Presidency of the Council of the European Union

09/14/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/14/2023 06:18

The Spanish presidency stages the most important Tàpies retrospective in almost 20 years at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels

Article 14 September 2023

The Spanish presidency stages the most important Tàpies retrospective in almost 20 years at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels

Antoni Tápies. © Bozar Press

During the Spanish presidency, the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels (Bozar) is exhibiting a comprehensive overview of Antoni Tàpies' work, comprising over 120 paintings, drawings and sculptures, on the centenary of his birth.

Tàpies (Barcelona, 1923) is one of the most renowned Spanish artists of the 20 th century and is a key figure in post-war modern art.

The exhibition devoted to him opens this Thrusday 14 September within the framework of the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU, and can be visited until 7 January 2024 at the Belgian art centre.

The Bozar is the flagship for international cultural diplomacy and a point of reference for citizens and, above all, for the European international community living and working in Brussels.

In fact, for more than ten years, this art centre has hosted major exhibitions and cultural events of each presidency of the European Council, conveying and supporting the objectives and values of each presidency.

'Eggbasket and Newspaper' (1970).

The Tàpies Centenary

In collaboration with the Bozar and the Antoni Tàpies Foundation, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid has organised this exhibition to coincide with the centenary of the artists' birth.

In fact, the retrospective inaugurates Tàpies' Year (Any Tàpies in Catalan). The exhibition will then travel to the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, and to the Antoni Tàpies Foundation in Barcelona.

In addition to his self-portraits and other works influenced by Surrealism and Dadaism, the exhibition features Tàpies' material paintings, produced in the 1950s, which include raw materials, marks and signs.

Beyond the artist's experimentation with form and matter, visitors can also penetrate the mystical, philosophical and political dimensions of the Tàpies universe in this retrospective curated by Manuel Borja-Villel.

His art is closely linked to the history and politics of his country, which was affected by the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and Franco's regime.

In my painting, I want to inscribe all my country's difficulties, even if I cause displeasure: suffering, painful experiences, prison, a gesture of revolt. Art must live the truth. Antoni Tàpiesartist
Antoni Tàpiesartist

A work that refuses to be deciphered

The commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Antoni Tàpies (b. 1923 - d. 2012) invites us to take stock of an oeuvre that refuses to be deciphered. The intellectual halo that surrounds it is impregnated with discourses on the history of science, the mysticism of Eastern religions and political philosophy.

A self-taught artist active during the postwar period, Tàpies reflected on the human condition, history and artistic practice, especially on the limits and contradictions of painting. His prolific work can be seen all around the world.

'Figure on burnt wood' (1947).

From self-portraits to walls

The exhibition begins with Tàpies' early drawings and self-portraits and continues with the material paintings of the 1950s and the objects and assemblages of the 1960s and 1970s, followed by the varnish paintings of the 1980s, which he had started slightly earlier, during the first years of democracy in Spain.

The exhibition also presents works from the 1990s, during which the artist continued with the formal and material experimentation that had always been at the core of his practice.

Tàpies based his work on gesture and the use of modest, unconventional materials on canvas. He used sand, string, dust, hair and straw, suggesting that beauty can be found in the small, unexpected and everyday things.

In this way, he managed to create infinite textures and reliefs on his pictorial supports, which he also called walls, a name that refers to his surname, because Tàpies means walls in Catalan.

He integrated other materials like latex, emulsion and tar, applied in thick layers, which he scratched, scuffed and hollowed out. Tàpies inscribed and incised graphic and symbolic signs, such as triangles, circles and crosses, which evoke archaeological, mystical or historical references in these thick pastes. The artist sees these walls as talismans with a great evocative power.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book published by Bozar Books. It includes texts by the artist himself and by Manuel Borja-Villel, curator of the first Tàpies retrospective in Belgium in almost 40 years and the most comprehensive overview in almost two decades.

'Celebration of Honey' (1989).