Culture will pay 30 million euros to businessman José María Lafuente for his 20th century art archive

The Council of Ministers finally agreed to buy the dairy businessman José María Lafuente your file for 27,795,045 euros, which will be paid in eleven annual installments (until 2032). In addition, a center associated with the Reina Sofía Museum will be created in Santander to house the pieces of the set, in the former headquarters of the Bank of Spain. The rehabilitation will be carried out by the Santander City Council, which has announced an investment of 11 million euros for the transformation of the building into a museum, where part of the 133,000 documents, photographs, manuscripts, magazines, letters, books, posters, will be exhibited catalogs and brochures from the Cantabrian archives, which never mentioned the possibility of a donation to the State. This is the most expensive archival purchase ever signed by the Ministry of Culture, as reported in this newspaper from the Archives section of the portfolio led by Miquel Iceta.

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“It is a collection of documents, not an organic set of documents,” they point out from the Archives field, although they acknowledge that it can be called an archive. From this area they recognize to that paying such a high amount for a file can generate a problem of price inflation for those who can now be offered to be part of public collections. Indeed, the total budget of the Archives in 2022 is 32 million euros.

The closest purchase was in 2010, when then-minister Ángeles González-Sinde, now president of the Reina Sofía museum board, acquired the archives of Carmen Balcells (1930-2015 ) for 3.5 million euros. The memory on paper of the most important literary agent of literature in Spanish was made up of original works or manuscripts by Nobel laureates in literature such as Mario Vargas Llosa or Gabriel García Mázquez and others by authors such as Ana María Matute. The documents rest in the General Administration Archive (AGA), in Alcalá de Henares, and represent more than 2,500 linear meters of documents.

Unique in counterculture comics

“According to what the director of the Reina Sofía museum tells me, these archives are very important. Without him, we would not understand what happened from the fifties in Spanish culture. And we owe it to the interest of a collector who was obsessed with not losing this material, “explained Miquel Iceta last March, on the roof of the Reina Sofía Museum, before the monthly meeting of the Qualification Board, assessment and export of heritage assets. . On this day, it was reported that in 2021, the investment of the Ministry of Culture in the purchase of works of art for the state’s public collections reached 5.9 million euros, a figure that “almost double that of the previous year”. But it is far from the nearly 30 million euros that will be paid to Lafuente.

The decision of the Council of Ministers puts an end to an operation that began in 2014, when José María Lassalle, Secretary of State for Culture with the PP and also Cantabrian (Lafuente was born in Lugo but a year after living in Cantabria) , offered a purchase option similar to the Carmen Cervera operation: immediate delivery and payment after ten years. The management of the Reina Sofía Museum then declared that it was “the most important private archive in Europe” and that with it the museum would become “a documentary reference for Latin American museography”. However, the firm did not find a solution due to the collector’s economic aspirations and the successive crises that the country has been going through since then.

Among the documents in the José María Lafuente Archive are artists’ books, photo books, performance documentations, actions, magazines, fanzines, works of experimental poetry and original comics. From Culture, they point out that the archive specializes in the history of 20th century art in Latin America, the United States and Europe, “with particular emphasis on Spain”. The ministry specifies that the funds acquired are “comprehensive and unique” in fields such as futurism, dadaism and surrealism, the Russian avant-garde and Soviet artistic production, the typographical revolution of the beginning of the 20th century and in the networks of artistic production of the second half of century XX.

Overall, they inform Culture, two major periods stand out: the first, from 1900 to 1945, and a second period that covers the year 1945 to 1989. Funds of artists such as Sol LeWitt, Ulises Carrión, Ray Johnson, Gianni Bertini stand out. , José Luis Castillejo, Henri Chopin, Edgardo Antonio Vigo, George Maciunas or Marcel Broodthaers. The Ministry of Culture considers the José María Lafuente Archive “comparable only to two of the most important private collections in the United States and Europe: the Merrill C. Berman Collection and the Edigio Marzona Collection”. They also assure that it is unique “for the representation of the counterculture and Spanish comics of the 1970s and 1980s, with unique collections of publications and authors: Ajoblanco magazine, Star magazine, Nazario, El Cubri , Ceesepe, etc.”

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