The Moscow Museum of Modern Art in partnership with AUREA Cultura I Art presents a large-scale exhibition «Antoni Gaudí. Barcelona». The project aims at tracing the artistic journey of Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) through his major architectural achievements while revealing the influence of his work on contemporary culture. Gaudí’s first exhibition in Russia is held to coincide with the 165th anniversary of the architect’s birth. The exhibition in MMOMA is complemented by a piece by a contemporary Catalan artist Frederic Amat who is rightly considered a successor of Gaudí’s tradition in the field of media art.
In the process of getting acquainted with Gaudí’s artistic language one may wonder, «Was Gaudí a genius or a madman?» Being a diligent pupil, Gaudí at the same time decisively evaded an academic understanding of architecture, instead advocating his own design solutions, a stance he took only more strongly the more his designs were considered absurd by those commissioned them. He never strictly adhered to stylistic canons, keeping in mind the motto of French architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, «We must return to the past, although only to critically dissect it.» Gaudí was one of few architects of the 20th century to explore nature and its organic forms which themselves he considered artworks. The purity of style was not of central importance for the artist. Biomorphic lines and curves and structures at the same time both impossible and harmonious — this is what the madman architect of the 20th century was concerned with.
Exploratory in its nature the exhibition contains more than 150 pieces sourced from Spanish public institutions and private collections and ranging from Gaudí’s plans and draughts that he made as a student to furniture from Casa Calvet and ceramic tiles from Park Güell, designed in the late period of the artist’s work. Of special interest are photographs of Gaudí’s buildings taken by Adolf Mas in 1910 for Gaudí’s first exhibition which took place at the Salon of the Société des Beaux-Arts at the Grand Palais in Paris. Consisting of five thematic sections the exhibition takes the viewer on a journey across the Gaudí universe which starts with his biography and rare documentary footage about his life before going on to consider his most renowned buildings, presented in such a way as to give a sense of his holistic approach to the architecture he created and to bring to light not only the evolution of his style but also the transformation of his personality.
One of these five sections is dedicated to the Convent and School of the Teresians, which is considered the most minimalist building of the Catalan architect. The laconic nature of the building is not only due to the limited budget available to him, but is also partly a result of the demands of Father Enrique de Osso who commissioned the building and wished it to correspond to the spirit of the order. Another section focuses on the friendly relationship and collaboration between Gaudí and Eusebi Güell. They became acquainted with each other at the time when a progressive spirit was beginning to take hold in Barcelona, a city now ready for and receptive to innovative ideas resulting from the cooperation between the architect and his patron. Arguably it is in Güell’s library that Gaudí made his first forays into the essays and poetry of the pre-Raphaelites and authors associated with this movement such as William Morris, John Ruskin and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The work of these artists was an important source of inspiration for Gaudí.
It is worth noting that the public’s reception of Gaudí’s urban residencies — Casa Vicens, Casa Calvet and Casa Batlló — varied. Casa Milà, which, marked by dissimilar floor plans failed to fall into any typologies known at the time, incited a spate of caricatures comparing the house to a quarry. On the other hand, the Batlló house was widely acknowledged at the time to be an urban residency which epitomized Gaudí’s ingenuity. Devoid of straight lines and right angles the house is shaped only by curves. Shortly after its construction Salvador Dali would compliment the architect on «soft doors made of calf leather,» and later in 1933 he would dedicate to Gaudí a laudatory review published in the «Minotaure» magazine.
The exhibition concludes with an impressive juxtaposition of the crypt of the Güell Industrial Colony with the Sagrada Família. At the turn of the century Gaudí grew preoccupied with philosophical issues and spiritual life, which affected his religious commissions. Gaudí scholars claim that the crypt prefigured the famous temple of the Sagrada Família. The fact that Gaudí was working in parallel on these two commissions led him to apply similar architectural solutions in both buildings, for example their towers. However, whereas those of the crypt were designed to be squat and stumpy, those of the Sagrada Família gracefully soar into the sky.
As a result of the cultural cooperation between Russia and Spain for this project, the exhibition is a continuation of MMOMA’s program dedicated to introducing Moscow audiences to art from around the world. The project will not only allow viewers to immerse themselves in the ingenuity of Gaudí’s creations but will also provide key material for academic research on 20th century Western art in Russia. The exhibition is accompanied by an education program for both adults and children.
One can make a journey to Antoni Gaudí’s «Barcelona» even outside of the museum. On the occasion of the exhibition Grand Cru Wine Bar offers a Spanish set menu inspired by Gaudí. Guests are invited to try out wines and snacks themed around Gaudí’s work and his gastronomic preferences. One can also trace the influence of Gaudí’s work on Moscow architecture and at the same time test one’s knowledge of its modernist buildings by joining a unique interactive adventure game, the itinerary for which is a result of the joint efforts of the exhibition curator, the museum’s team and Street Adventure.
Charo Sanjuán (Sabadell, 1955) is a graduate in modern history from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. After teaching for several years, she began to work on documenting and organising exhibitions. At the beginning of the nineties she was living in Buenos Aires, where she carried out exhaustive research on the Catalan painter Hermen Anglada-Camarasa and the Argentinian painters associated with him. The research resulted in a monograph «Anglada-Camarasa y Argentina» produced together with Francesc Miralles and published in 2003. In 2011, in cooperation with Càtedra Gaudí of the Barcelona School of Architecture she started preparing an exhibition on the life and work of Antoni Gaudí.
In 2014-2015, the exhibition «Takehiko Inoue interprets Gaudí’s Universe» was presented in five museums in Japan, followed by an extensive exhibition on Antoni Gaudí which appeared at three museums in South Korea. As managing director of Aurea Cultura i Art since 2012, she has curated the exhibitions: «Anglada-Camarasa, 1871-1959» (Palacio de Sástago, Zaragoza, 2013); «The beauty of Modernisme» (Pasión Museum, Valladolid, 2015), and «Emotions on Black. Enric Ansesa» (Imaginart Gallery, Barcelona, 2016). She has directed exhibition projects such as: «Picasso: art and arena» (Palacio de Sástago, Zaragoza, 2014) and «Salvador Dalí. Images from stories» (Palacio de Sástago, Zaragoza, 2015).