Dr Paula Barreiro López, Comrades in Arms against Dictatorship: the Avant-garde, Art Criticism and the Franco Regime

  • 5.15pm

  • Hunter Building, Hunter Lecture Theatre (017)
    74 Lauriston Place
    EH3 9DF

Dr Paula Barreiro López joins us from the University of Barcelona to talk about the Spanish avant-garde during Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975), based on her recently published book: Avant-Garde Art and Criticism in Francoist Spain (Liverpool University Press, 2017).

Paula Barreiro López is Lecturer in the Art History Department of the University of Barcelona. Since the completion of her PhD in 2007 (Universidad Complutense, Madrid), she has worked at the Institut National d´Histoire de l´Art in Paris, the University of Liverpool, the Université de Genève, and the Instituto de Historia of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas [CSIC] in Madrid.

Her research focuses on art criticism, cultural networks and politics in Spain, Western Europe and Latin America during the Cold War as well as the diverse and divergent developments of modernity reflected in the art-historical accounts within an increasingly globalised world.

Her publications include: Avant-Garde Art and Criticism in Francoist Spain (Liverpool University Press, 2017); Modernidad y vanguardia: rutas de intercambio entre España y Latinoamérica, 2015 (edited with Fabiola Martínez); Crítica(s) de arte: discrepancias e hibridaciones de la Guerra Fría a la globalización, 2014 (edited with Julián Díaz) and La abstracción geométrica en España, 2009. She is head of the research project Decentralised Modernites: Art, Politics and Counterculture in the Transatlantic Axis during the Cold War (MoDe(s).


In 1962 Antonio Giménez Pericás, a Valencian art critic deeply involved with the avant-garde movements in Spain, was arrested for political activism along with several politicians of the clandestine Communist Party and artists, such as Agustín Ibarrola and María Dapena. All of them were accused of ‘military rebellion’ and were judged under the martial laws that the dictator General Franco had imposed upon Spanish territory when he won the Spanish Civil War in 1939. During the military trial the prosecutor asked Giménez Pericás, ‘Why do you cross the line when you talk about things as vague as art, a topic one is allowed to discuss in Spain?’ To the disbelief of the military staff attending the trial, the art critic answered: ‘For me art is not an ethereal question, it has a political meaning’. By that time he was already a member of the clandestine Communist Party and had been involved in anti-Francoist political activism since the 1950s. In complete opposition to the officially endorsed autonomous understanding of art, for Pericás ethics and politics were considered as consubstantial with artistic processes. His direct answer did not just represent the position of the members of the clandestine Communist Party, but conveyed the feelings and understanding of a great many artists, critics, and intellectuals at that time. In fact, his words represented the entanglement of art and politics that developed within the avant-garde in Spain during the 1960s, which included the avant-garde within the “cultural forces” against the dictatorship.

This lecture analyses the development of this perspective and the inevitable processes of negotiation that it entailed amongst art critics, artists and cultural agents during Late Francoism (1959–1975). This period, characterised by rapid modernisation, would trigger a reflection about the nature and role of culture within a changing society. In the artistic sphere, a new debate emerged over questions concerning the link between art and (Left) ideology, analysing the role that the avant-garde could and should play in the social sphere.

The talk is free and open to all. Drinks are served afterwards in the John Higgitt Gallery.

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