BERENICE ABBOTT: THE VISUAL STORY OF A TIME OF CHANGE

In the 20s of the last century, Paris continued to have an undeniable power of attraction for the cultural movements of the time. And this was true although the United States, and especially New York, was beginning to emerge as a reference country in full artistic effervescence. The ravages of the successive wars tipped the balance of art in favour of North America, an extensive land, far from direct conflict, not yet worn down by the weight of history and with a promising future of multitudinous shows and film industry ahead.

Berenice Abbott, Aerial view of New York at Night, March 20th, 1936, International Center of Photography, Gift of Daniel, Richard, and Jonathan Logan, 1984 (786.1984) © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott

But let’s get back to the 20s. Back then, the Art Nouveau was last shining in Europe while in New York, the Art Decó appeared, by urban design and stylish skyscrapers, to make this city an emblem. The connection between both metropolis based on an exchange of free thought shown in the arts and architecture. Perhaps few were aware at the time that the builders of the Rockefeller Center or the Chrysler Building were making history. The Gilger Age echoed still, a time between the end of s. XIX and early S. XX where the great family monopolies of the North American industry were born around important innovations such as the railroad, the exploitation of steel, the vast corn harvests, the livestock production and other significant advances in the hands of a few. The empowered families became great art collectors and unconscionable builders who wanted to demonstrate their power by raising taller and more iconic buildings. They succeeded.

Berenice Abbott, West Street, 1932, International Center of Photography, Purchase, with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lois and Bruce Zenkel Purchase Fund, 1983 (388.1983) © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott

The beginning of the century was a breeding ground suitable for artists. The stimuli multiplied, and the options seemed endless. Despite this, old Europe still represented the bohemian refuge, the place where the environment of creation was appropriated to restless minds because there were tradition, history and shared story, away from the sudden boiling of New York built overnight and based on galloping capitalism, the prelude to the Crack of 29. That's why many American creators laid vital bridges between Paris and the American city. This was the case of Berenice Abbott, a photographer born in Ohio in 1898 who let her talent flow to both sides of the Ocean.

Berenice Abbott, Canyon: Broadway and Exchange Place, 1936, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Photography Collection. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott

Abbott worked on the portrait of celebrities, but for the documentary, not for dedication to entertainment and social reporting. She was interested in the representation of reality, without artifice, and was part of the movement of "direct photography" that claimed the artistic nature of this discipline without needing to intervene or compose the images. Her shots of New York and Paris are today invaluable documents that testify the vertiginous changes that both cities experienced. As thematic reports, her work allows us to know today a historical context full of misery, hope and ambition, in which the foundations of modern society were built. Although Abbott's artistic beginnings focused on sculpture, her connection with other artists of the moment and her interest in the representation of reality led her to try out photography, a discipline that she never left ever again.

Berenice Abbott, Rockefeller Center, ca. 1932, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott

The Mapfre Foundation dedicates to this artist its next exhibition "Berenice Abbott. Portraits of modernity ", which will open on June 1. The show brings together about 200 pieces of this indefatigable creator who made Paris and New York her spiritual homeland.

 

In Art Madrid, we love art in all its aspects. Therefore, on the occasion of our 15th anniversary and thanks to Cooltourspain.com , visitors at Art Madrid’20 will have the possibility to enjoy a free guided tour of urban art to discover the street art hidden by Lavapiés, one of the most multicultural and colourful neighbourhoods of Madrid.

With the code ARTMADRID2020

and your ticket to the Art Madrid’20 fair, you can enjoy "Street art Tour Lavapiés" for free, on days 26th, 27th and 28th of February at 11:00 a.m. The capacity is limited, so do not doubt, book your place at Cooltourspain.com Once the confirmation is received, you just have to go with your open eyes to enjoy this magnificent experience.

Street art is the expression of art in public spaces either in the form of murals in restored buildings; graffiti; street painting or curated artistic actions. What are the backstories of each artist? What are the social issues affecting our city? This social, cultural and educational project was born in 2016 to answer these questions and show the message hidden by the works of art of so many national and international artists who have painted the Embajadores neighbourhood. It became the first daily street art tour in Madrid.

Cooltourspain will show you the Spanish capital in an alternative way and its guides will share their knowledge about the best street art in the Lavapiés and Malasaña areas. In the same way, its Foundation collaborates with non-profit projects and local associations so that people at risk of social exclusion can learn the techniques used by Madrid graffiti artists. The tour lasts two hours and begins at the Valle Inclán Theater Entrance.