A few days ago, MACA inaugurated Traversing Matter Suddenly, its third exhibition dedicated to Juana Francés; of this artist from Alicante, the museum is fortunate to preserve one of the four lots of the great legacy that she left in inheritance after her death in 1990 to four Spanish museums and collections located in cities with which the artist maintained emotional and biographical ties. The lots are similar regarding the representation of times and plastic speeches of the painter.
For the region where it was born, Juana Francés prepared two lots: one of them went to the IVAM, a museum that was starting its journey at that time; The entrance donation was correct since during the following years the IVAM was one of the most interesting and leading European museums of modern and contemporary art. It was directed by the sadly disappeared Carmen Alborch, having at the helm, together with a young Vicent Todolí who was returning after working at the Whitney in New York, a group of young conservatives and conservatives whose relevance is evidenced by museums and art centers who have directed in Europe. The current director of the IVAM, Nuria Enguita, was one of those conservatives.
In addition to leading the plastic renovation in the 50s, it was a milestone in the face of the scarce presence of Spanish women as active subjects
The second of these lots was added to the collection that Eusebio Sempere had donated to the city of Alicante, which would be the germ and soul of the current MACA, a small and beautiful museum with an exquisite collection in which we have formed several generations of Alicante art professionals. Thanks Sempere, always.
The remaining lots traveled to Zaragoza and Madrid. Aragon was in the process of creating an institution dedicated to the study and conservation of the work of Pablo Serrano, Juana Francés’ life partner, thus the painter demonstrated her gratitude and her affinity with those lands. The Madrid lot rests for its part in the city in which Francés trained and spent most of his life, specifically in the warehouses of the Reina Sofía, another museum that in 1990 was in a process of transition: from an art center to its current conformation, museum with collections.
I hope that the statements about feminism and women being more present are a reality
The generosity shown by Francés is more evident if we compare his donation with that of other professional colleagues who, in order to make the delivery of their pieces to the public patrimony effective, usually agree to create a museum around their work in exchange, or at least one monographic room within the institution. This was demanded by Marcel Duchamp in the Philadelphia Museum, Brancusi in the French collections (today his atelier is rebuilt in the Pompidou), the family of Joaquín Sorolla in the museum that the State opened in 1925 in their Madrid residence, or that of José Guerrero in Granada at the beginning of the millennium.
As I say, having donated their collection without demanding anything in return, not all institutions have felt obliged or have had the sensitivity to listen to their voice, to study, exhibit, and even to do something as simple as collectively produce the reasoned catalog. Of his work. Yes, the smaller institutions in Zaragoza and Alicante have. The MNCARS or the IVAM, the museums that have budgetary muscle and the spaces that the production of a retrospective exhibition that would value and contextualize the work of Juana Francés would require, thirty years after receiving the inheritance, they keep almost without unsealing the legacy of the Alicante artist. The situation is so extraordinary that when working with works by Juana Francés for A contratiempo. Half a century of Valencian artists, 1929-1980 at the IVAM, the museum’s directors were surprised by the quality of a methacrylate from the 70s that I selected from the pieces in their lot and, above all, they were surprised not to know it.
A retrospective exhibition of great depth of a fundamental artist of the second half of the 20th century is a must.
At this time we are facing a possible paradigm shift, since the MNCARS is in the process of reformulating its permanent collection. I am not aware, I may be wrong, that the work of Juana Francés has participated in some of the stories that the different directors who have passed through the institution have presented for the permanent collection. The permanent one is, together with a marked policy of temporary exhibitions, the most important contribution and mark that each of these professionals has made in the history of art from this institution. There have been many montages in the collection: the first, by María Corral, was somewhat controversial; others have been unambitious in following the manuals of our most recent art history at heart; There are those that remained in the inkwell like that of Juan José Lahuerta; Finally, it is necessary to cite the different formulations that Manuel Borja has carried out for more than a decade at the head of the museum, in my opinion the only display that has tried to place itself within what we call critical museography and that has understood the permanent as temporary. I hope that Borja Villel’s statements that feminisms and female artists are going to be more present in the collection will come true, and that one of the illustrative milestones of this change is the inclusion of the work of Juana Francés within the collections. permanent members of the MNCARS, as he did last year with Spanish pop artists.
The IVAM, for its part, under the direction of José Miguel Cortés, came to present in the press, and that is how the newspaper Información collected it at the time, a future case study with the work of Juana Francés that my colleague María Jesús would come to curate Folch; it was never carried out or explained why. Despite the good work of Folch, as he amply demonstrated in his exhibition on Ana Peters, this format is relevant to go through a certain moment of an artist (as was done for example with Miquel Navarro), but not so much to generate a retrospective project of artists that have had an abundant production. Ambition is lacking when it comes to female artists.
The IVAM, under the direction of Cortés, announced a study with the work of Juana Francés, but it was never carried out or explained why
Perhaps it is not necessary in Alicante, but I want to give a few touches of why it seems essential that the work of Juana Francés be present in the rooms of our museums and why I consider a retrospective exhibition of great importance to be mandatory. This painter, apart from having generated an extremely interesting figurative work in the early 1950s, was the founder of the El Paso group along with other colleagues of her generation such as Saura, Canogar, Millares, Rivera, Feito, and others; This group was a breath of fresh air in the art that was produced in Spain as an alternative to the return to the order proposed by the Francoist institutional platforms. French was, therefore, a fundamental figure of the artistic regenerationism that Spain experienced in the late 1950s (I use the word regenerationism on purpose because El Paso looked at both European informalism and American abstract expressionism as well as the tradition of the so-called Spanish School of Painting that Javier Portús has brilliantly studied). That is to say, they looked out but from the presumed Hispanic difference over which the Generation of 98 and surrounding areas had pontificated.
An underrepresented renovator
But it is that Juana Francés not only participated in this renovation, but also took over from those Spanish women who during the 20s and 30s represented the first professionalized generation of artists in the Spanish State. Creators who after the Civil War either took refuge in a kind of internal exile, like Ángeles Santos, or had to leave Spain for political reasons, like Maruja Mallo, Manuela Ballester and many others. Our Spanish women of the 20s and 30s were much more than simple plastic creators; its presence on the public stage is an essential part of the modernization that Spain experienced during those years in line with other countries in its orbit. That is to say, during a particularly crude period of the dictatorship, the 1950s, Juana, in addition to leading the plastic renovation, was a milestone in the face of the scarce presence of Spanish women as active subjects in the media, in both national and international exhibitions. , in the creative debate, etc.
In addition to thanking Rosa Castells, director of MACA, for her excellent work and her sensitivity to the work of Juana Francés, I hope that this article will serve as a wake-up call for those museums that preserve the painter’s work. In my opinion they have a moral obligation to make their work visible in the room. Including this artist in his speeches enables a more genuine account of what the 50s were like in Spanish art. Because Juana Francés participated in the most important events that made us visible abroad, such as the Hispano-American Biennials, the Sao Paulo Biennial or the Venice Biennial, as well as in relevant group exhibitions of the 60s at the Guggenheim in New York or at the Tate Gallery in London. Spanish artists cannot continue to be underrepresented in our museums. The example of what has happened with the controversial guest exhibition at the Prado Museum shows that the current generations of creators, historians and, in general, Spaniards, are not going to accept that our past continues to be ignored, our cultural genealogy.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.