A Walk through the Life and Work of Beethoven

A Walk through the Life and Work of Beethoven

A genius well aware of his gift, a rebellious man and also one committed to the ideas of liberty and fraternity, untameable, arrogant and independent, and above all the composer of an eternal musical oeuvre.

The 16 December was the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), and the ”La Caixa” Foundation has taken the occasion to pay homage to the life and work of one of the greatest composers in history with the dramatized concert Beethoven 250, directed by Josep Pons, uploaded through the Àgora of the CaixaForum and also available on Youtube.

© David Campos/ Fundació ”la Caixa”.

For an hour and 18 minutes this concert, with a clearly pedagogic intention, takes us through the details of the composer’s life, from his beginnings marked by the difficulty of moving forward and very little on which to live, to his complete success and recognition throughout Europe, thanks to his immense talent and extreme dedication to his music. Along the way we also find out about the problems and shadows in his biography, such as his difficult character and the bitterness he held at becoming deaf so young – something that, however, did not impede his work which he carried out with an admirable spirit of overcoming. “Beethoven continues to surprise because he talks of universal values. At the centre of his work there is a human being”, says the director Josep Pons.

© David Campos/ Fundació ”la Caixa”.

The show, written by Albert Gumí and David Puertas with stage direction by Anna Llopart, combines the music with a narration by three actors, Xavier Ruano, Borja Espinosa and Quim Àvila about the life of the composer. There are episodes of his beginnings as a composer of popular music to be able to eat, such as the famous Septet in E flat major, as well as piano duels – a kind of musical slam that was very popular at that time – with other musicians which Beethoven always ended up winning thanks to his extreme virtuosity as a pianist. There are also stories of his passionate but frustrated love life with impossible, hidden and difficult loves such as the Immortal Beloved – a mysterious and unidentified woman who we know about thanks to a beautiful letter that was found among the composer’s musical scores on his death. The letter was either never sent or returned to sender.

The concert does not leave out Beethoven’s commitment to the ideas of liberty and fraternity.

The concert does not leave out Beethoven’s commitment to the ideas of liberty and fraternity, which are passed to one of his most famous symphonies – the Ninth – culminating in the Ode to Joy inspired by the words of Friedrich von Schiller, and currently the official anthem of the European Union. The first performance of the Ninth Symphony was Beethoven’s last appearance in a concert hall, where now completely deaf, he conducted at the side of the conductor of the orchestra. When the piece finished he continued to mark the tempo until someone suggested he turn to see the great ovation of the audience. The majestic fourth movement of the symphony is performed at the end of the concert.


Other works by Beethoven performed during the concert are a fragment of the Pastoral Symphony, the Concert for Piano no. 5 “Emperor”, and the Moonlight Sonata. The music is performed by the Camera Musicae Symphonic Orchestra and the Barcelona Ars Nova and Coro Madrigal choirs. The participation of pianists Daniel Ligorio and Miquel Massana is particularly worth mentioning.

Mirador de les Arts, GAC Award for Best Media

Mirador de les Arts, GAC Award for Best Media

In just the second year since it was established Mirador de les Arts has received the GAC Award for Best Media.

Given the current health situation the awards ceremony was live-streamed from the Ona bookshop in Barcelona.

The GAC Awards 2020 winners.

The 2020 GAC Awards – 13th Gallery Nights, organised by the Art Galleries of Catalonia and the Barcelona Art Association are the most prestigious arts awards in our country.

The winners of this year’s GAC Awards in the eight different categories are:

Collector’s Award: Josep Maria Civit

Best Historical Exhibition in a gallery: Magda Bolumar. Papers dels anys 60 i 70 in the Marc Domènech Gallery

Best Gallery Programme: RocíoSantaCruz Gallery

Best Curator Award: Arnau Horta for the exhibition Art Sonor? at the Joan Miró Foundation

Artist’s Award for the best gallery exhibition: Gonzalo Elvira for Idilio at the RocíoSantaCruz Gallery

DKV Emerging Artist Award for the best gallery exhibition: Glenda León for Mecánica Celeste at Senda Gallery

Best Critic Award: Ángela Molina

Best Media Award: Mirador de les Arts

The trophy received by all the winners is a sculptural reinterpretation of a work on paper by artist Joaquim Torres-Garcia.

Ricard Mas, on behalf of Mirador de les Arts, collects the GAC Award for Best Media.

The GAC Awards have the support of the Banc Sabadell Foundation, which also lends its name to the awards. On an institutional level the awards also receive the support of the Department of Culture of the Government of Catalonia, through the Catalan Institute for Cultural Industries (ICEC), the Institute of Culture of Barcelona City Council (ICUB) and the Barcelona Provincial Council.

The jury considered that Mirador de les Arts is an “impressive, brave and  resolute initiative that has decided to fill the void in the existing publications dedicated to art and exhibitions in our country, with contributions by recognised art critics and historians as well as writers and journalists”. 

The Runway of Awareness

The Runway of Awareness

“What a drag”, he said to me a year ago. “I know what I’ll see even without going”, he says today.

Once again this year I ask the same photographer friend a favour: to accompany me to the World Press Photo (WPPh) exhibition. But this time I notice him a tad less apathetic. He knows what he will see. But above all he knows what he will say to me, and I see his is keen to say it. He loves photography too much to tell me what he thinks.

Mulugeta Ayene, Relative Mourns Flight ET 302 Crash Victim.

–Hey! Are we going to see art? I ask him as we go down through the Eixample towards the CCCB.

–Of course, it won’t be art!

–What is it then?

–It is the world. Is the art world? Does aesthetics describe the world? In photojournalism they are addicted to aesthetics and the best aesthetic is no aesthetic.

–But we need aesthetics to transmit pain, I say. There is nothing that has done more to describe the Holocaust than Schindler’s List – a purely aesthetic movie, isn’t it?

–No. It is a movie, and we don’t make movies.

We go into the World Press Photo and my friend starts shooting off (photographers always shoot) in front of the work by Muguleta Ayene, finalist in the Story of the Year:  relatives of the passengers of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 in the place where the aircraft crashed.

–Look at how the people are crying. He’s used a telephoto and probably from the pool. The relatives don’t know they’re being photographed. You have to cover these stories and there are arguments for why these photos should be published even though the people in them don’t like it.

What is the point of hanging these photos on the wall a year later?

–So, what’s the problem?

–I can understand them publishing them at the time of the news but what is the point of hanging these photos on the wall a year later? Here and now it is not the news that rules, it is the beauty. You can do a story with a telephoto lens! It’s just business.

Is a photograph published in a newspaper the same as one hung in a museum? Do changes in the context and the timing change the meaning of the image? I ask myself standing before these beautiful images of people suffering.

And we come across an image by the photographer Mark Blinch, first prize in the sports singles: everyone fixed on a basket by Kawhi Leonard in a game between the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers.

–Blinch has caught THE MOMENT, says my friend. Everything is happening in this image. That is what they taught me when I studied photography. The reading of the image, its path, as if you were reading it: you start in the top left, turn your gaze to the right and then down to the left and then the right. And if the photo is good, you do it again. Again and again.

Mark Blinch, Kawhi Leonard’s Game 7 Buzzer Beater.

I apply my friend’s lesson, circling my gaze on Leonard’s basket and I see what I already knew: great photographs are those that have more than one photo in them. Those that can capture more than one instant.

Next to the framed image of the basket hangs the second prize for Sports stories: a work by Olivier Papegnies of a women’s football team in Benin.

–The Sports stories always contain extra-photographic components, stories of African survival. As if there wasn’t anyone depressed in Sweden, says my friend.

I am drawn towards a black and white photo of the Taliban. As I approach I feel at home with it. It is a work by Lorenzo Tugnoli, first prize in the Contemporary Issues category.

–I don’t know. We are not notaries. And this is not a black and white notarial sentence.

Lorenzo Tugnoli, The Longest War.

–What is the best photo you’ve seen up to now?, I as hi in the middle of the exhibition.

–I can’t remember.

We stop in front of the photographs by Romain Laurendeau, rebel of Algerian youth and first prize in the Long-Term Projects category.

–Perhaps it is too charged for a black and white, but it is a great story. it is really sold. He didn’t do that in a couple of days. Looking at his work I don’t get the impression I’m being taken for a ride.

Romain Laurendeau, Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt.

And at that point, the point of being taken for a ride, the virus appears.

–Get your pen out and write this down, he says. In Spain what is important is that I have my stickers, my stickers, my stickers, All in their little packet. But all of them disconnected. Well, no! First you have to think and then you click. Here first we take the photo and then we think.

There is no medic or funeral worker who has the same anxiety as the photographer. They understand their work.

–You mean because of Covid?

–I mean because of Covid as a career. Let’s see who photographs the first death. The first coffin. The word is anxiety, There is no medic or funeral employee with that anxiety. They understand their work. And we should work like they do.

I close my eyes and imagine the journalists working with the seriousness of the funeral workers: that would be the absolute, definitive truth. It wouldn’t be bad.

–But you’ve taken photos of the pandemic and you’ll present them in competitions, won’t you? I ask.

–Yes. I am very proud of some of my photos, but I haven’t made a story of the pandemic. I just haven’t, he insists. I swear that if I win I will be critical because I know that none of my photos is the best there has been.

–Isn’t anyone getting it right?

–The United States, for example, took a while to get into Covid, but they are really powerful. They have a tradition; they have photographic culture. The document themselves beforehand. They’re coherent, methodologically coherent. And they have editors. Not like here. We take a leap in the dark. We go to demos and take photos without asking ourselves why they are demonstrating, more interested in how the photo will come out than what we are saying with it.

–So, what’s the answer?

–Less drama and more day to day slog. Trying to understand.

–Less opera and more street music?

–Less showiness and less weeping from one set to the next.

The directors of this year’s WPPh tell us that the images are in a way announcing the world of Covid, even though the photos are from 2019. But frankly the only relation with the Pandemic that I can see is in the second prize of the Nature category: it is a photo of a pangolin, that lovely creature suspected of being the origin of the virus, and photographed before the virus by Brent Stirton.

Brent Stirton, Pangolins in Crisis.

And finally we reach the winning photo, a work by Yasuyoshi Chiba: it is a boy, illuminated in the night by mobile phones and reciting a poem against the military government of Sudan.

–Shoot, I say to my friend.

–The photograph is technically correct. But is this really THE PHOTO of the year?

Yasuyoshi Chiba, Straight Voice.

–When the awards season approaches, everyone’s nervous, my friend lets slip. The ego, isn’t it? The awards are too high up the agenda.

And their own way of seeing things, I add in my own thoughts.

–And then there are the judges, he adds. All of them photographers. Photographer judging photographers. Where are the anthropologists, historians, sociologists and, above all, the protagonists? The protagonists. The people who have been photographed. haven’t they got the right to an opinion?

My friend – “listen, I’m going to tell you about the juries” – takes me directly to the photographs by Maximilian Mann, finalist in the Environment category. The disaster in Lake Urmia in the north-west of Iran: the sixth largest salt water lake in the world is drying up.

In front of the images of the non-lake my friend  searches for something in his phone and shows me. Mann is accused of plagiarising the work of the Iranian photographer Solmaz Daryani, but the jury of the WPPh has rejected the report. All very surprising when you look at the images side by side.

–And then there is the hashtag pandemic of camera makes on the photojournalists’ Insta pages, my friend tells me.

–Is that a bad thing? I ask.

–There are sulphur mine works paid for by camera hashtags. Do the miners who inhale the sulphur get paid anything for the hashtag? They’ll tell you that somebody has to raise awareness… But are we doing that? Look, it’s been five years since Aylan drowned, and has anything changed? I don’t know. It needs to be rethought. Something is not working.

–So, everything that you’re telling me, do you talk about it with other photographers?, I ask him as we walk towards the Boqueria market.

–Who the hell do you want me to talk to about it?


–Are you able to tell me what you have seen in the exhibition? What did you understand? What’s new? I have seen something dying, something which has not understood in which direction the world is going.

–Should we get rid of World Press Photo?

–Absolutely not. It is completely necessary. But photojournalism in this format is in crisis, there is a lack of format and editing. It is not an exclusive problem of the WPPh. The format doesn’t communicate anything and we’re not going to raise any awareness going down into a room to look at 20×30 photos.

Routine pietà, I muse.

–And so why do you keep on presenting yourself on the runway? I ask.

–Because it is part of my job. And for my ego.

We sit in the Pinocho bar in the market. While we are eating we talk about his two children. He tells me that the little one, at the age of six, is at the stage where she is wondering about death.

–A few days ago she asked me if I would be the first of the four of us to die.

–Are they aware of what death is?

–For them it just means to be radically alone.

That is, without a doubt, the most profound and disturbing photo that today has presented before my eyes.


[World Press Photo 2020. International photojournalism exhibition, can be seen at the CCCB in Barcelona until 20 November.]

From Hyperactivity to Contemplation

From Hyperactivity to Contemplation

In Germany a series of educational-type adverts are enjoying great success. They pay homage to the heroes of 2020. The people speaking are old but in 2020 they were in the prime of their lives.

There is the neighbourhood loafer, the couple who spend all day in bed, the videogame addict who only realises there is a pandemic one month after it has been declared. All of them remember that winter of 2020 when just by staying at home, by doing the thing they had always been criticised for, they became heroes.

Agustín Parejo School. Por fabor estamos parados, 1987 Adaptation of an original edition in the form of a postcard. Photo: @ArteEdadSilicio.

Perhaps the pandemic has forced us even more to put the brakes on, to remove ourselves from the frenetic hyperactivity that has been exponentially multiplying in recent decades, to embrace a calmer life that will allow us to rediscover our mis-named “dead” time, our moments of contemplation and time out.

That is what the exhibition Sooooo Lazy. In Praise of Squandering, at CaixaForum Barcelona is about. The show includes 50 pieces by 15 artists and is the latest in the programme for young curators, offering the grant holders the luxury of working with pieces from the collection of “la Caixa” Foundation and the Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona (Macba), and also in this case various works loaned from other collections such as the Fundação Serralves and Cal Cego.

Beatriz Escudero and Francesco Giaveri, curators of the exhibition, in front of the work by Ignasi Aballí. Photo: @ArteEdadSilicio.

It is almost certain that this defence of laziness did not have all the implications it does now when curators Beatriz Escudero and Francesco Giaveri chose it as the storyline for an exhibition that criticises hyperactivity and offers an ironic commentary on the induced needs whose job is to turn us into compulsive consumers of whatever: clothes, food, TV series and even culture.

General view of the exhibition, with the work of Misha Bies Golas in the foreground.

Which is why that fag-end resting on the edge of a box seems so sweet and hypnotically fascinating, as if it had been left there by a worker called back to duty by the foreman, or a journalist taking notes. The cigarette, a work by Galician artist Misha Bies Golas, has been consumed without anybody smoking it, which is a perfect metaphor for those breaks that are increasingly short, increasingly precarious and above increasingly interrupted by the total connectivity which we enjoy but also suffer.

Esther Ferrer, Silla Zaj, 1974. Col· MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation.

With the exception of the solitary and autistic Silla Zaj by Esther Ferrer, which invites the visitor to be seated despite the fact that they never can since it is a work of art (it is from 1974 – nothing to do with the virus), the cigarette end is surrounded by powerful works which claim their place in the space through the multiplication of their elements.

Laziness: the desire of all humans and the nightmare of capital.

There are the white lines on the white leaves of Alberto Gil Cásedas, all the payslips that artist Francesc Abad ever received as a teacher, and the paint-filled cubes that Ignasi Aballí left to dry while thinking about how to use them, placing “reflection before action, constraint before expression” in the words of the artist. it is the other side of laziness: the desire of all humans and the nightmare of capital.

Xavier Ribas, Untitled (Family reading). Series Sundays 1994-1997.  MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium.

The spectre of unemployment that soars over our future comes to life in the painting of the Agustín Parejo School collective, pioneer in urban and social activism, giving way to another room which is dedicated more specifically to leisure, with sketches of the city of play and creativity imagined by Constant, the photographs of unregulated entertainment far from the economic circuit captured by Xavier Ribas in Barcelona’s periphery, and the video by Priscila Fernandes about the mythical country of Cucaña, which should really be enjoyed in comfortable loungers, were they not prohibited as a result of Covid.

Ângela Ferreira, Fábrica colapsável [Demolishable factory], 2012

The exhibition route, which sets out with the first works in Barcelona of Mozambique artist Ângela Ferreira, evoking the work dynamic in a large textile factory like Casaramona before it became the Caixaforum, concludes with a space of introspection – a small chapel containing two monochrome canvases by Agnes Martin and a surprising piece by Camila Cañeque, almost hidden in a corner of the floor: two humble closed eyes marked out only by the lines of the lashes. Next to them a QR code takes visitors outside the exhibition via a video showing a deserted beach in an invitation to escape and contemplate, endlessly, timelessly, fearlessly.

The exhibition Sooooo lazy. In Praise of Squandering can be seen at CaixaForum Barcelona until 18 April 2021.

Emergency Design

Emergency Design

It is not news that we are living through a new situation, which at times seems implausible, at others disconcerting and always frustrating. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us pain and drama.

Design forms part of society and from society emerge the needs with which it has to work. Design offers society possible answers to those needs.

Information campaign Barcelona City Council – Study Family.

If it is true that design is often seen as a frivolity only for snobs or simply as some kind of sales pitch, there are always professionals in the world of design that are working to improve the life of the people who their products and services are aimed at. It is not surprising, then, that in the current social emergency some designers have reacted by trying to find solutions, most likely partial and possibly fleeting, but which nevertheless may parry the blow in some situations. (2)

Gracia Mask Open Screen.

But let’s look at the context: we are all locked down at home; social media is on fire since it is the nearest we can get to a social life. After the panic of the first few days, projects, products, inventions and prototypes by designers, makers, engineers and different studios begin to appear.  The idea is the constant: we are experiencing an exceptional time and we all have to pitch in. From masks to ventilators, information campaigns and motivating messages or data graphics, anything to get a better understanding of what is going on.

It is in this context that the curators of the Design Museum decided that they could and should also contribute and they began by calling for projects and proposals. That is how Emergency! Design against COVID-19 came about – a free, temporary exhibition that can be seen at the Design Museum Barcelona. Curated by Teresa Bastardes, head of collections at the Design Museum, it attempts to show the collective efforts to provide answers, from both public and private entities, and to bring together a collection that will be a testimony to clinical machinery and graphic communication, with a special emphasis on elements of protection.

Information technology and digitization have facilitated collaborative design, the fluid relation between transversal teams, the availability of access to open code designs and the possibility of 3D printing.

There is something interesting that makes this exhibition a tale for our own times: today, here and now, information technology and digitization have facilitated collaborative design, the fluid relation between transversal teams, the availability of access to open code designs and the possibility of 3D printing in companies, at the university, in the office or simply at home. It is important to emphasise this because it theses are precisely the technologies that are used  most often by younger people. Obviously there are exceptions but it is this latest generation of designers that has thrown itself into testing, researching and producing possible tools and mechanisms for protection or treatment against the effects of the pandemic.

OxyGEN respirator, 2020, by Protofy, produced at SEAT.

The fact that the Design Museum has included these pieces in its collection, and the desire of its curators to ensure that the collection continues to grow in testimony to the exceptionality of the time and the different designs that have helped to save lives, is an important consideration. Most of the projects included in the permanent collection of the museum form part of what we call “one-off designs”. They are pieces of significant cultural importance with a strong aesthetic component and they are linked to the furnishings or equipment of the home. Some of them are small electrical goods or light machinery but the criteria for their inclusion is still mainly cultural. Clinical ventilators, air filters, infographs and temporary signing are all included. This step forward and the consequent opening up of new territories must be valued accordingly.

Poster by Mr. Zé.

Personally I feel proud that the concept “Design for living”, which was launched in 2015 at the museum with an exhibition and which continues with annual seminars, has been able to contribute to broadening the outlook of design and its conservation in museums towards areas which have up until now received relatively little attention. We can now say that socially responsible design and hitherto little represented concepts such as co-design, open codes and 3D printing now have a clear place in the Design Museum and it will therefore be easier for them to enter the collective imaginary of both professionals and students. I am convinced that this will open up new windows and paths in school, studios and companies in this country.

Masks designed by Sergi Opisso.

Moving on to the content, in the exhibition you will find hygienic masks made by designers and companies, from fashion professionals such as Txell Miras, Míriam Ponsa and Josep Abril to graphic designers such as Sergi Opisso or production companies such as Closca and Buff. There is even a collaboration between a team from the Spanish National Research Agency and Bioinicia to make masks from nanofibers which use mechanical filtration.

There are also measures of protection for healthcare use, with greater levels of safety and which seek maximum efficiency using easy, quick and economic production systems, often involving 3D printing. Pep Trias i Grau, from the Morillas Brand Design studio is an example of the kind of people and studios that have offered their printers to manufacture elements for protection under the Covidmakers initiative in Catalonia.

Arm Door Opener developed by CIM UPC, technology center of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.

There are also other initiatives such as the CAR3D project financed by EIT Health and the European Union whose objective is to design, develop and validate PPE such as masks and face protectors and to contact validated producers and consumers through a website.

In terms of clinical machinery the museum has opted for a range of proposals that have brought solutions to the one of the most immediate needs during the pandemic: the lack of ventilators. Some of them are being used in the ICUs of medical centres, and have already received validation from the Spanish Medical Agency. And there are gel dispensers, disinfection robots using UV technology and devices produced using 3D technology which enable shared doors to be opened without the need for physical contact, thereby reducing the risk of contagion.

Data visualization designed by Albert Carles.

There is also a section of graphics and communication which includes institutional campaigns such as that of Barcelona City Council and specific signing measures designed by the Signes company, and posters by Félix Rodríguez and Mr. Zé, which went viral during lockdown because of their political yet motivational messages. A project by the designer Albert Carles is also included, which until May 2020 offered real-time viewing of the evolution data for the pandemic in Catalonia extracted from the Datadista data bank.

MTS UVC space disinfection robot.

In all, everything is well-documented and exhibited, despite re-using the system FAD employed for their prizes in an exemplary attempt to reduce costs, which just goes to show that austerity and rigour are not incompatible when mounting an exhibition. In fact, the collaboration with ADIFAD made the ADI-Recognise, COVID Emergency call for proposals possible with the objective of giving initiatives that have been launched to tackle the health emergency a space, diffusion and recognition. These will form part of the exhibition very soon.

Finally, the exhibition will also offer parallel workshops in online format on 9 and 10 December, which also form the fifth year of the Design for Living seminar. Under the heading “Designing Futures in Times of Emergency” the sessions aim to provide visibility for the strategies, ways and resources used, for how we can use design to ensure that the probable future (the most feasible future) will be as close as possible to the desirable future (the future for the common good). There will be presentations of some of the exhibition projects in talks of design-fiction and speculative design – two very active trends in recent years which are paving the way for other futures for which we are almost inevitably destined.

You can find all the information on the website of the Design Museum.

The exhibition Emergency! Design against COVID-19 can be seen at the Design Museum of Barcelona until 10 January 2021.