CFP: Canons and Repertoires: Constructing the Visual Arts in the Hispanic World, Durham University, 20–21 June 2019 

CANONS AND REPERTOIRES: Constructing the Visual Arts in the Hispanic World, Durham University, 20–21 June 2019 

The visual arts in Spain have long been haunted by the spectres of six giants: El Greco, Ribera, Velázquez, Murillo, Goya and Picasso. Still today, these canonical figures tower over all others and continue to shape the story of Spanish art, which has been traditionally told in monographic form. Although the strength of the Spanish canon has informed different disciplines (literature, aesthetics, performing arts), given the recent ‘material turn’, the prosopographical dimension of the visual arts in Spain poses a disciplinary challenge. Similarly, following the ‘global turn’, the visual arts of Iberia pose a geographical challenge, intersecting with the Mediterranean, Arabic, Latin American, British and continental European worlds. The notions of ‘Spain’ and ‘Spanish art’, therefore, are necessarily nebulous and problematic, raising a host of questions: To what extent does Spanish art exist before the establishment of Spain as a nation state? To what extent is the art of the Habsburg and Bourbon empires a Spanish art outside Spain? What is the role of Spain in the wider canon of European art? Who has exploited the visual arts of the Hispanic world, geographically, politically and intellectually? These questions ultimately point to a tension between canons and repertoires; between centres and peripheries; and between consolidating the ‘core’ and expanding the ‘remit’ of the so-called Spanish school.

This conference will explode the disciplinary, material and geographical limits of Spanish art, inaugurating the Zurbarán Centre as a critical and innovative research institution for the study of Spanish and Latin American art in the twenty-first century. Papers may challenge the canonical construction of Spanish art, which can be traced back to writings from Palomino’s Lives of the Eminent Spanish Painters and Sculptors (1724) to Stirling Maxwell’s Annals of the Artists of Spain (1848), to more recent publications by scholars in the field. Papers may also probe the chronological, geographical and material boundaries of the ‘El Greco to Goya’ survey, interrogating the ways in which academics, curators, scholars and teachers narrate this material through various platforms, including publications, museum displays, exhibitions, lectures, gallery talks and academic courses. Speakers are encouraged to address the various ‘terrains’ of Spanish art, from geographical constructions of Iberia as Europe’s frontier or edge, to exchange with all that lies beyond the Pillars of Hercules. Topics for discussion may include, but are not limited to:

  • What is ‘Spanish art’?
  • Who are the cultural stakeholders of Spanish art?
  • What are the discords between regional, national, anti-national and transnational narratives of Spanish art, for example in museum collections and displays?
  • How does Spanish art feature in diplomatic exchanges?
  • Collections of Spanish art as an ‘imprint’ of Spain, and the role of foreign collections in disseminating Spanish art as a distinct school
  • Spain at the intersection of Christian, Jewish and Islamic cultures
  • Copies, quotations and appropriations of Spanish art
  • Languages and literatures: strategies of describing, narrating and translating Spain in word and image
  • Performing ‘Spanishness’ in the arts, including music, theatre and film
  • Spanish discourses in aesthetics
  • Spanish art beyond Iberia
  • Mobility and portability of Spanish art
  • Travel and discovery: geographies, centres, peripheries and liminal spaces
  • Legacies: textual and visual responses to Spain abroad
  • Eschewing binaries: high and low, sacred and secular, medieval and renaissance
  • Writing againstthe canon: filling gaps, promoting underdogs, navigating uncharted territories

Specialists of Spanish arts, artistic communication and exchange, as well as experts of other regions are invited to discuss the role and definition of Spain in their own disciplines. Presentations may be delivered in English or Spanish. Please send paper titles and abstracts of no more than 250 words, together with a CV and 150-word biography, to Dr Edward Payne by 31 March 2019: edward.a.payne@durham.ac.uk.

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Featured Exhibition: La España de Laurent (1856–1886). Un paseo fotográfico por la historia, Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, until 31 March 2019

Jean Laurent, known in Spain as Juan Laurent, is a fundamental figure in the history of Spanish photography and one of the pioneers of the medium in Europe. Born in Burgundy, Laurent moved to Madrid from Paris in 1844. In 1856 he opened a studio at 39 Carrera de San Jerónimo, previously the address of Charles Clifford, another famous early photographer. Laurent’s photographs portrayed Spain at a time of great political, social and cultural change. The holdings of his company, Casa Laurent y Cía, were acquired by the Ministerio de Cultura in 1975. This exhibition offers a wide-ranging introduction to this vast personal collection.

Click here for more information.

Bermejo in Barcelona and Online

Previously at the Prado, a monographic exhibition of some 48 works by Bartolomé Bermejo, one of Spain’s leading 15th-century painters, has recently re-opened at the MNAC in Barcelona. It will be on show until 19 May. Click here for more information.

To complement the exhibitions, two 50-minute lectures given at the Prado during the Bermejo exhibition are available on You Tube. The first lecture (click here) was given by Laura Alba, head of the Prado’s conservation studio, and Maite Jover. It focuses on Bermejo’s skilled technique. The second (click here) features the lead curator of the collaborative Prado/MNAC exhibition, Juan Molina of Gerona University.

Opens Today: Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island), The Phillips Collection, Washington DC, until 19 May 2019

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Zilia Sánchez Afrocubano (1957) Oil on canvas, 27 ½ × 21 ½ in., Private collection, Madrid

The Phillips Collection presents the first museum retrospective of Cuban artist Zilia Sánchez (b. 1926, Havana). This long-overdue exhibition examines the artist’s prolific yet largely unknown career that spans almost 70 years, featuring more than 60 works including paintings, works on paper, shaped canvases, and sculptural pieces, alongside illustrations, design sketches, and ephemera. The exhibition traces Sánchez’s artistic journey from her early days in Cuba to her extended visits to Europe and residence in New York, and finally her move to Puerto Rico, where she now lives and works. Many of Sánchez’s works reference protagonists from ancient mythology (such as Trojans, Amazonians, and Antigone—all warriors and female heroines). Others have reoccurring motifs of lunar shapes, erotic topologies, and tattoo drawings that map physical and psychological spaces and add another dimension to her curvilinear geometry, rich with metaphorical meaning. The exhibition title, Soy Isla (I Am an Island),​ serves as a personal metaphor for Sanchez’s experience as an islander—connected to and disconnected from both the mainland and mainstream art currents.

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Maius Workshop Meeting: Alex Letvin, ‘Baroque Rivals? Zurbarán and Murillo Between Seville and Madrid’

The next meeting of the Maius Workshop will take place on 18 February, 5–6pm, in the Research Forum, Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, Kings Cross, London WC1X 9EW (*Please note the change of address).

Alex Letvin, Andrew W. Mellon and Maude de Schauensee Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow in the Department of European Painting and Sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will discuss work-in-progress research on Spanish Golden Age painters Zurbarán and Murillo. 

Maius is a friendly platform for informal dialogue and collaborative research. Our sessions are open to all, and research in early stages of development is especially welcome. We look forward to seeing you at Alex’s presentation, and please feel free to email us with ideas and suggestions for future events.

Featured Exhibitions: Lucio Fontana. On the Threshold, Met Breuer/Lucio Fontana: Spatial Environment (1968), El Museo del Barrio, New York, until 14 April 2019

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Spatial Concept, The Bread (Concetto Spaziale, Il Pane) Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899–1968) | Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan

The first major survey of Lucio Fontana (1899–1968) in the United States in more than forty years, this exhibition will reexamine the career of one of the most innovative artists of the twentieth century. The Argentine-Italian artist is widely known for his Cuts series, slashed paintings that became symbols of the postwar era. The exhibition will present extraordinary examples of this iconic body of work. It will also explore Fontana’s beginnings as a sculptor, including his exquisite work in ceramic, as well as his pioneering environments, contextualizing the radical gesture of his Cuts as part of the artist’s broader search to integrate the space of art and the space of the viewer.

Click here for more information.

Another striking work by Fontana will is on show at El Museo del Barrio during the run of the Met exhibition. Presented at Documenta 4 in Kassel, Germany, in 1968, Spatial Environment [Ambiente Spaziale] is an immersive, all-white, labyrinthine work of art conceived in relation to the artist’s innovative Spatialism movement.

Click here for more information.

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Images: Lucio Fontana, Ambiente spaziale in Documenta 4, a Kassel, 1968/2017, installation view at Pirelli, HangarBicocca, Milan, 2017. Courtesy Pirelli, HangarBicocca, Milan. ©Fondazione Lucio Fontana | Photo: Lorenzo Palmieri

News from ARTES Scholars

ARTES warmly congratulates Ana Dias on a successful viva of her PhD thesis, ‘The Apocalypse in early medieval Iberia: the function and impact of the illuminated “Beatus”’. Ana’s research at Durham University was supported by ARTES through a PhD Scholarship (2015) and an ARTES Coll&Cortes Travel Scholarship (2017).

We are also pleased to announce the publication of Las portadas de la catedral de Jaca. Reforma eclesiástica y poder real a finales del siglo XI (Huesca: Instituto de Estudios Altoaragoneses, 2018), by Francisco de Asís García García. In 2017 Francisco was awarded an ARTES Coll y Cortés Post-doctoral Scholarship to support research on the V&A’s collections of medieval Iberian textiles as an Erasmus + Visiting Fellow.

ARTES accepts applications for a number of awards each year, including an essay prize and travel scholarships. We also collaborate with CEEH to support PhD scholarships at The Courtauld Institute of Art and Durham University. Click here for more information on our awards.

ARTES is a Registered Charity (no. 1112883) dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of Iberian and Latin American Visual Culture. You can support our work by becoming a member of our friendly, enthusiastic and international community.