THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL HERITAGE OF SPAIN DESERVES A TRIBUTE

 

 

 

Set up in 1867 by Isabel II, the institution followed the trend, shared by the rest of European countries, of founding museums devoted to showing the most representative treasures of the cultural and artistic richness of the country. It happened, besides, that archaeology was a study discipline in vogue by then, therefore this museum perfectly fitted with the idea of putting together the knowledge and wisdom in develop at that time around an exhibition space that clearly served to their goals of academic and enlightened dissemination.

 

 

 

Tombstone of Sancho III of Navarra, Museum of Leon.

 

 

 

When it was first open, the headquarters of the museum was located in the Casino de la Reina, in a nineteenth-century environment where a reduced collection of pieces were exhibited, from the prehistory to the Middle and Modern Ages, and with a wide selection of numismatic and ethnography. Later, the museum moved to its current headquarters, the Palacio de Biblioteca y Museos in 1895. Since then, the collection only moved during the Civil War, when it was disassembled and stored to protect its integrity.

 

 

 

Treasure of the Neápolis de Ampurias, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.

 

 

 

The museum remained closed from 2008 to 2013 to make a whole reform of the building, with a change in the structure, the display and the creation of new spaces that make more accessible to the public the visits in the showrooms and lighten the volume of pieces on show. After it re-opening in 2014, its name was also modernised, now called with the acronym MAN.

 

 

 

Chest of Hisham II, Treasure-museum of the Cathedral of Girona.

 

 

 

For this commemorative exhibition 150 pieces were put together, one for each year, come from 70 different institutions spread around the Spanish territory. Gonzalo Ruiz Zapatero, the curator of the showing, is a full professor of Prehistory at the Complutense University of Madrid. This exhibition offers a tour throughout the evolution of the archaeological science in our country and its connection to museology, since, 150 years ago, not only the MAN was founded, but also the Spanish archaeological museums net, that participates also in the celebration.

 

 

Among the specialised professional profiles that we find in the cultural sector, and more specifically, in the field of visual arts, one of the most recent occupations is that of the curator. The ‘80s put attention on the role of the artist, with its innovative character and the enhancement of its figure as an essential articulator of creative proposals, while the end of the century moved the interest towards the exhibition centres themselves and their work as custodians of current production and as spaces to accommodate all proposals. The change of millennium strongly introduced in this panorama the role of the curator. Perhaps together with a social identity crisis, perhaps with the complexity that contemporary projects are currently acquiring, the need for building, articulating and delving into artistic discourses became evident.

Although the functions entrusted to this profession are not entirely new, since previously they belonged to conservatives, critics or experts according to the themes, the role has gained solidity because it combines all these purposes while allowing the specialisation of other professionals in their fields of competence. Now, as some curators themselves point out, the genuine spirit of this figure, who was born to facilitate the understanding of the discourse, create narratives within a sometimes chaotic and scattered context, mediate between the works and the spectator and create bridges between contemporary art and society.

The art of our day raises a multitude of unknowns for the visitor who must face proposals many times away from the aesthetic standards, which gives way to uncertainty and confusion; but, in turn, these works employ a closer language, materials and even compositions detached from the sophistication and the technical display of yesteryear, something that, far from favouring proximity to the message, generates some distancing. What we have just described is part of the very essence of current art. The questioning of the formalist guidelines and the recourse to tangible elements that are more utilitarian than embellishing are the new criteria of creation, where, above all, the message to be conveyed stands out.

Likewise, another inherent characteristic of the work of our time is the artists' concern for more immediate themes, for social, political and economic issues that seek to create a narrative and conceptual revulsion, leaving behind the aesthetic priority or, rather, making of the message its own aesthetic. In this context, strange as it may seem, contemporary creation encounters a linguistic barrier hindering the viewer's understanding. And to this circumstance, the abundant current production is added, covering a wide range of themes that are nothing more than a transcript of our diverse and globalised society.

The curator helps to facilitate this understanding by articulating a coherent discourse that allows the grouping of related ideas to set up the message. This requires to have an in-depth knowledge of the current state of the art, the lines of work of the creators, the most recent aesthetic proposals and the real demands of society to bridge the dialogue and allow the approach to art. If art deals with the same issues that concern us all, how can we not share its postulates? Cultural mediation requires the work of the curators to open a small window for reflection and to enable a space for exchange and idea generation. We share the thought that José Guirao expressed in a recent interview: "The curator is someone who reveals something new, and it would be a mistake for curators to become managers."

Understood this way curator’s role, many institutions have joined the trend of creating specific calls for new professionals to give light to their proposals. Let us remember, as an example, the call "Unpublished" of La Casa Encendida, or "Curator wanted", of the Community of Madrid or the call of Curating of La Caixa.