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Picasso, Miró, Dalí and the Origins of Contemporary Art in Spain, 1900-1936

5 september - 10 november, 1991
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Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt

The exhibition Picasso, Miró, Dalí and the Origins of Contemporary Art in Spain, 1900-1936 seeks to articulate Spanish artistic production (in several and well-known cases produced outside Spain) based on the concept of "Art Nouveau". Eugenio Carmona, curator of this exhibition gives an instrumental value to this concept and explains it as a principle that underlies much of the art that is performed during the first decades of the twentieth century. In this type of art there is evidence of a desire for a renewal of artistic languages, the paradigm of which is identified by the Spanish artists in contemporary European trends. From this perspective, the exhibition proposes a debate with Spanish art in tune with the names and aesthetic and theoretical avant-garde ideas, gathered under the umbrella of Modernism, while at the same time embedded in them. In this way, Spanish artists that have as reference the various "-isms" (Cubism, Futurism, Ultraism (Ultraísmo), Surrealism and Realism) participate in the international dimension of avant-garde art. Still, as the curator points out, "Art Nouveau" was not the only option Spanish art had in the period between 1900 and 1936.

The organisation of the exhibition highlights the inarguable dominance of three figures: Pablo Picasso (Málaga, 1881-Mougins, France, 1973), Joan Miró (Barcelona, 1893-Palma de Mallorca, 1983) and Salvador Dalí (Figueres, 1904 - Púbol, 1989), who not only appear and participate in various art movements (in Surrealism mainly), but even give rise to them (Picasso and Cubism). On the other hand, it is clear how the work of these three artists becomes a crucial model for the work of their Spanish contemporaries, which offer significant and valuable artistic proposals.

This collection of Spanish avant-garde unfolds chronologically, highlighting the paths of each artists as participants in various avant-garde currents (Benjamín Palencia, Francisco Bores, María Blanchard, Dalí and Miró). The names and classifications happen and they synthesise modernity and tradition, while at the same time the rise of regionalism as an aesthetic category (Catalan, Basque) is borne witness to. It is not forgotten that Spanish artistic production runs parallel to a wealth of literary creations and that both share the dream of the renewal of those languages (Ramón Gómez de la Serna). What has also been proved is that cultural transfers with the European avant-garde can be done with the help of spaces such as the Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona or the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, as well as the organisation of artists in associations and the opening of exhibitions, such as Artistas Ibéricos (1925) or Exposición Logicofobista (1936). As the century progresses, the presence of artists in centres of European artistic activity is increasing (the so-called School of Paris is established), which means there is a greater access to new sources: manifestos, modern art magazines (Cahiers d'Art) and artistic and scientific literature, which can contribute decisively in shaping new languages (new objectivity, realism of regionalistic inheritance, surrealism, a turn to primitivistic and anti-artistic principles or realism as a vocabulary for an artistic-political commitment).

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