WHAT DOES ART HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE WORK DAY?

Our life is mostly marked by the time dedicated to work. Much of what we are and others see, is linked to our profession. Art is no apart to this phenomenon, and in fact, some artistic movements are to some extent indebted to the influence that technological advances in work have established in production processes and large factories. As a kind of second industrial revolution, the innovation of the production guidelines and the modernisation of the machinery, as well as the professional specialisation, have generated a work culture today almost inseparable from the idea of an advanced and up-to-date society.

Frame from the film "Modern Times", by Charles Chaplin

The impact of these changes on production processes appears in the arts. We all know the parody of the assembly line that Charles Chaplin made in his film "Modern Times" (1936). Although the context of this film is the crisis that emerged after the Great Depression, the adverse working conditions of the personnel of the large factories reflected in the movie can be extrapolated to any other place in the world. A paradox poses between the inclusion of machinery that replaces human labour and relieves them of mechanical work, and a higher demand for workers forced to perform more and better.

Fortunato Depero, 'Rascacielos y túneles' (Gratticieli e tunnel), 1930 (image from elpais.com)

But art has also echoed the positive effect of these advances for the work-life. Futurism, an artistic movement of the early s. XX that preceded Cubism and expanded worldwide, is essentially based on the capture of movement, speed, dynamism and progress. For this reason, many of the most representative pieces of this trend include machinery and technological devices associated with the evolution of society and the dizzy speed with which things happen in modern times. Futurists also developed a manifesto, released in 1909 by the Italian artist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, which reflects some of their main ideas, always around the treatment of speed and beauty of machinery as a sign of an era marked by advance and innovation.

Soviet poster of the 30's. (image from magnet.xataka.com)

The inclusion of references to the labour world in the Soviet propaganda posters is also paradigmatic. While Futurism was a free artistic movement initiated in Italy, for the Soviet Union, propaganda was an essential diffusion tool, which the regime knew how to use skillfully to expand its message and win supporters. The communication of a discourse based on the duty of citizens to work, on the dignification of men and women with effort, on the benefits of collective commitment and rural sacrifice, resulted in posters with numerous work scenes that today shape a style and an aesthetic unmistakable.

Antonio Berni, “Manifestación”, 1934 (image from prevenblog.com)

In the decade of the 30s, other artists also began to portray the hardships of work and collective demands asking for better conditions for employees. Do not forget that the date chosen to commemorate Labour Day, the 1st of May, is a tribute to the martyrs of Chicago, some anarchist trade unionists who were executed for fostering and participating in various revolts to claim an 8-hour workday, in 1886. Half a century later, the demands of the workers still originate protest movements, reflected by the artists of the moment.

Mural by Diego Rivera – Detroit Institute of Arts

Paradoxically, it was also at this time when companies tried to spread a different image of collective effort, to dignify the role of the working class around the idea of ​​the New Deal. This attempt to make a call to the social contribution to recover the economy, especially after the debacle of the Crack of 1929, led some companies to finance motivational murals that represented employees in the North American factories. This happened with some orders made to Diego de Rivera for Ford factories in Detroit.

 

Buying the first work of art always instils respect. A difficult feeling to define that mixes vertigo with adrenaline. But over uncertainty and caution, a pleasurable sense of connection, understanding, and desire prevails. That work that, once seen, stays in the mind, reappears in the memory several times a day and seems to tell you that it is willing to be part of your home, is the perfect candidate to make the decision.

In the first steps, many collectors do point out that one does not start from an established plan, but rather that one acquires pieces based on taste and the connection one feels with them until, after time, they realise that the volume of works that accumulates can be labelled as a "collection". For example, this is how Alicia Aza explains it:

“I was not aware that I was collecting until many years later when a third party named me as a collector and talked about my collection. In 2005, I became aware of what collecting means and decided to articulate a collection with an identity of criteria and formats”.

Marcos Martín Blanco, co-founder, with his wife Elena Rueda, of the MER Collection, shares this same opinion:

“Collecting has been a passion, driven by a visceral state that encourages you to do so. The collection, in terms of acquisitions, has not been particularly complicated because, let's face it: it is easy to buy because they are all beautiful things and you have some clear idea of where you want to go, but at first those preferences were not so clear. It is with the time that a criterion is being formed”.

It is not always this way, of course, but for the buyer who starts out on this path, the personal connection that entails the first piece is essential. There it is the germ of a lasting relationship that is not limited to a simple aesthetic question but is an open window to knowledge, to exploration, to a world that is often unknown to us and awakens our fascination. The seed of that connection is purely sentimental, and it is precisely this impulse that determines the first acquisitions. The first piece is never forgotten.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Ana Maqueda

Exceeding the usual recommendations made by advisers and agents, rare is the occasion when the art lover decides to buy by pure investment. These paths usually open later, when the volume of pieces is large enough. In addition, there are those who are a bit against this classic concept of the traditional collector, approached from an eccentric, elitist and little accessible vision. On the contrary, art buyers are, above all, art lovers, sentient beings and permeable to creative stimulus who, at a given moment, decide to deepen the relationship they already have with art to take a piece home.

It is not that hard to overcome that small psychological barrier that turns the visitor into a buyer if one approaches the matter from a more personal and intimate perspective than from social consideration. Small-format works, graphic work or serial photography are of great help for this, whose price range, generally more affordable, allows a closer comparison to the daily basis expenses. In this way, the purchase of art falls within the range of feasible activities and becomes something close and possible.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Marc Cisneros

At that moment, a different relationship with art begins, based on pure experience and coexistence with the acquired piece. Perhaps it can be seen as an act of daring, but on many occasions, it is more a matter of necessity and transformation. Collectors also agree that the acquisition of an artwork is an exercise on personal analysis and opening up to a new field of knowledge that was previously alien to us. Alicia Aza explains that the reason she acquired her first piece of video art, by Sergio Prego, is because she did not understand it and because she saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to self-improve. This open window to knowledge creates new connections and bonds with creators, as one of the most fascinating parts of the process. Candela Álvarez Soldevilla explains that

"I think the most interesting thing in the art world is talking to artists. They are people with a special sensitivity to listen and understand.”

And Alicia Aza also says:

"I can share the satisfaction of being able to count on many artists in my circle of close friends today, and that is a long way to go."

Thus, with works that seem acceptable within the horizon of expenses that each one considers affordable, it is easy to find a piece that catches us. Since then, our home also evolves into a space in which art has a permanent place and presence, and there is no doubt that this transforms us inside.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Henar Herguera

Jaime Sordo, owner of Los Bragales collection and founder of the 9915 Contemporary Art Collectors Association, has always defined his relationship with art as a true passion and a vital necessity. For buyers who start on this path, he has the following recommendation:

“It is an essential condition that they feel the need to live with their passion to enjoy the works. Another very important aspect is that before making decisions for purchases, they are informed, so it is necessary to read specialised newspapers and books, visit exhibitions and museums and a lot of contact with galleries, which is an important and very specific source of information of the artists they represent. Finally, the presence in national and international art fairs. All this generates information and training.”

Indeed, fairs have become a good place for discovery because they condense a wide offer and allow diverse and global contact in a concentrated way. For this reason, many new generation buyers start in the context of an event such as Art Madrid, whose closeness and quality constitute a unique opportunity to meet, soak up and feed the passion for art.

(*) quotes taken from various interviews published in public media between 2013 and 2019.