One of the most repeated expressions in the last session of the year was ‘testimony of exception‘. Counting on the presence of Joan Gaspar Farreras, founder of the Joan Gaspar Gallery and son of Joan Gaspar and Elvira Farreras, meant connecting directly with the live history of the Barcelona of the 20th century. Live, yes, thanks to the prodigious memory of Gaspar, who is capable of conjuring up in the samesentence, both the memory of the casual way in which the project of an exhibition at the Sala Gaspar that would end up in history books was originated, and how this was lived with total normality at home, a normality that, as he pointed out, the healthiest envy, caused among so many other forms of admiration.
The reading of the “Memòries. Art I vida a Barcelona” (Memoires. Art and Life in Barcelona) of Joan Gaspar and Elvira Farreras, highlighted the fact that talking about the Sala Gaspar meant talking about the political, social, artistic and intellectual history of the city of Barcelona. From the meetings of the Club 49 to the first exhibition, in 1956, and afterwards, in 1960, of the work of Picasso in the Catalan capital, as well as, later on, those of Miró, Chillida or Tàpies, the Sala Gaspar saw itself as a meeting place and as a cultural centrifuge (what we now would call ‘facilitators’) at a moment in which, as Joan Gaspar observed with respect to the mobiles and computers, there were many possible ways of doing things. The facilitating capacity of the Gaspar-Farreras family, however, didn’t take on, according to Joan Gaspar, the form of a militancy; or at least of a direct militancy given the fact that, above everything else, the gallery was, and had to be, a business. One of the marvelous things about the Gallery, however, was the way in which it managed to be sustainable without renouncing to exhibiting was interesting to them: the avant garde art that, in the last instance, they believed should be exhibited, despite the way it was often received. In this sense, going over the profile of the reactions to certain works and certain authors, ends up being a rather sinister radiography of a public which was little open to European art in general, and to the avant-garde in particular. In their memoires, Gaspar and Farreras invoked an exception to this response of the public when talking about the exhibition that they dedicated to Picasso in 1960, ‘the one of the long queues’, of the agglomeration of the people who attended, that caused the parquet flooring to cave in, and which ended up with the local police being called in so as to maintain order.
As people mentioned throughout the session, it was welcome to have the perspective of the gallery owner in the readings of the club, often underestimated or even made invisible, and yet fundamental for the introduction of authors and works, and for the effort of interpreting what they had produced. The case of the Sala Gaspar is, in this sense, exemplary: Sala-Illa and Sala-Far, ‘Island Gallery’ and ‘Lighthouse Gallery’, illuminated the Barcelonian artistic panorama for almost a whole century with a light that, on Thursday, was relit once again, time and again, in the eyes of Joan Gaspar.
We will be resuming the sessions of the club on 15th January after the holidays, and we will be talking about the work Buffalo Bill Romance, by Carlos Pérez with Àlex Matas. We look forward to seeing you there!