From the 18th century to the present day, the debate between political and economic power (public service, private property) dominates the European scene from the Atlantic to the Urals, being imposed the second in recent times to a weakened political power. At the same time, cultural power, after the height of the Age of Enlightenment, gradually dissipates. Torn between secular values and religious moral, marginalized by the philosophies of distrust -Marxism, Freudianism, structuralism-, which put into question the freedom of the subject, the cultural influence is restricted to the private sphere, family life and leisure time.
What was true at the dawn of the 19th century has not been debunked at the dawn of the 21st: art is rarely promoted by itself, by what represents and means. “Our reasons are no longer innocent”, recognized -I think that in 1986- Philippe de Montebello, Director then of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. One might wonder, just from a pessimistic view, if it were ever. Because in parallel with political reasons also economic reasons have played consistently an important role in all cultural activity.
More than thirty years after those three initial exhibitions of pure and hard cataloguing and dissemination, exhibitions that were able to attract huge public, not only local and regional, but also specialists in Goya with such an importance as the unforgettable Professor Julián Gállego, Manuela Mena or Eleanor Sayre, among many others, and located in a new century, they announce us now with great advertising that a large and enthusiastic group of professors of the University of Zaragoza, many of them, are responsible for a new project that seems very ambitious and comprehensive about the Economic Society. The Committee of experts -Guillermo Fatás, Domingo Buesa, Guillermo Redondo, Eloy Fernández Clemente, Dolores Albiac, Guillermo Pérez Sarrión and José Francisco Forniés, predict that it will be great exhibition of the year 2014 in this city, above any other that nobody may show -we understand- and that therefore will differentiate the cultural activity in Zaragoza as the inevitable external impact to all sorts of scales, and that will of course have a catalogue that, accordingly, assumes that it will constitute a reference publication. In the public announcement of the exhibition it sates (sic) that “in the Patio de la Infanta are going to be shown nine Goya’s that until now have only been seen in photography” (!). We will see.
In this regard, that of major exhibitions, we cannot however mentioned here that is now twenty years was produced a unique fact, which would radically changed the concept of what are historical exhibitions on the Enlightenment and its internal coherence. I am referring to the singular figure of Jean Clair, pseudonym of a sovereign French Art Historian, Gérard Régnier, that as Chief of Project and its catalogue, and with the collaboration of Jean-Pierre Changeux, Michel Lemire, Jean-François Debord, Bruno Jacomy, Alain Mercier, Heinz Schott, Frédéric Charvet, Henri Bonnet, Laura Bossi, Roy Porter, Elisabeth Madlener, Claudio Pogliano, Philippe Sorel, Aaron Sheon, Pietro Corsi, Barbara Larson, Erika Krause, Peter Strasser, Anthea Callen, Anne Harrington, Philippe Comar, Alain Prochiantz, Jacqueline Carroy, Jean-David Jumeau-Lafond, Wieland Schmied, Mark Gisbourne, Germano Celant, Cathrin Pichler and Laurence Kahn organized and presented at the national galleries of the Grand Palais du Paris an exhibition, “L’âme au corps (Arts et Sciences 1793-1993)”, true milestone in universal scale and since then is the canon that should govern all artistic and cultural manifestation that boasts, in the territory that is announced in Zaragoza; this means, in those exhibitions and publications dealing with scholars or scientific matters relating to Enlightenment and therefore freedom of man and his rights, study, drawing, engraving and painting, anatomy, academy, machine man, phrenology times, evolution, prophetic man, to the emotions and the dream and the own soul. Globalizing many initiatives might be considered as innovative streams from Illustration.
Of course, the canonical “L’ame au corps” was accompanied by a catalogue in large format, 560 pages and excellently illustrated, edited by publishers like the prestigious Gallimard and Electa. A good example of the influence of that canon was the exhibition entitled “Mélancolie, (Génie et folie en Occident)“, also directed by Jean Clair and equally presented between October 2005 and January 2006 in the Grand Palais du Paris and later (February to May 2006) at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
Among the two of them, although perhaps taken a little sideways, will be interesting to mention “La peinture comme crime, ou la part maudite de la modernité” directed by Régis Michel arose in the Louvre Museum -hall Napoleon- between October 15th 2001 and January 14th 2002.
In Spain it is worthy to remember the so-called “Goya and Italy” of Joan Sureda (Zaragoza, June-September 2008). And also in Europe the later “Renaissance to Goya” of Mark P. McDonald in the British Museum (2012), or “L’ange du bizarre” of Côme Fabre and Felix Krämer (d’Orsay Museum and Museum of Frankfort), in 2013.
By natural law are not confident that this is again the case in the exhibition which is now announced for Zaragoza, at least in the material and its budget, although it is expected that in the case of illustrious professors of our University the brilliance of the project and its implementation in page are deserving of general applause in all areas. And to, in effect, constitute the top exhibition of the year, overcoming the opening of new cultural centres and events and forums of all kinds that can be displayed to Zaragoza citizens and its visitors, enlightening those who have the fortune of seeing the exhibition announced for April 2014, and taste the catalogue-book which, I am sure, will report with rigor and meticulous the history and artistic backgrounds, documentary, scientific and philosophical, of such a prestigious institution of Zaragoza.
“La Infanta” por Goya, 1783 Oleo sobre lienzo, 151,2 x 97,8 cm. Munich, Alte Pinakothek
On the other hand it is well known that in the Century of Lights these are not only those of the spirit, but also the ones of everyday life, and that in the world of European cities and the upper classes of society -is the case of the Zaragoza Economic Society- both in dress as in the furnishing also clear and bright dyes, the bright colours, pastel tones, mainly in the range of the blue, pink, yellow and gray. While in Spain the black then remains dominant, however step back the brown, purple or crimson tones, dark and saturated relations and violent contrasts of preceding centuries. Besides the correct conservation of master pieces, lighting, shades, moisture and other required technical issues, should take into account this kind of subtleties in the staging of the exhibition that we are concerned? It would be preferable and even enforceable, because otherwise we will be limited, once more in this today colour-blind city, the usual red with unknown origin, or to the also usual misadjusted combination of bright yellow with blue azure, invariant misfortune in Zaragoza exhibitions of the last years, in a population completely incompatible with the colour at which this is still an irretrievably awful additive. As an example, we invite you to see the University Auditorium in Plaza de Paraíso, or the adjacent facade of the Provincial Council in the everyday worse treated Plaza de España. Will remain the specialists such as Juan Carlos Sanz and Rosa Gallego or Michel Pastoureau a perfect unknown in this latitude?
Alzado del interior del patio de la casa Zaporta, según Prentice, 1893.
Finally and as a key and main cause of everything said so far, insist that above all is Goya and the works of Goya, their correct conservation, transport, manipulation and display. It is Goya and consequently they are art works of big importance, which cannot be exposed to any kind of inclement lightness. It is desirable that for this imminent time energies are not lost unnecessarily nor budget in salvos of vulgar marketing of papier-mâché spoiling, once again, the showcase and the vicinity of the Patio de la Infanta nor providing, as currently, traditional marketing image, distorted, incongruous and provincial, of an exemplary and essential monument for the knowledge of Renaissance in Zaragoza. Because in the spirit of what we said earlier and now we insist on this, also in this class of accompaniments misunderstood always, exhibitions have experienced the discrepancy between what their visitors expected from them and what they were proposing, or intended to propose. While it is true that many exhibitions -because they were not few- have been and are being splendidly useful for better understanding and dissemination of Spanish culture, are now inescapable selective quality and intellectual rigor. Therefore, already are not worth demonstrations out of scale, or focus, or reality and respect. In the times that we have had to live, when using a broad budget and need to know our past to know us, is unavoidable mandate the high level of demand, subtlety and excellence and, of course, less frivolous neglect, less colourful, less excess of ways, less incoherent mergers, less concealment of architectural reality, less children’s forgetfulness, less score points already registered, less carpentry and more care with dedication and devotion the heritage of all.
Gonzalo de Diego