On October 28, 1982, the PSOE won the general elections by absolute majority with 46% of the votes. The electoral motto had been The time of change, and the country was entering a stage of radical transformations among whose first objectives was the change of image before the world. We had to end the black and white slide of backward and marginal Spain. So nothing better than resorting to contemporary art to enter the great international spaces. Javier Solana, Minister of Culture between 1982 and 1988, was very clear that the entry of Spain into the European Economic Community in 1986 was a unique opportunity to introduce the new creators. In order to execute the plan, he resorted to the conservative Carmen Giménez, who served as head of the official exhibition policy between 1983 and 1989 at different venues. A year later, in 1990, the Reina Sofía National Museum would open in Madrid.
With more or less variants, there were then five artists who, by way of rock stars, they walked their work through all possible scenarios. They were Miquel Barceló, Ferran García Sevilla, José Manuel Broto, José María Sicilia and Miguel Ángel Campano, who held a large retrospective at the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid until April 20. Titled D'après, the exhibition presents a hundred of his works made since 1972. Other Spanish artists such as Juan Muñoz, Cristina Iglesias, Susana Solano or Juan Uslé arrived immediately after this original nucleus, although the chronicles of the time focus on the quintet led by Barceló.
Carmen Giménez brought her experience as an independent curator and collaborator of the Joint Hispanic-North American Committee for Cultural Cooperation. The exhibition he organized, Contemporary Spanish Prints, He spent two and a half years in eight museums and universities in the United States. There was the work of Bonifacio Alfonso, Frederic Amat, Rafael Canogar, Jorge Castillo, Eduardo Chillida, Gerardo Delgado, Equipo Crónica, Amadeo Gabino, Luis Gordillo, José Guerrero and Josep Guinovart. At the same time, Giménez brought to Madrid and Barcelona Trends in New York, with Eric Fischl, Keith Haring, Bryan Hunt, Bill Jensen, Robert Moskowitz, Susan Rothenberg, David Salle, Kenny Scharf, Julian Schnabel and Donald Sultan.
They were all very young, painting was their means of expression and they practiced an informalism like the one exposed outside
"Socialist Spain has aroused worldwide interest," Carmen Giménez now recalls from the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York. “They were years of enthusiasm, emotion and a lot of work because we had a very small budget and everything was about to be done.” She assures that she did not choose the artists participating in the numerous exhibitions that were held abroad. “The choice was made by the curators or the directors of museums where it was going to be exhibited. We were very careful in that both Minister Solana and me. Despite this, I know that we were rained by criticism from the media and some artist not included. ”
All were very young (around 30 years old), painting was their means of expression and practiced an informalism close to what could be seen in the galleries of New York, London or Paris. Nothing to do with the immediately previous generations. They were never a cohesive group or shared artistic principles. Despite coinciding in Mallorca for years, personal relationships have been scarce, except in the case of Sicily and Campano. All continued to live from their work and, with greater or lesser fortune, have continued to appear in different exhibitions.
Miquel Barceló (Felanitx, Mallorca, 1957), he had his own gallery since he was 17 years old. With 27, in 1985, he starred in a anthology at the Velázquez Palace in Madrid. He "number one ", as Giménez calls it, it has become one of the undisputed names on the international scene and the work that it performs between Mallorca and Paris is part of the most relevant public and private collections.
Ferran García Sevilla (Palma de Mallorca, 1949) lives in Barcelona since the age of 18. Remember those joint exhibitions with the feeling of having participated in a hoax mounted to cover a foreign policy with which he did not commune. Despite this, he feels a great recognition for Carmen Giménez. Artist of radical attitude, eight years ago he decided to stop painting and destroy much of his paintings. “I took a mechanical saw and began to open packaging in which I kept paintings of the eighties and I crumbled them one after another. I brushed 102 and could have followed. I lowered the remains to a container and I was so comfortable. No remorse. "
Despite what was said then, García Sevilla has returned to paint and intervene in his work. His last action has been on the Serie Gods that is exhibited in the permanent collection of the Macba de Barcelona. Delivered to the independence cause, on October 24 he entered the museum and pasted and inserted notes against the sentence of the you process and in defense of the Catalan republic. The result is a video to spread through social networks. The artist confesses that he does not maintain a great relationship with his colleagues in the eighties, although he acknowledges that an invisible thread between them may have survived. With José Manuel Broto (Zaragoza, 1949) he spoke last year to know how he was after floods of Sant Llorenç, the Mallorcan town located east of the island where the artist from Zaragoza lives and continues to paint for three decades.
Ferran García Sevilla entered the MACBA and pasted and inserted notes against the judgment of the you process
José María Sicilia (Madrid, 1954) is, after Barceló, the artist who has had more national and international recognition within the quintet. National Plastic Arts Award, has lived between Paris, Soller (Mallorca) and Madrid. In 2017 he launched the El Instante Foundation, from which it promotes projects and actions with a social, scientific and cultural aspect. Sicily is not interested in the institutional exhibitions that starred in those beginnings, because it is something that falls apart in memory. He prefers to dialogue in writing with Miguel Ángel Campano, his colleague and friend, with whom he made his last work for the Foundation: “The past goes wrong most of the time. Sometimes it doesn't even happen. Michelangelo, but what are you and I? Any. A story, a hoax. ”
What was the contribution to the art of all of them? Was it just a bubble swollen by the political interests of the moment? The critic and historian Fernando Huici questions it. “They are not a bubble. It is a group of artists that connect with what is done abroad. When Barceló is chosen for the Documentation of Kassel in 1982, he is not elected from the Spanish Government. It is decided by Rudi Fuchs, one of the most important references of those years in contemporary art. I think that all of them, with differences, own a work that has survived very well. And the most important thing is that in that decade Spanish art experienced a promotion like never before or after. The 90s arrived and that promotion ended. ”
Manuel Borja-Villel, director of Reina Sofía since 2008, is the center of criticism of the painters of the eighties for the limited role they have in the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. The exhibition that is now dedicated to Miguel Ángel Campano (Madrid, 1948-2018) with a hundred works, is seen as an exception.
“The artists he mentions have had exhibitions at the Reina Sofía Museum or at important state institutions,” replies Borja-Villel. “Since the Queen, we have worked on the art of the eighties and nineties on several occasions. An exhibition was organized from the collections area, “Minimum Resistance” covering this period and at the Palacio de Velázquez we organized “Idea: Painting Strength” in which the work of some of these painters was also collected. And also recently they were included in the sample of the Soledad Lorenzo collection. It is not, therefore, a marginal period for the museum. ” And he adds that the presentation of a sample of the work of these artists is being studied in the contemporary section of the collection, in 2021 .. “You can see all these artists in their historical context. The museum's growing interest in these decades is reflected in the Immendorf show, which we have just opened, and in the Campano show. They are two representatives of the painting of these decades that work from very different parameters, one sees literature as narration, the other as language. A retrospective exhibition of Campano was still to be done. ”
The director of the museum does not agree that the lack of institutional support is the cause that at the last Venice Biennale, for example, there was not a single Spanish artist in the general exhibition. "If I had to look for a reason, I would be inclined to think about the lack of powerful collecting in our country, not the lack of support from the institutions."
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