In 1990, the largest exhibition of Velázquez's paintings ever held was mounted by the Prado Museum in Madrid, and was visited by half a million people. Further exhibitions on Ribera in 1992 and in honour of the 250th anniversary of Goya's birth in 1996 attracted similar numbers of visitors (see also art exhibitions). These facts suggest important implications for the state of Spanish cultural life in the last quarter of the twentieth century. One is the increase in the general public's interest in painting and the visual arts generally since the early 1980s, an interest not confined to the great artistic achievements of the past. Already in 1983, the International Festival of Contemporary
   Art, sponsored in Madrid by the ARCO Foundation, had generated huge interest in both viewing and purchasing works of modern art, and was only one of a very large series of exhibitions and regular art fairs held in the 1980s and 1990s. Undoubtedly, some of this bourgeoning interest was speculative, and reflected the international trend towards acquisition of works of art for investment purposes. There was nevertheless a more generalized desire, reflected also in other areas of cultural life, to make up for the stagnation and neglect of the past. The Velázquez exhibition of 1990, which displayed seventy-nine of the more than ninety canvases he is known to have executed, was the first occasion on which so many works of one of the greatest Spanish painters of all time had ever been on view together. The volume of interest in this exhibition, and the protests of those members of the public unable to gain entry, can be seen as a reaction against cultural deprivation, official inertia and chronic under-resourcing: only a small percentage of the 7,000 or more paintings owned by the Prado are normally on permanent view. Despite a 70 percent increase in state funding for the arts in the 1980s, by 1995, the costs of transport and insurance were making it more difficult to mount exhibitions. Though it is true that most European Union states, with the exception of Italy, cut their arts budgets in 1996, Spain did so by the biggest margin, 13 percent. Fortunately, however, the arts do not depend solely on state or regional government support, as collecting and exhibiting is an important activity of banks, business firms and private foundations (see also arts funding). This has often made it possible to bring together the work of important artists, some of them Civil War exiles, which has been dispersed through various collections in Spain and other countries. In 1993, for example, Telefónica, the stateowned telephone undertaking, consolidated its collection of paintings in a central location in Madrid, enabling it to give proper recognition to artists who had been marginalized by the Franco regime, such as Juan Gris and Luis Fernández. In the same way, the Mapfre insurance conglomerate mounted an important exhibition in 1993 of the work of the neglected Extremenian artist Juan Baroja, and a retrospective of Julian Grau Santos.
   The expansion of interest in painting in the 1980s and 1990s is not confined to the work of Spanish artists, but has taken on an international dimension, especially through the acquisitions policy of the Queen Sofía Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum housed in the Villahermosa Palace. Together with the Prado, the private foundations, commercial galleries, and the annual Arco fairs, Madrid can claim to have as rich and varied a concentration of art as any city in the world. Other centres, however, have also acquired a well-merited prominence, particularly Bilbao, where the Guggenheim Museum is not only an important artistic focus but also an outstanding contribution to the architecture of the city, and Valencia, home of the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (TVAM—Valencian Institute of Modern Art). The rehabilitation of neglected artists, and the promotion of contemporary art, can also be seen as a reaction against the academicism which characterized painting during the Franco dictatorship. Perhaps the most representative example of this tradition is Zuloaga, who, despite his association with radical figures like Lorca in the 1920s, became an establishment painter after the Civil War, and portrayed Franco in the heroic pose of a medieval knight. Figurative and representative art of this kind was favoured by the regime, which was determined to eclipse the symbolic, politically charged products of the Second Republic, such as Joan Miró"s poster Aidez l'Espagne. Nevertheless, despite the politically radical stance of most of the surrealists of the 1920s and 1930s, with the possible exception of Dalí, surrealist art was the only form of avantgarde painting tolerated by the regime, because it was seen as elitist and relatively apolitical, though this latter assumption was erroneous. In the 1940s, interest in surrealism was revived by, among others, Joan Brossa and Antoni Tàpies, who collaborated on the art magazine Dau al Set (The Seventh Side of the Die). Continuity with French surrealism was provided by the influence of Pablo Picasso, living in exile in France, and Miró, who returned to Spain in 1940. As these names suggest, a large part of the stimulus for developments in contemporary painting came from Catalonia, but Dau al Set had a counterpart in Madrid in the shape of the El Paso group, associated with Antonio Saura, which was active in the 1950s and 1960s. This group, together with Equipo 57 and the Valenciabased Equipo Crónica, which emerged in 1964 and remained active until the early 1980s, became increasingly politicized, and, in particular, hostile to what they saw as the commercialism and élitism of the gallery system. Satirical pastiches by Equipo Crónica of famous paintings of the past, such as the 1973 re-working of the portrait of Philip II traditionally attributed to Sánchez Coello, and the "modernized" version of Velázquez's Las Meninas (1970), served to link contemporary painting with national tradition, while simultaneously satirizing artistic convention and inaugurating new kinds of pictorial language.
   A comparable approach is represented by Eduardo Arroyo, associated with the trend referred to as Realismo Crítico (critical realism). His ironic treatment of figures of power (e.g. military dictators or Spanish gentlemen) earned him the hostility of the Franco regime. A somewhat different tendency is represented by the neo-realism of Eduardo Naranjo, and especially Antonio López, with his stark, almost photographic portrayals of humble everyday objects, as in Lavabo (The Water Closet), which shows a wash-hand basin, with a shelf above holding a shaving-brush and other typical bathroom accoutrements. The 1993 exhibition in the Queen Sofía of 189 of his works, including paintings, drawings and sculpture, symbolized the final accolade accorded to one who had been viewed askance by the academicists as too avantgarde, and by contemporary artists as too traditional. The exhibition closed an unfortunate chapter which had begun in 1992, when López withdrew a display of his works from the Queen Sofía, as a protest at what he saw as the tendency to define the contemporary in exclusively avantgarde terms, with consequent neglect of realist painting.
   See also: art collections; arts policy
   Further reading
   - Bozal, V. (1991) Historia del arte en España, vol. 2, Madrid: Ediciones ISTMO (one of the most respected standard histories).
   - Dent Coad, E. (1995) "Painting and Sculpture: The Rejection of High Art", in H.Graham and J. Labanyi (eds) Spanish Cultural Studies, an Introduction: The Struggle for Modernity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 299–304 (a useful brief overview of the main trends since the Civil War).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapter 23, "Art and the Possible: The Politics of Culture", places "art fever" in the context of general changes in the cultural climate).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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