go to museums.
R. That is tourism. The Reina Sofia Museum, for example, that I have not been interested in for a thousand years – and that his director, Manolo Borja Villel, is friend– It is the most visited in Spain. That's because the people who go to the palaces of the Retiro count. And the Retreat goes around the world. It is the proof of what I said before. The museums are designed and organized for tourists. And thank goodness, because, if not, they would not survive. The State cares little about the existence of the Prado … come on, it matters 20 million. But of course, football cares 1,000 million.
The Prado has the same problems as institutions like the RAE. If the State does not maintain them, it is impossible for them to subsist
P. Did public museums fall into the trap of self-financing?
R. Yes. The authorities gave them the test. 'Let's see if you can pay the bills for you alone'. And for that they started to attract people to go on buses. And they did it, because people go where the Imserso takes them. Now the State contemplates the great business. In my opinion, what museums should do is charge three hundred euros to enter, so that the rooms remain empty …
P. It sounds, to put it mildly, elitist …
R. The museums were always for the researchers, for the students, not for these floods of people, although it seems very good to me that they go.
P. Is not that way of seeing things with age and with the increasingly conservative way of seeing the things that sometimes give years?
R. I am one of the few young people I know. I see a lot of old people in the world … There are young people who are very old, but very old …
The Catalan problem can not be solved from Madrid. From here it has only gotten worse, giving nationalism everything it wanted, and subsidizing it
P. Give an example …
R. Pablo Iglesias, who has become old in three days. He has bought a mansion with gardens and he does not let the Civil Guard keep the entrance. It has the features of a perfect and very old Spanish capitalist.
P. If everything is so terrible, why do you keep writing? For money?
R. No way! If they pay fatal. You do not live from this. You can live if you write stories of pedophile legionnaires impaling albino women. But if you write about normal things, no. Now I dedicate myself to more personal things. EL PAÍS column I think of as a sonetito in which I am working all week. I am also writing about the Byzantine iconoclasm of the sixth century. And a novel, which I have to leave to rest to see if I deliver it for publication …
P. What happened to the exhibition that I was going to curate for the Museo del Prado, on the occasion of the bicentennial?
R. What happened is that it changed the address. One day, talking to the new Miguel [Falomir, que sustituyó a Zugaza], of which, by the way, I am a friend, made me see that it was a sample with extraordinarily expensive works and that from the Louvre, for example, they were not going to lend them to us. It was a celebration exhibition, which aimed to turn the centenary into a world event. And of course, that's very expensive.
P. What do you think of the one that was programmed in its place?
R. It's interesting, it's documentary, it's very good. The Prado has the same problems as institutions like the RAE. If the State does not maintain them, it is impossible for them to survive. In the case of the Academy, the solution is to stop making dictionaries, which is the most expensive.
There are women everywhere, and always. I do not see why we have to give more importance to paint than to anything else
P. Do you hope that the new director, Santiago Muñoz Machado, fix the financing things?
R. The poor man has just arrived and he still has not had time to breathe. He is one of the strongest lawyers in Madrid, and that makes him know where the tickets are exactly hidden, under what mattress, or from what brick. We'll see how it goes. For me, it has been a surprise for the Academy, because I have thirty new friends, and that at my age is unthinkable. When you're forty, you do not make friends anymore. And much less thirty at a time … Besides, these are immortal, as you know …
P. And enemies has been made?
R. Nooo, we all get along phenomenally … we just need to kiss each other in the mouth.
P. What solution do you think the RAE should contribute to the demands of inclusive language of feminist groups and a part of society?
R. Those are fashions that happen. They come out, they bloom, they wither and they die. As the hula hoop.
P. You can not compare with the hula hoop the aspirations of women who consider that as a way for their visibility …
R. It will be of sound. Women deserve a lot of respect, a respect they have never had. The history of humanity is the history of the slavery of women by terrible and patriarchal men. That said, the claims we are seeing now come from an elite. That is something very common in the eighteenth century. It was called enlightened despotism, and it had good effects. Some people who paid attention to what the upper classes said were a little illustrious.
P. The demonstrations of March 8th deny that idea of a few chosen ones. They were extraordinarily multitudinous …
R. Yes, but the ones that lead the way are a few well-to-do women, ministers, journalists … who, with the best will, lead the debates to issues such as inclusive language. Good Christian intentions.
P. Do you frequent young people?
R. I have a lot of dealings with young people. The last ones are improving with respect to when I left the University. I suppose they've been bored with so much nonsense and such a useless teacher. The educational plans are very weak, and consequently they realize that they are facing life with tools of little use. I do not know if the Catalan, feminist, LGBT or Bable demands give for living … In the newspapers I only see young people talking about those things … Except in the pages of science. There are those that interest me.
P. What do you think of the search for women artists, such as Sofonisba or Clara Peeters, to readjust the canon of art history?
R. It is normal. In a production mass as large as the oil painting of so many years, if you look also find Chinese painters. There are women everywhere, and always. I do not see why we have to give more importance to paint than to anything else. It is a prestige like high class, all those claims are for an aristocraticism that makes me hard to chew.
P. Do you come back to Barcelona from time to time?
R. Yes, but I do it camouflaged. According to what nationalist is scary … The Catalan problem can not be solved from Madrid. From here it has only gotten worse, giving nationalism everything it wanted, and subsidizing it. The Catalan problem is a problem for the Catalans. They have to solve them. They have to sit and think, but that costs them. It is the nationalists who have ruined that country.
P. Do you think Manuel Valls a good candidate for mayor of the city?
R. I lived there for many years, and it was an interesting city, it looked like a European city. I think Valls is the only European candidate that comes forward.
P. He recently wrote that he is deciding which is the least bad option to vote … Was it always like that?
R. No, there was a time when I voted excited. We had some great years Felipe González and me. His was an old socialism, the one that defends the culture, the sacrifice of work, the merit. But now the socialists are too obsessed with money and with gender.
P. And what about Vox?
R. The European problem of the extreme right and the fascism does not give me a good spine. I'm afraid they're going to give war in a serious way. What Vox is another thing. It is true that there was no Spanish nationalism and now there is. But they seem a little naive to me. At the moment, they are pure oratory. How will a party like this not arise if the president of the Generalitat sees the Spaniards as inferior animals with broken DNA!