The conversation with the critic and curator Valentín Roma, author of Rostros (Periférica, 2012), about Serge Guilbaut’s book How New York Stole the Idea of ??Modern Art took us on a journey through a series of historical events and ideas fundamental to understanding the visual arts of the twentieth century.
Guilbaut’s book, published in the USA in 1985 and translated into Castilian five years ago by MACBA to coincide with the exhibition “Be-Bomb“, looks at how he set up a network of creative artists (such as Motherwell, Rothko and Pollock) and critics in the troubled political context of the middle of the last century, which took advantage of Europe’s troubles to invent an art movement that was thoroughly American and at the same time enjoyed great international prestige.
Roma laid out the consequences of this in Abstract Expressionism’s relationship with Warhol and Pop Art and also traced possible parallels in ways of engaging with historic trauma, comparing artists’ reactions to World War II and the atomic bomb and responses to 9/11. Picasso stands at the centre of Guilbaut’s map, because it was he who inadvertently shaped the trade in art between France and the United States that Guilbaut analyses so precisely. ‘With Picasso the system of the art market in the U.S. changed,’ Roma pointed out. ‘The art system today, in economic terms, stems from Picasso. There is a widely held belief in the world of contemporary art that Duchamp ushered in a new regime in art with the perception or idea that anyone can be an artist and, with Picasso, the emergence of the idea of the artist as genius. The upcoming by Pedro G. Romero, which ties in with Guilbaut’s book, sets out to invert that concept, especially in terms of the economy.’
The next session will centre on Ubu the King by Alfred Jarry, so we will be travelling even further back in time to the (radical) roots of the twentieth century.