José Luis Fernández del Amo (Madrid, 1914 - 1995) was the first director of the new Museo de Arte Contemporáneo between 1952 and 1958, a time that represents a significant change in the definition of modern and contemporary aspects of Spanish society and culture. Now he is the focus of the second documentary exhibition series entitled Plataformas de las vanguardias en España (Avant-garde Platforms in Spain), organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
The new Museo de Arte Contemporáneo project was promoted by Joaquín Ruiz-Giménez, the Minister of Economy at the time, as a key component for modernising the country's artistic languages, thus developing new guidelines for establishing the system. The exhibition demonstrates Fernández del Amo's desire to create an active studio and debate centre that could be used to support new art and reach the standards set by recently opened European and American museums.
His concept of a museum is captured here in the most important documentary: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. Memoria para su instauración (1955), which outlines its needs and working approach, namely the creation of a collection representing twentieth century art, the museum's international expansion, the promotion of patronage and exposure of artists, the creation of temporary programmed activities inside and outside the museum and the establishment of a venue that could appropriately house these activities.
Fernández del Amo's running of the museum stands out for many reasons. For instance, his project that resolves to single out contributions of the most relevant Spanish artists in defining avant-garde art such as Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Julio González, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí, while also welcoming innovative projects by young, or unknown, artists, for example Óscar Domínguez or Pablo Palazuelo at that time.
The range of documentation compiled here demonstrates the meticulous and constant exhibiting activities of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo as it does not limit itself to one space, but exhibits in other spaces equipped to that end, for instance on the ground floor of the Biblioteca Nacional and further afield in other cities such as Valencia (Arte Abstracto Español. I Salón de Arte no Figurativo, 1956), Santender and Pamplona. In 1957 the Sala Negra can also be added to the list, a space in close proximity to the museum holding alternative exhibitions such as Otro arte (1957), in which works by artists such as Antonio Saura, Manolo Millares, El Paso and the Equipo 57 are displayed.
With all the initiatives mentioned above, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo is active throughout the country, leading the promotion of abstract art as it adheres to the principles of international movements.