In 1960, following a series of political negotiations and agreements between Spain and the USA, two exhibitions on Spanish art were unveiled in New York, regarded at that time as the capital of modernity. The shows were held in two emblematic museums, the Guggenheim, with Before Picasso; After Miró, and MoMA, which organised New Spanish Painting and Sculpture, both denoting major contributions to the internationalisation of Spanish artists and a widening of the new cultural image of the country.
The Franco regime’s foreign policy work and the establishment of Spain-USA bilateral relations gave rise to the visibility and internationalisation of contemporary Spanish art, among other aspects. On 21 June, the Guggenheim show Before Picasso; After Miró was organised by its then director James Johnson Sweeney with the intention of “illustrating the continual vitality of painting in Spain”, setting out from Isidre Nonell and assembling a representative selection of eighteen artists at the time — aged from twenty to forty-one — to highlight the influence of Miró on upcoming art. Just a month later, on 20 July, another of the city’s leading institutions, MoMA, undraped the exhibition New Spanish Painting and Sculpture, curated by writer Frank O’Hara. Fifty-five works, including sculptures, accentuated the intrinsic qualities of difference as a constant running through art made in Spain.
Many of the chosen artists featured in both exhibitions (Rafael Canogar, Modest Cuixart, Francisco Farreras, Luis Feito, Lucio Muñoz, Manuel Millares, Manuel Rivera, Antonio Saura, Antonio Suárez, Antoni Tàpies and Manuel Viola). Only one woman was represented: Juana Francés, in the Guggenheim show. As the critics stressed from the outset, both projects shared aspects and notable divergencies. In terms of the installation, the Guggenheim displayed works on white walls with strong lighting, whereas MoMA chose grey and opted for dimmer lights. New Spanish Painting and Sculpture later toured different cities.