Art in Sevilla

Anyone who has ever been to Seville, and those who are fortunate enough to live there even more so, will appreciate the extraordinary, rich history of the city, from Tartessians, to Romans, Moors, and its important role in discovering the New World. Seville’s architectural and cultural legacy make it a fascinating place to wander round, with 20th-century Mudejar-style buildings, complete with tiles and horseshoe arches, hidden cloisters and plaques commemorating various literary and artistic legends who came from, or lived in, the city at some point over the last centuries. One of the most exciting projects I’ve heard about recently was a plan to convert the 13th-century former shipyards, the Atarazanas, used for the occasional art exhibition or concert, into a museum about the history of the city, using the river Guadalquivir as a common thread – after all, it was along the river that all those riches came back from South America in the 16th and 17th centuries, which made Seville one of the most important cities in Europe. Currently open for guided tours, the Atarazanas will now be turned into a 20-million-euro social, cultural and civic centre, sponsored by Caixaforum. Exact plans are yet to be agreed, but these wonderful buildings – 16 separate areas with magnificent soaring, vaulted ceilings, with a total of 6,700m2 – played a key role in Seville’s, and Spain’s, golden age. La Caixa already has other Caixaforums in Madrid and Barcelona. The Atarazanas, which you may well have never either seen, or heard of, are tucked away near the Maestranza theatre, between the river and Avenida de la Constitucion, right next to the Hospital de la Caridad. They will form the first point of a new ‘triangulo cultural’, along with two other major projects, the first of which is an extension to the Bellas Artes in the 19th-century Palacio de Monsalves (remodelled by Anibal Gonzalez, architect of Plaza de España), which will double its space with another nearly 7000m2. The new area will be used to house 19th and 20th-century works, such as Sorolla and Zuloaga, as well as temporary exhibitions, and a cafeteria, while the original building will keep all the Zurbarans and Murillos. The other new project will be a museum and cultural centre in two highly significant Sevillano buildings. The former prison, on Calle Sierpes in the very heart of Seville, is where Cervantes himself was imprisoned, while the Caja San Fernando’s headquarters in Plaza San Francisco, behind the Ayuntamiento, once housed Seville’s Audiencia (court). The buildings, owned by what is now called Cajasol, will display the bank’s art collection, which came about when two financial institutions, El Monte and Caja San Fernando, merged. The latter´s collection was started in the 1980s with Andalucian artists such as Chema Cobo, while El Monte`s covers a broad range from classics such as Murillo to contemporary Louis Gordillo, with 5,000 works in all. Until now the main champion of contemporary art in Seville has been the CAAC in La Cartuja, which hosts the biannual contemporary art show BIACS (next one in October this year), but having such unmissable artistic collections in the very heart of the city, housed in such landmark buildings – although we’ll have to wait until 2015 to enjoy them – will be a huge boost to our cultural pride.
Blog published on 29 March 2010