WHY DO WE STILL TALK ABOUT MONTMARTRE TODAY?

The fame of this place, a melting pot of creativity and a haven for uprooted and unorthodox art, still represents the Bohemian spirit of yesteryear, when it was the cradle of some of the most important pictorial movements of the 19th century. But what factors met in this neighbourhood to become what it was?

Jules Grün. Motmartre's Song, 1900 Litographic proof for a cover © Private colection (image from caixaforum.es)

Montmartre was an independent population, which, in 1860, was added to the city of Paris to become its eighteenth district. The proliferation of brothels, cabarets and show halls of scant reputation made the neighbourhood a very badly considered area that, nevertheless, strongly attracted some artists. The reasons were diverse, but above all, gentrification phenomenon stands out. Napoleon III, together with his leading urban designer Baron Haussmann, wanted to make Paris the most beautiful city in Europe. As a result, there was an ordering of the centre and the displacement of groups of citizens who were relocated to nearby towns, as happened in Montmartre.

Maxime Dethomas, “Poster Montmartre”, 1897 (image from nataliamartinlago.com)

This hill was also the main stage of the Franco-Prussian War, which took place between 1870 and 1871, and the rise of the revolutionary movement "the Paris Commune". Turned into a battlefield, chance made that its name, "mount of martyrs" gained meaning after the numerous casualties in the French army. At the end of the conflict, in 1873, the National Assembly agreed to build the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur in homage to the fallen. Today this temple is an emblem of the neighbourhood that shines on the hill illuminated by the sun and can be seen from the old city.

Pierre Marie Louis Vidal, Cover of “La Vie à Montmartre” (detail), 1897. Litography © Private collection / Photographer: Elsevier Stokmans Fotografie (image from caixaforum.es)

We can imagine that an atmosphere full of meaning like the one that reigned at the end of the 19th century, in a marginal neighbourhood, punished by war, decadent, indecent and proud was a natural refuge for those who wanted to live outside the system. They wanted to be free from the confining of liberalism, the formalities of high society, the artifices of Parisian pomposity and life away from the real vital pulse that connects the human passions, good and bad, in an environment where they can run freely. To all this ideological context joins, of course, money, because survival is easier and cheaper in a neighbourhood of a bad reputation.

View of the exhibition room in CaixaForum (image from caixaforum.es)

This set of elements constituted the breeding ground of an unprecedented cultural flowering. The artists met and shared experiences around the Bateau-Lavoir, a building that served as a welcome centre for many creators and where Picasso and Modigliani were at the beginning. Montmartre and, on the opposite bank of the Seine, Montparnasse were the cradle of a creative interest that fed back. Pissarro and Johan Jongkind, and then Renoir, Van Gogh, Degas, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gen Paul, Villon and many others set at that time several associations of artists and consolidated a link today inseparable between the neighbourhood and art. With their determination and their desire to be above the established canons, they managed to write a chapter of their own in the history of world art.

We recommend you take advantage of the last days of the exhibition "Toulouse-Lautrec and the spirit of Montmartre" at CaixaForum Madrid, to relive a part of that time and immerse yourself in an episode of history that brings together 350 works from around the world (untill May 19th).

 

The cultural agenda gradually recovers after the health-crisis halt and art lovers are eager to enjoy the rich cultural offer that the different spaces and museums throughout our geography have to offer. In addition, one must remember that these centres have made an enormous effort to adapt to the demands that the new situation imposes and have created abundant online-accessible content to overcome confinement. We bring you a selection of content that can be visited both in person and through the web. There is no excuse for not enjoying contemporary art again.

Olafur Eliasson, “En la vida real (In real life)”, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao continues with its exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson and offers numerous resources to understand not only the exhibition but also the work of the centre in the assembly and installation process. The website allows us to expand content with interviews with the artist, the download of the audio guide and the vision of the curator Lucía Aguirre, who offers us different video-pills on the pieces in the exhibition.

"Olafur Eliasson: in real life" brings together a part of this artist's work since 1990 through sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations that play with reflections and colours. Likewise, the integration of elements such as moss, water, ice, fog... put the visitor in a situation that confuses the senses and tries to challenge the way we perceive our environment and move in it.

Regina de Miguel, “Isla Decepción”, 2017

The Botín Centre in Santander hosts the exhibition "Collecting processes: 25 years of Itineraries" which brings together the work of 25 of the 210 scholarship recipients who, to date, have enjoyed the Botín Foundation Plastic Arts Scholarship, started in 1993. With the works Lara Almárcegui, Basma Alsharif, Leonor Antunes, Javier Arce, Erick Beltrán, David Bestué, Bleda and Rosa, Nuno Cera, Patricia Dauder, Patricia Esquivias, Karlos Gil, Carlos Irijalba, Adrià Julià, Juan López, Rogelio López Cuenca, Renata Lucas, Mateo Maté, Jorge Méndez Blake, Regina de Miguel, Leticia Ramos, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Teresa Solar Abboud, Leonor Serrano Rivas, Jorge Yeregui, David Zink-Yi, the exhibition is a good example of up-to-date and young contemporary art contributed by artists with very diverse profiles.

Clemente Bernad. Series “Ante el umbral”, Madrid, 2020

The Reina Sofía Museum wanted to create a visual chronicle of what the confinement and the tragic numbers of infected and deceased have meant for the lives of many of us: a tale of pain, nostalgia and uncertainty made by the photographer Clemente Bernad. This exhibition, curated by Jorge Moreno Andrés, is entitled “Before the threshold”, a title that expresses the strange sensation that occurs when faced with something new and unknown, something that we cannot control or avoid, and that we all must go through. The alteration imposed on our lives unexpectedly is reflected in the streets, transformed into places of solitude and abandonment where life has been paralysed.

Mario Merz / No title, Triplo Igloo, 1984 MAXXI Collection

At the IVAM, the exhibition "What is our home?" brings together works from the IVAM collection and the MAXXI centre in Rome to propose a reflection on the space we inhabit seen from a personal and social perspective. It is about investigating the value that these spaces have as a home or refuge, as well as part of a city or community.

The exhibition, curated by José Miguel G. Cortés, also wants to delve into the feeling of those who feel like foreigners anywhere, because they do not identify with the habits or customs of the society, they do not fit into these social patterns, and home becomes the only shelter space that can adapt to their identity needs.

Martha Rosler, frame from “Backyard Economy I-II”, 1974 © Courtesy of Martha Rosler, 2020

Es Baluard Museu is committed to video creation and performance and hosts the monographic exhibition “Martha Rosler. How do we get there from here?” dedicated to this New York artist who pioneered the use of video as a mechanism for social and political analysis. This exhibition includes various works, from video to photography and several publications, which synthesise her main lines of discourse. Her concern for public policies and the social equality of women has led her to actively participate in numerous social movements in La Havana, New York, Mexico DC or Barcelona, and these experiences are present in one way or another in her work.

With the curatorship of Inma Prieto, a selection has been made within the abundant production of this artist, which presents one of the most coherent careers in towards-the-new-Millenium contemporary art.

Image from file, via meiac.es/turbulence/archive/acceso.html

The MEIAC - Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, host the works of the prestigious international digital art archive "Turbulence", a platform dedicated to network and hybrid art. In view of the inevitable closure of this institution, the MEIAC has offered to host all this valuable content collected since 1996. The uploading of the file also served as an opportunity to restore numerous pieces and convert formats so that files that had become obsolete remain readable by new systems. A huge job of conservation and updating that can be enjoyed online today. The archive is made up of hundreds of digital works from around the world that can now be visited remotely.