View of the exhibition. Photo: Joaquín Cortés/Román Lores. Courtesy: MNCARS.
Upon completing the seventy-fifth anniversary of the creation of Guernica, Picasso’s most famous piece, and keystone to the MNCARS Collection, the management of the Madrid museum, in conjunction with Acción Cultural Española, has decided to focus an ambitious project centered around international art from the 1930s on the artists’ paintings.
First there were a series of research papers done primarily by foreign specialists, many of which can be found in a thick catalog, which resulted in a seminar held a year ago. This complemented a conference and round table discussion on Guernica and another workshop on the Second Spanish Republic.
Its neuralgic center is in the exhibit it outlines, curated by Jordana Mendelson, Rosario Peiró, Head of Collections, and Manuel Borja-Villel, Director; and is complemented with a round table discussion with the curatorial team and an extensive movie program curated by Karen Fiss, Flores azules en un paisaje catastrófico. El cine de 1930.Read more...
Bronenosets Potemkin, 1905. Benito Medela-Piquepé Collection. Courtesy: Museo Picasso Málaga.
The first thing that catches your attention in this large exhibit centered on the beginnings of advertising in Europe is its surprising and unexpected arrangement. Extensive scaffolding occupies the central space of the room, where posters from the end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century are hung. The approach, risky but justified, is complemented by the projection of several films (the most interesting, without a doubt, is Walther Ruttman’s Berlín, Symphony of a Great City (1927)), which portray the passage of the nineteenth century city, its slow pace anchored in models inherited from life in the fields, to the new city of the future, conditioned by a hectic pace and urgent needs that did not exist before. It is the beginning of the consumer society and brands, a socio-economic phenomenon derived from industrialization and production line techniques which, by improving its methods, will generate an output that is much higher than the real needs of the people. It will then be much easier to manufacture products than to sell them, and companies’ interest will shift toward promotion. In this new dimension, printed ads in the street will play a key role with to their capacity to directly question the anonymous passer-by, who, at the same time, becomes a potential client and an impromptu viewer of a new type of proposal with tremendous creative possibilities.Read more...
SAMUEL BECKETT Not I, 1987. Vídeo monocanal. Col•lecció MACBA. Consorci Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona. Cortesía: MACBA
In one of the most famous images of Citizen Kane, Orson Welles shows us that the worst life that one can give an object of art is to make it “eternal” inside a pine box. Perhaps for this reason the storerooms of the museums and the houses of some collectors remind us of cemeteries … That sensation is reinforced even more when we realize that –whatever may be said– in the state or institutional sphere the idea of the museum as a “machine to make a heritage” continues to predominate. And in the private sphere, the idea of a collection continues to be associated –above all– with the desire to make a good commercial investment.
However, like it or not, things are susceptible to changes. Above all if we take into account that the most common characteristic of all deep crises are their own ability to turn over –and even destroy– the values that were believed to be accepted. That is why the doctrine of positive thinking emphasizes so much the phrase “a crisis is an opportunity”. While more pragmatic realism prefers to be prepared, declaring that “nothing will be the way it was before”.Read more...
DAN GRAHAM Alteración de una casa suburbana, 1978–1987. Colección MACBA. Cortesía: CaixaForum Madrid.
In a country like Spain, where public institutions and their respective museums compete to assert their right to a leading role and usually turn away from each other in their programming –highlighting how the political parties that administer them have interiorised an outrageous patrimonial conception of the institution in face of its natural character of public service–the collaboration agreement reached in 2010 between the Fundación "la Caixa" and the MACBA (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona) which favours joint management of both collections, sets a precedent.
In times of budget restrictions, the meaning and value of a collection grows, prevailing as something much more consistent than a mere hereditary collection: the collection promotes research, articulates thematic and theoretical discourses that review corresponding works and authors in order to establish new readings. The collections of these two institutions have emerged from different initiatives but they maintain a complementary profile, and between them they add up to a total of 5,500 pieces, which can be exhibited in a rotating way only.Read more...
Title: La conquista de lo cool [The Conquest of Cool]
Author: Thomas Frank
Translation: Mónica Sumoy and Juan Carlos Castillón
Publishers: Alpha Decay
440 pages. 25 euros.
Interior, day: an advertising agency receives a commission for one of its main accounts, a luxury car brand, whose clients belong –because of their purchasing power and customs– to an older age range. The company seeks to become fresh. It does not want to dirty its design, or become cheaper; it demands a new air, and needs a campaign which will convey rebelliousness and youthfulness in addition to its long-standing reputation. So, let’s imagine a brainstorming session, and, suddenly, the idea of a seasoned advertising executive, or a new hire who knows his stuff. The new audience they seek gets excited by freedom, by the struggle against established values, by counterculture. Why not use one of their heroes? We should hire an actor or a musician who represents those values; however, it is hard to find anyone who will protect and maintain the dignity of the brand image. So we try the source, the seed of the opposite. We will risk pretentiousness and even being seen as outside the mainstream context.
The above paragraph is based on real events. The ad was shown on TV in 2008, and survives on YouTube, uploaded by a user who found it funny. In it, several bearded actors wearing sunglasses and hats –the hipster attire par excellence– declaim a fragment from On the Road, the referential novel of the Beat movement, immersed in their own road movie. About thirty comments are still there, furiously: “publicists use the symbol of money on anything as long as it sells”, claims a Utopian viewer; “Kerouac is turning in his grave”, says another. Those who miss the wild decades they live scream their indignation, but, for many others, the businessmen and advertising executives achieved their objectives: to lend BMW a modern and well-travelled image.Read more...