This celebratory exhibition of the opening of the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía amalgamates three internationally renowned Spaniards: Eduardo Chillida, Antonio Saura and Antoni Tàpies beside three of the finest artistsom the second half of the twentieth century: Georg Baselitz, Cy Twombly and Richard Serra. The lack of historical and stylistic common ground that joins them here as well as the origins and diverse time periods of each has led the art critic, Francisco Calvo Serraller, to call the confluence an “eccentric encounter” in the exhibition notes. Having said that, is is in fact possible to consider the convergence of some of them in terms of the purpose and intent of their work. For instance, Saura clearly shares certain Expressionist references with Baselitz; the poetic and gestural nature of the material and the presence of calligraphy are also common in Tàpies and Twombly, and the preponderance of three-dimensions in Chillida's and Serra's work gives rise to analogical origins of their way of conceiving artistic creation.
The meeting of the curator Germano Celant, the architect Frank O. Gehry (Toronto, 1929) and the artists Coosje van Bruggen (Groningen, 1942 - Los Angeles, 2009) and Claes Oldenburg (Stockholm, 1929) transpired in a large-scale sculpture called Knife Ship. Il corso del Coltello (in its original Italian name) - a boat with twenty-four metre long oars and knife blades measuring nine metres when folded out as well as a corkscrew in an upright position. This piece arrived in the Venetian Arsenale on 6 September 1985 to become the backdrop for three days of diverse artistic activity and a performance that involved the dramatisation of the 'alter ego' of each one: Oldenburg as “Doctor Coltello”, a souvenir salesman with secret ambitions to become a painter, van Bruggen as “Georgia Sanda”, a modern version of Georges Sand, an individualist and adventurer, and the architect Gehry as “Franky Toronto”, a modern Piranesi.
Julio González (Barcelona, 1876 - Paris, 1942) is one of the preeminent Spanish sculptors, laying the foundations for the wave of modern sculpture from the Thirties onwards. Based on Assemblage and construction through lines, layers and empty spaces, the movement started by González is in contrast to the work of other sculptors such as Brancusi, a key figure in Modernism, whose work is based on the principle of construction by the composition of masses and expression through moulding.
Joan Miró (Barcelona, 1893 - Palma de Mallorca, 1983) has always been considered a painter, despite his extensive and diverse artistic output. The impact of the classes he receives from the painter Francesc Galí are key to his approaches to sculpture via the notion of the object; this point of reference, predominant in his work (also his pictorial output) is also subjected to distortions, changes in meaning and the introduction of new contexts.
Gilbert & George - Gilbert Prousch (San Martino, Dolomites, Italy, 1943) and George Passmore, (Devon, United Kingdom, 1942), are one of the most celebrated pairs of artists in the UK. After meeting in 1967 at St Martins College of Art in London they proclaim that their work together is an anti-elitist conception of art, underpinned by the belief that it is “art for all”, based on what they call “art and life”. The approach and declarations of Gilbert & George challenge enigmatic art, and its darkness and obsession with form.
Jasper Johns (Augusta, USA, 1930), is an emblem of American painting in the second half of the twentieth century and one of the artists of his generation who focused more on printmaking. During the quarter century that is reflected in this exhibition, Johns dedicates himself to various printmaking techniques through which he reproduced many of the motifs and compositions that appeared simultaneously in his painting. Maps, American flags, paint cans or targets are some of the recurring themes that have become part of the iconography of the late twentieth century.
Diego Rivera (Guanajuato, Mexico, 1886 - Mexico City, 1957) is, along with José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, the most accomplished example of a Mexican muralist. Beyond the devotion that exists for him in Mexico as leader of the artistic revolution that has made his figure reach almost heroic dimensions, his international prestige is unquestionable.
This exhibition is designed as a simultaneous addendum to the major retrospective exhibition of Diego Rivera (Guanajuato, Mexico, 1886 - Mexico City, 1957) at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Among the set of selected photographs are portraits of the artist and his immediate environment, as well as of Mexican people and landscapes, home to one of the most famous muralists in the history of contemporary art.
German sculptors Albert Hien (Munich, Germany, 1956), Thomas Schütte (Oldenburg, Germany, 1954), Bogomir Ecker (Marburg, Slovenia, 1950), Wolfgang Luy (Trier, Germany, 1949) and Reinhard Mucha (Düsseldorf, Germany, 1950) share the same nationality, discipline and belong to the same generation, but their work does not have too much in common. To that extent a certain industrial aesthetic derived from the materials chosen and how they are worked is seen in the work of Hien, Ecker and Mucha, while Schütte and Luy share an architectural purpose and spatiality . But, when together as a group, they cannot stop speaking about the diversity of German sculpture during the Eighties and the different avenues of research that were being considered.
Compared to his peers at the School of London, such as Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach’s (Berlin, 1931) fame is relatively modest. However his paintings have been praised on numerous occasions in and out of England, where he has lived since 1939.
Cy Twombly (Lexington, USA, 1928 - Rome, 2011), a contemporary of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, is heir to the first generation of Abstract Expressionism. He reaches maturity in the Sixties with a style that attaches great importance to the psychic gesture expressed through line and which can be seen in the scribbles, letters, numbers, words, diagrams and signs that appear throughout his career. For this reason Harald Szeemann, curator of this exhibition has said of the artist: "With the line, he has been able to say what almost every painter would like to say."
Through a compilation of some of its most important artists, this exhibition depicts nearly a century of the history of American photography from its beginnings in the 1860s until the Eighties of the twentieth century. The common theme in this exhibition is the photographic expression of the American experience, photography as an expression of the hopes and failures of the "American dream" and the various revisions of it that have been lacking over the years to keep that tradition alive.
Since his career began in the mid-sixties, the video artist and sculptor, Dan Graham (Urbana, United States, 1942) has also been a gallery owner, art critic, graphic designer, filmmaker and performer. Through a personal artistic language, this artist uses his sculptures and videos to delve into social and aesthetic codes. In this way a large part of his production focuses on the reflection of perceptual and philosophical structures put into play by spectators when observing his works, this is why his work has been defined in line with what has been called Art Behaviour. The works selected for this exhibition at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia clearly demonstrate the artist's evolution over two decades and expose the essential concepts of his work which are closely related to a psycho-social approach to the perception of space.
The Colombian Fernando Botero (Medellín, Colombia, 1932) possesses one of the most recognisable styles in Latin American artistic tradition, with accentuated corporeality that allows him to work with proportions that are not the norm. Botero defines his work as figurative art, inflated forms and rotund figures as “divergent expressive forms”.
The fiftieth anniversary of Guernica, and, therefore, Spain's participation in the Paris International Exhibition in 1937, forms the central motif of this exhibition in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The display rebuilds the recollections of the Spanish Pavilion, a landmark for Spain's presence in international exhibitions and one of the finest pavilions of those in attendance at the exhibition in Paris. At the height of the Civil War, and in barely six months, the building was successfully opened, representing the determination of the Spanish people to make their complex reality visible to the world with a sample of one their finest cultural achievements.