Contemporary art in the Iberian Peninsula

As part of an all too brief holiday in Galicia, I managed to visit a number of interesting contemporary art exhibitions. It hardly qualified as a study trip, but it served as a prompt to explore some useful current contemporary art resources and, of course, with Manifesta 8 opening on 7 October in Murcia (SE Spain), the south-western corner of Europe is the centre of much attention.


Manifesta 8


Galicia and Northern Portugal

The Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea (CGAC), in Santiago de Compostela, has been presenting major exhibitions of Galician and international contemporary art since the early 1990s in a beautiful museum designed by Alvaro Siza. The current one, Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic, curated by Tanya Barson and Peter Gorschlüter and first seen at Tate Liverpool, is a powerful exploration of the relations between Black African, American and European cultures and 20th Century art.

CGAC publications would be of interest to libraries collecting international contemporary art. Dardo, a new publisher of art books and of the magazine of the same name, is also based in Santiago.

MARCO, Vigo’s contemporary art museum, is also worth a visit, and not just for the art: it boasts an excellent restaurant serving modern Galician fare. Pontevedra, a few kilometres away, hosts the oldest and most prestigious biennial exhibition in Spain, Bienal de Pontevedra. Its 31st edition, focusing on Central America and the Caribbean, closed its doors at the end of September, but a collection of podcasts by some of the artists and curators that took part in it is available on its online radio (Rbp31).

Further south, the Museu Fundação Serralves in Oporto, also designed by Siza Vieira, is the main reference for contemporary art in Portugal since its inauguration in 1999. The quinta (gardens) and Art Deco house which acts as headquarters of the foundation, are also of architectural interest. Currently on show are Marlene Dumas: Contra o muro (Portuguese/English catalogue including an essay by curator Ulrich Loock available), recent works, including a new video installation, by Grazia Toderi (also accompanied by a publication) and a retrospective of artists’ books of the last two decades curated by Guy Schraenen in the library (artists’ books seem to be rather popular at the moment: another survey of contemporary works was held over the summer at Verbum, in Vigo).



Afro Modern press release



31 Bienal de Pontevedra


Museu Fundação Serralves

O libro de artista como colector de ideas (Verbum)




Over the past 15 years, a large number of contemporary art spaces, funded by local and regional governments or private foundations, have appeared in smaller cities and outside the traditional centre(s), contributing to a shift from a centralised to a distributed model closer to Germany, for instance, rather than that of the UK. ADACE, the association of Directors of these institutions (established in 2005), organizes activities and offers information and news about the sector. On the commercial side, ARCO, the annual art fair that takes place in Madrid (celebrating 30 years in its next edition, 16-20 February 2011) is also a good indicator of this expansion.

General information about current developments is available through magazines like Lápiz (Spanish), Artecontexto (Spanish/English), Exit (and Exitbooks; Spanish/English), Artes & Leilões (Portuguese) or the mentioned Dardo (Spanish/Portuguese/English). Among current art publishers, Ediciones Pografa is particularly active and many of its publications are in English, as are those of ACTAR. CENDEAC is a not-for-profit publisher focusing on contemporary art theory and history, in Spanish language.







Artes & Leilões


Ediciones Pografa




Most contemporary art centres run publication programmes, some of which would be of interest to UK art libraries. Among the more interesting ones are:



MUSAC (Leon)

LABoral (Gijon)

Guggenheim Bilbao

Artium (Vitoria-Gasteiz)

Montehermoso (Vitoria-Gasteiz)



CDAN (Huesca)

MACBA (Barcelona)

CCCB (Barcelona)

IVAM (Valencia)



MNCARS (Madrid)

CA2M (Madrid)

Matadero (Madrid)



Museu Colecção Berardo (Lisbon)



CAC (Malaga)

La Conservera (Murcia)


[Grandal Montero, G. (2010) Resources online: Contemporary art in the Iberian Peninsula. ARLIS News-sheet, no. 208, Nov.-Dec, pp. 3-4.]


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