In the amazing underground space occupied by the Estrany-de la Mota gallery in the Passatge Mercader in Barcelona, the Throwback exhibition is in a permanent state of construction.
The posters are on table and piled up on the ground; the spirit levels for hanging the paintings are still resting on some of the frames; the transportation boxes are used as tables; post-it notes signal whether one painting or another needs adjusting; one of the mounters has left their trainers on the floor…
And that is how it will stay until June, until this project which takes a look back at the history of the gallery in three acts finally closes. It is a three-part epilogue because when the third part closes, Estrany-de la Mota has announced that it will close its doors as a commercial gallery. But the half-mounted appearance of the exhibition –an installation under the name Espumillas, which sounds like more than the name of an exhibition mounting company– is not the result of a lack of time but a deliberate metaphor. Estrany-de la Mota is closing a chapter with this totally unencyclopedic journey through its history, but it is doing so in a deconstructed manner, showing the public the crude process of mounting a show, because sometimes you need to disturb everything right down to the guts if you want to construct something new.
This has been the intention of Àngels de la Mota, who since the sudden death of Toni Estrany in February 2017, has continued to direct the gallery programming with her own very personal touch and a firm commitment to the contemporary art produced by now-iconic artists such as Ignasi Aballí, Francesc Ruiz, Douglas Gordon and Bestué-Vives. But now, de la Mota, driven by the realisation that the gallery model is changing around the world, thinks that the time has come for a radical change in the project. “Nowadays many galleries are opting to not have their own spaces and set up specific exhibitions. We are going to do it the other way round”, she explains.
So, they will keep the 200-metre square basement, which opened in 1990 as the Toni Estrany gallery and became the Estrany-de la Mota in 1996, when the latter moved her gallery in the Gràcia neighbourhood down town to merge with it. Àngels de la Mota plans to produce specific artists’ projects there which could equally be exhibited in the Passatge Mercader space or others. They will be completely transferrable projects (her own special interest is in dance and performance, for example) and much more open than the line that has characterised the gallery to date. “I want to have a space but not be obliged to produce a programme and travel to art fairs – that time is in the past”, she explains. In her new project she will also offer a consultancy service for collections, which goes to show her love for that kind of work. The gallery collection is also up for sale.
What Àngels de Mota wants is to move away from the nostalgic stance of the gallery’s epilogue.
What Àngels de Mota wants is to move away from the nostalgic stance of the gallery’s epilogue. In the first part of Throwback, you can see works from the 1970s, from the time when Toni Estrany was working in the Trece Gallery and became an independent dealer. The exhibition particularly shows the clinical eye of Estrany during a period which was not at all easy for contemporary art in Barcelona. His “nursery” as he liked to refer to his artists, was impressive and balanced the local with the internal scene.
In the show there are some very valuable small format works which include a dozen fantastic watercolours from 1978-79 by a young and unknown painter called Miquel Barceló; a subtle series of prints by Sergi Aguilar; painting from one of the best moments of Josep Uclés; an extraordinary etching by Antoni Tàpies, drawings of Spring goats by Robert Llimós; a work from the playful self-portraits by Christian Boltanski and works by Richard Hamilton showing his relationship with Cadaqués. But above all don’t miss the numerous publications that Àngels de la Mota has rescued from the gallery collection. Or kneel down to admire a small floor painting by the underestimated painter Manuel Molí (1936-2016), of clearly Boschian inspiration.
After March the exhibition will include works from the nineteen eighties, and then the nineties and the 2000 in a very unconventional journey through the history of one of Barcelona’s most important galleries in recent times.