Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum

11/29/2018 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/29/2018 23:32

Painterly Ephemera from Spanish Artist Antoni Tapies

Antoni Tàpies, a leading Spanish artist of the 20th century, had a long relationship with the Guggenheim, starting with his first visits to the United States in the 1950s. The Guggenheim acquired its first Tàpies painting in 1959, and in 1962, the Guggenheim presented the second Tàpies retrospective ever-and the first at an American museum.

Fittingly, the museum has an extensive selection of ephemera relating to the artist's career in its archives. Many of those materials are prints for exhibition invitations, made in multiples, which gave the work of Tàpies wider circulation.

In Tàpies: The Complete Works, author Anna Agustí notes that it was the artist's wish to exclude from the books the prints that were used for posters and invitations. Tàpies considered the works that had been produced expressly for such publications to be provisional sketches rather than works in their own right.

As a result, though these invitations and posters often bear a resemblance to the paintings that Tàpies did during a contemporary period-and could be seen as intermediary steps in the evolution of his work-the only lasting record of these artworks are in the collections of museums and individuals who saved the ephemera.

Museums first began to organize Tàpies retrospectives in 1962. In addition to the show at the Guggenheim, organized by Thomas Messer, with a catalogue designed by Herbert Matter, Tàpies also had retrospective shows the same year at Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hannover, and at the Kunsthaus Zürich.

Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Tàpies would create more than three hundred prints that would be published by Maeght, and the gallery's successors, Galerie Maeght-Lelong and Galerie Lelong.

Printmaking is a collaborative art, and in Paris, Tàpies worked with René Lemoigne for lithography and Robert Dutrou for intaglio at Maeght's print shop. 'I'm always experimenting with new ideas and techniques. I'm always trying to surprise myself,' he said in a 1988 interview. Tàpies praised Dutrou for his knowledge, saying, he is 'so wise-he knows every technique.' Maeght chose a Tàpies intaglio print for the gallery's holiday card in 1973.

In 1964, the Maeghts opened the Maeght Foundation, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, near Nice, in the south of France. The foundation was built in honor of the Maeghts's youngest son, Bernard, who died of leukemia at 11 in 1953. In 1976, the Maeght Foundation presented a retrospective of Tàpies's work, and the artist created a new print for the exhibit's invitation.

This 1971 invitation to an exhibit at Sala Gaspar in Barcelona showcased Tàpies's works on paper and a series of tapestries made in the workshops of Josep Royo, an artist himself, who helped artists including Joan Miró and Tàpies translate their work into the woven medium.

One of the primary and recurring themes in Tàpies's work was his emphasis on his Catalan identity. The work on the front of the invitation was representative of many of Tàpies's Catalan-themed pieces in the 1970s. The gray writing in the background references Catalan history and art, and in the foreground is Tàpies's version of the Catalan flag: four red bars on a yellow field. Over and over again in Tàpies's work, we see the symbolism of four red streaks-a nod to Catalonia. (Legend says that the Catalan flag derived from a dying Count of Barcelona dragging his bloody fingers over his golden shield to create the symbol of Catalonia. For Tàpies, who often used symbolism and handprints in his work, this legend must have solidified his fondness for the Catalan flag.) It is fitting that for an exhibit in Barcelona, Tàpies's hometown and the capital of Catalonia, Tàpies created a Catalan-centric image.

These two posters were made nearly a decade apart. The brown poster for the Galeria Carl Van der Voort, in Ibiza, was made in 1968, and the other, more collage-heavy poster was made for a retrospective exhibit from late 1977 to early 1978 at Staatliche Kunsthalle in Baden-Baden. Both posters show Tàpies's ongoing interest in letters and structures. Tàpies often chose random letters to include in his work, but certain letters showed up more frequently, including A and T (his initials), and X. In the poster for Galeria Carl Van der Voort, Tàpies actually used his full name, not just his initials, and flipped his signature to make an X as an image. In the later poster for Staatliche Kunsthalle, his full name is pasted on top, with a painted A and T above a grid in the shape of a cross (another frequently used shape), with additional letters in each quadrant.