After the end of the isolation resulting from the Franco dictatorship, a new image of culture and the art system was forged to become a symbolic reference point of change and progress. This period was a time in which Spanish art was promoted internationally owing to the emergence of a country rejuvenated after joining supranational institutions and becoming part of world capitalism. This was also the backdrop to the world of Fernando Vijande, whose gallery, and its activity, was salient in the milieu of contemporary art in Spain.
Following an industrious decade at the helm of the Vandrés gallery (1970–1981), Fernando Vijande opened his second gallery in Madrid, one which bore his name and remained open from 1981 to 1987. The relevance and reputation of the space was shaped by its subjective approach, by an open and eclectic focus within the shifting landscape of art in the 1980s, and by the selection and backing of a diverse array of individuals. Aware of the importance of incorporating foreign creators and internationalising Spanish art, Vijande bridged gaps with international art — particularly from North America — and was guided by the enthusiasm and fascination with Spanish art-making in the USA and other Western countries.
Vijande organised numerous exhibitions and projects that featured the participation of figures in close proximity to conceptual art, for instance José Luis Alexanco and Antoni Muntadas, along with others who were less committed to political art and with an ideology-free practice, such as Miquel Navarro and José María Sicilia, as well as those, like Costus, who worked on the inaugural exhibition of the new space, representing the intentionally kitsch spirit of Madrid’s Movida movement. These exhibitions alternated with the arrival not only of exhibitions featuring pre-eminent international artists — Andy Warhol, Jannis Kounellis, Ian Breakwell, Robert Mapplethorpe — but also other, lesser-known works from New York’s East Village, assembled in the collective show Psycho Pueblo in 1985.
This room, The Self and the Other. Fernando Vijande Gallery, 1981–1987, brings together a collection of works by Carmen Calvo and Susana Solano and a selection of pieces that were part of the first Juan Muñoz exhibition in 1984, along with the work of three pivotal artists in the professional and private life of Fernando Vijande: Luis Gordillo, José Luis Alexanco and Zush. Their exhibitions are documented in catalogues and monographs which also highlight Vijande’s prolific publishing work, and how his unveilings were the stage for the festive atmosphere of the mythical gallery and its contribution to the process of art’s modernisation in Spain across the first decade of democracy.