By Rose Maramba
Photos: Inauguration of the the Antonio López Exhibition, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
In a city like Madrid where notable art galleries abound, so much so that three of the world’s great museums are within a mile of each other (Prado, Reina Sofía, Thyssen in the Golden Triangle), the opening of exhibitions is almost a daily occurrence. So if those in charge want to make a first class event out of it, which they would want to so they’ll have a successful exhibition, they’ve got to have more than just the artist’s work.
And what would the magic ingredients be? Foremost is the one who cuts the ribbon; he/she should be a TIP (Terribly Important Person). That will attract the interest of the media who will then talk of little else for days but the coming event. Everyone will bone up on the artist’s life and works, not wanting to confess ignorance about something a TIP is happily squeezing into his/her packed agenda.
Next ingredient are the other personages who will fill out the party for the inauguration and help jazz it up. Actually the presence of the TIP is a guarantee that practically all of these very relevant but relatively lesser personages will be there if invited.
When word got out that no less than Queen Sofía was inaugurating the retrospective Antonio Lopez exhibition at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum a year ago, the media predicted that it would be the art event of summer in Spain. TV newscasts and documentaries as well as write-ups in printed and digital newspapers and magazines talked about it and the artist incessantly, and people who hadn’t even heard his name before have learned that he was the country’s most important “hyper-realist” painter-sculptor and that his “Madrid Desde Torres Blancas” fetched €1.74 million.
By the time of the inauguration many thought it wouldn’t do to give the exhibition a miss, specially since it might be years before the next one comes. They now knew that the last anthological Antonio Lopez exhibition was held in 1993, at the Reina Sofía Museum where 325,000 visitors came for viewing. (There was a much more recent one – in 2008 – but that was out at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.) One year later, people are still talkng about the exhibition and Antonio López, who was relatively unknown, has become almost a household name.
Seventy-five year old Antonio Lopez (Tomelloso, Ciudad Real, 6 January 1936) started to paint at age 12. Just a year later this prodigal son of La Manchahad enrolled at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. At 15 he joined some artists for his first exhibition, in his hometown; at 21 he had his first solo show, at the Ateneo de Madrid; and before he was 30 he had exhibited in New York.
Awardee of the Premio de Principe de Asturias in 1985 and the Velazquez de Artes Plásticas in 2006, he says that the exhibition at Thyssen “is me from the time I was 17 years old. In it are my successes, my inspired moments and my moments of failure, and my most recent work.”
Antonio Lopez’s realism makes his work photographic in its accuracy. His “Gran Via,” 1974-1981, “Madrid Desde Torres Blancas, 1974-1982, “Madrid Desde Capitan Haya,” 1987-1996,”etc. (and his sculptures – “Hombre y Mujer,” 1968-1994, “La Mujerde Coslada,” 2010 . . .) might well be photo-chronicles of the urban/human scenery. But they aren’t in any way the representations of what the cold eye of the camera sees. Lopez’s art of mundane subjects is the result of his acute perception and deep understanding of them, converting them into something beautiful (which is not to say tarted-up), warm and alive.
Too many openings of exhibitions are unexciting near-daily occurrences but with the right ingredients some manage to stand out as extraordinary events. During the inauguration of the Antonio Lopez the media descended in droves upon the Thyssen and went wild snapping pictures and zooming their video and TV cameras in on the TIP and the others in the eminent party, throwing questions at the likes of Baroness Carmen Thyssen, Senator Carmen Alborch, the President of the Vips Group Placido Arango and Minister of Culture Ángeles González-Sinde in the hope of scoring succulent direct quotes.
It was a sign that, at the very least, the exhibition would not bomb at the tills. Indeed, the Antonio Lopez, which lasted from 28 June to 25 September at the Thyssen, turned out to be the biggest crowd-drawer in the history of the museum which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, 2012.
Photos: M. Silver