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After the wire fence. Spanish art in exile, 1939-1960

After the wire fence

Spanish art in exile, 1939-1960

From 25 February 2010 to 25 April 2010

La Nau 


From Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 to 13.30 and from 16 to 20 h.

Sunday, from 10 to 14 h.



Organised and produced by

Universitat de València, University of Zaragoza, University of Córdoba, Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo (MEIAC) and Sociedad Estatal de Conmemoraciones Culturales (SECC) 


Bancaixa, Provincial Council of Córdoba (Fundación de Artes Plásticas Rafael Botí), Government of Aragón (Department for Education, Culture and Sports) and Extremadura Regional Government (Regional Ministry for Culture and Tourism) 

Curator: Jaime Brihuega, Professor of History of Contemporary Art, Universidad Complutense (Madrid) 


After the wire fence. Spanish art in exile 1939-1960 explores, for the first time ever, the different geographical, sociological, ideological and aesthetic exiles that torn apart and impregnated Spain’s 20th century art. Curated by Jaime Brihuega, the exhibition brings together almost 200 artworks by 50 artists who illustrate the relevance of art culture in exile and its rich contribution to the host countries. The exhibition also delves into the thematic and formal keys of artistic imagery in exile and into the elements that associated or dissociated art production before and after the fratricidal conflict. 

Like the rest of our history and culture, 20th century Spanish art was fiercely fractured by the civil war in 1936 and by its fatal outcome, and split into two distinctive chronological hemispheres. The effects of such a divide were even further intensified by World War II. It disrupted the connections of international art culture and momentarily froze the set of references that had guided the modernisation of Spain's artistic culture during the first third of the century. Spain’s autarchy and international isolation contributed to erecting the border walls of this part of history. Under such circumstances, following the victory of the rebels, many Spaniards loyal to the Republic were forced to flee their country. A great deal of artists were among them. For political reasons or out of cultural suffocation, they got exiled, taking refuge in several regions of the planet.



The chronological period covered by the exhibition spans from 1939 to 1960, two clear milestones in the evolution of Spanish art. The first year is the end of the civil war and the beginning of the exile process, while the second one marks the start of modernisation of Spanish art in Franco's Spain. Covering all of this historic segment, the exhibition prompts an aesthetic and ideological reflection about Spanish art in exile as a whole, addressing the nature of the transformations experienced by the visual languages that the exiled artists took with them in leaving Spain, and exploring the tension between the persistence (or fading) of the memory of their origin and its metamorphosis with the emergence of the new historic, cultural and aesthetic landscapes of the host countries. 

The show includes almost 200 pieces lent by more than 70 public and private collections from Spain and abroad. The works, whose selection has primarily focused on artistic excellence and semantic intensity-, articulate a defined and operational aesthetic paradigm as far as the insertion of exile art into the collective imagery is concerned. The limited number of participating artists is due to the wish to escape from erudite detail, and so 50 pieces by the most historiographically consolidated artists have been chosen. Not only works carried out in exile are exhibited but also some pieces from the Republican period. The aim is to provide visitors with an active gaze, for them to be able to ponder about the mutation of narrative and aesthetic paradigms in Spanish art in the 1930s or, conversely, about the ‘mirage' of their continuity. In addition, the show offers an opportunity to see, for the first time in Spain, some works by Remedios Varo, El Tiforal 1947; Julián Castedo, Moreno, Villa Nocturno 1950-1952; Alberto, Manuela Ballester, Retrato de Totli, 1949; José Bardasano, Fernández Balbuena, García Narezo, Elvira Gascón, Cristo, c. 1957; Rodríguez Luna, Maruja Mallo, Gausachs, Martín Durbán, Maternidad, 1943; Clavé, Óscar Domínguez, Feliú Elías, García Lamolla, Pérez Rubio.



The pieces have been grouped into two large geographic territories of our artistic exile: 

1 Exile in Europe. Despite the Nazi occupation and its waning leadership in contemporary art, Paris continued to be an art Mecca for the Spanish artists in exile. It was indeed so for those who had previously enjoyed the splendorous cultural life of the City of Light but also for those who moved there for the first time. Besides, after the liberation, Paris became a true antifrancoist sanctuary. 

But France and basically Paris must be addressed differently, as many artists who did not travel to Spain after the war were already settled in Paris before the conflict and had almost no presence in the cultural scene of Republican Spain (Picasso, Julio González, Bores, Viñes, De la Serna, Dalí.). In such cases and, regardless of their political ideas and behaviours, we cannot strictly talk about ‘exiled artists’. But, to some extent, those who lived in Paris on a more or less regular basis and decided to detach themselves from Spain’s cultural life despite strong ties and not to return to the country after a long time, can also be considered to have been exiled. Then, if we were to add the officially and unofficially exiled artists, their number would indeed be considerable: Esteban Francés, Timoteo Pérez Rubio (he also went to Switzerland and Brazil), Manuel Viola, Joan Rebull, Antonio Clavé, Baltasar Lobo, Honorio García Condoy, Feliú Elías, Óscar Domínguez, Ángel López Obrero, Antoni García Lamolla, Leandre Cristòfol (he lived in Morocco too), among other, are present in this section of the exhibition. 

London was a sporadic destination for José María Ucelay and Gregorio Prieto, while the Soviet Union was indeed an intense and inspiring venue for Alberto, as this country provided him with the necessary elements for an intimate dialogue between the remembrance of Spain and the assimilation of a new geographical and cultural reality. Julián Castedo was also exiled there. 

A short film on the Spanish exile has specifically been produced for the exhibition by Joan Dolç, as well as two anthological collages (a music feature and a video) including pieces by exiled musicians and film makers, respectively.



2 The American exile. 

Mexico: One of the busiest art scenes. With the flamboyant deployment of muralism and the indigenous emphasis of many cultural proposals, Mexico offered an art climate with a strong ideological focus. These highly visible identity features were associated to a dense and solvent cultural and artistic infrastructure, which made the Aztec country a suitable scenario for heated confrontations of ideas and forms. But the country was also permeable to the sizeable luggage of wisdom and creativity taken by the Spanish exile to the areas of philosophy, literature, music, architecture, graphic design and plastic arts. In turn, the landings of Spanish intellectuals and creators gave way to a relevant network of exile-related cultural platforms in a genuine encounter between cultures. 

The exhibition includes works by the most important artists exiled in Mexico: Aurelio Arteta, Antonio Ballester, Manuela Ballester, José Bardasano, Salvador Bartolozzi, Enrique Climent, Roberto Fernández Balbuena, José García Narezo,  Elvira Gascón, Ramón Gaya, José Moreno Villa, Josep Renau, Antonio Rodríguez Luna, Miguel Prieto, Arturo Souto and Remedios Varo. 

The South American exile. South America was the second destination of exiled artists overseas, particularly Buenos Aires, a cultural space with a personality of its own where the artists, especially those from Galicia, were eager to become active parties of a fertile dialogue. This exhibition section includes works by Rafael Alberti, Manuel Ángeles Ortiz, Manuel Colmeiro (who moved to Paris in 1948), Maruja Mallo (who also lived in Chile) and Luis Seoane

Other transoceanic destinations. Other destinations in Central and South America, e.g. Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico or Guatemala, received artists to a lesser extent due to a variety of political situations and attitudes towards Republican exile and also due to their less relevant cultural panorama, and possibly as a consequence of the smaller presence of exiled artists, which prevented them to build a "collective movement", as opposed to the situations of Mexico or Argentina. However, New York was considered by exiled artists a new and fascinating epicentre of art creation worldwide. 

This section includes pieces by Eugenio Granell, who lived in Santo Domingo, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and the US; Cristóbal Ruiz, who lived in Puerto Rico (he also lived in Paris and New York); Ramón Martín Durbán, Venezuela; Josep Gausachs and Vela Zanetti, Santo Domingo (the latter also lived in New York). The United States was the destination of Esteban Vicente, Luis Quintanilla (he moved to Paris 1957) and Joan Junyer (he had previously lived in Santo Domingo).




The exhibition catalogue includes texts written by Jaime Brihuega (Después de la alambrada. Memoria y metamorfosis en el arte del exilio español), Joan Dolç (Los múltiples reflejos del exilio), Miguel Cabañas Bravo (De la alambrada a la mexicanidad. Andanza y cerco del arte español del exilio de 1939 en tierras aztecas), Diana B. Wechsler (Las maletas del exilio), Javier Pérez Segura (Otros horizontes del exilio español: los países del Caribe y Estados Unidos) and Concha Lomba Serrano (Tan cerca y tan lejos: Europa como refugio). The catalogue is completed with articles by different specialists on architecture (Sofía Dieguez Patao), set design (Ana María Arias de Cossío), cinema (José Luis Sánchez Noriega), music (Francesc Bodí), other publications (Juan Manuel Bonet) and the biographies of the exhibition artists.



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