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Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection

The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection is now on long-term loan at Museo Reina Sofía, in the space dedicated by the Museum to its Collection 2 Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World. One of the contemporary art collections with the greatest international impact and value, this group of works offers a profound understanding of a period and a part of the world that is often ignored by traditional historiography. The presence of these works in the Museum's galleries is an act of generous support for the work that this institution has undertaken in reactivating chapters of art history previously considered – erroneously – to be derivative or subordinate, such as Latin American art.

The works of the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection were created in a certain historical context. It is the same context as the rooms that explore the rise of North American painting and its impact, the period when "New York stole the idea of modern art." As a counter image to that apparently univocal world, a world marked by a triumphant dogma dictated from the North, the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection shows viewers a series of proposals that also come from urban settings (Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Caracas, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro) but reformulate that idea of art from different perspectives.

The first of the rooms, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection 1. Concrete Invention, is dedicated to the geometric component: concrete and neoconcrete art. In contrast with the lyrical or dramatic language of Abstract Expressionism, so individual and unrepeatable, the neoconcretism of Willys de Castro, Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark asserted itself as a speculative shift that was both collective and utopian. Although seemingly hermetic, their pieces show internal rhythms and centrifugal movements; tools that show an interest in play and that search silently for the spectator, and at the same time reveal how math applied to art is not just a synonym of coldness.

The second room, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection 2. Movement and Participation, brings together lines of escape that point to op art and kinetic art and it shows the evolution of creators that followed a more organic line, a line that creates fissures in the cannon established by geometric abstraction, considered by many to be isolated from the "heat" of the complex political and social situation in the southern continent starting in the 1960s. Gego, Jesús Soto and Mira Schendel put an end to the danger of the image of "Cold America" freezing entirely and they open up a new and vibrant future involving spectator participation.

The image that strikes the visitor in these rooms is that of a transatlantic dialogue: the disembarkation of models of European geometric art, such as Bauhaus, De Stijl, suprematism or constructivism. Upon their arrival in Latin America, these proposals were reactivated and the bridges to the old world were burned, thus making the concrete experience an invention, a new terrain to explore, a language with a universal vocation but also with strong ties to the local. In this way the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection recovers a lost link in the history of art: it connects European art (the presentation contains works by Josef Albers and Max Bill) to the hard-edge, post-pictorial abstraction that would be the harbinger of a new paradigm in North American painting.

The discourse of these artists constitutes a fundamental link in the complex diagram of the art of the second half of the 20th century. It becomes clear that the “art in a divided world” alluded to in the title of this part of the Museum’s Collection refers not to the Cold War binomial but to a complex puzzle formed by pieces spread all over the world. If this art was previously considered marginal, today the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection confirms that it was precisely in those margins where, to a large extent, subsequent developments in art and society were played out.

 

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