Arts & Culture

Spanish Pavilion. Paris International World's Fair, 1937

Josep Lluís / Luis Sert i López / Lacasa1987

Museo Reina Sofia
Museo Reina Sofia

The years 1936-37 represent a turning point in the relationship between modernity and political action. During this period three exhibitions were of great significance. On the one hand, Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art, Münich, 1937) sums up the totalitarian invectives against the avant-garde. On the other hand, Cubism & Abstract Art (New York, 1936) suggests the de-politicization of the avant-garde upon its arrival in the United States. In 1937, on the brink of World War II, the World's Fair dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life took place in Paris. It included a Spanish Pavilion, from a country that was in the throes of a civil war at the time. The Spanish Pavilion was not only one of the most outstanding examples of integration of the arts in exhibition format, it also summed up the potential of the avant-garde in having an effect on the world, since it was promoted by the government of the Republic as a means to present the Spanish conflict to the world and mobilize people in response. Not only did the Pavilion house Pablo Picasso's Guernica, commissioned especially for this occasion, it also represented a genuine tour-de-force between regionalism-internationalism, photomontage-documentary, pedagogy-experimentation and avant-garde-social reality.

Luis Araquistáin, Spanish ambassador in Paris, and the writer Max Aub were put in charge of recruiting the country's most prominent artists for the diplomatic mission undertaken by the Pavilion, the design of which was commissioned to the architects Luis Lacasa and Josep Lluis Sert. Before going in, visitors could contemplate the large sculpture by Alberto Sánchez El pueblo español tiene un camino que conduce a una estrella (The Spanish people have a path that leads to a star, 1937), and also La Montserrat (1936-37) by Julio González and Femme au vase (1933) by Pablo Picasso. The façade was covered by photomurals designed by Josep Renau. In the ground floor patio were Guernica (1937), by Picasso, and Mercury Fountain (1937), by Alexander Calder. A spiral ramp led to the second floor, where a corridor exhibit of photomurals designed by Renau presented the traditional dress, industries and topography of the various regions of Spain. At the end of the second floor, a staircase with the Miró mural Le Faucher (The Reaper. Catalan peasant in revolt, 1937) , took the visitor back to the first floor, where more photomontage by Renau could be seen. At the end of this corridor, on the ramp that took visitors outside the building, propaganda posters and graphic works by Renau were on exhibit.
The Pavilion's various spaces were enlivened by film projections, concerts, dance and theatre performances, which the Republican government considered representations of popular culture and a weapon against fascism. Currently, the model of the Pavilion is exhibited next to Guernica at Museo Reina Sofía, suggesting that the painting is not an icon but rather a synthesis, like the rest of the Pavilion, of the avant-garde and reality.

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Details

  • Title: Spanish Pavilion. Paris International World's Fair, 1937
  • Creator: Josep Lluís / Luis Sert i López / Lacasa
  • Date Created: 1987
  • Style: Architectural model
  • Provenance: Private Collection
  • Physical Dimensions: w2305 x h1400 mm
  • Original Title: Pabellón de España. Exposición Internacional de París, 1937
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Medium: Wood and plastic

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