Los Encuentros de Arte del Valle del Genal
by Chris Chaplow
"Los Encuentros de Arte del Valle del Genal"is a bi-annual summer art festival which takes place in Genalguacil, near Gaucin in Malaga province.
What does the festival consist of?
During the festival, which happens in the first two weeks of August in even years, prize-winning works of art created by 'Artists in residence' are displayed in the streets, squares, corners, and on walls and rooftops of the village. Afterwards, the pieces are placed on permanent public display throughout the village.
Founded in 1994 by Fernando Centeno López, mayor of village from 1983 to 2003, the festival has turned the whole village into a museum; it now carries the slogan "Genalguacil Pueblo Museo", and is probably the only inhabited museum in the world.
In the spring of each year of 'Los Encuentros de Arte del Valle del Genal', the terms and conditions, and application forms, are published on the town hall's website. About 100 artists from around the world submit a project proposal, from which the jury selects around 10 to come to the village and create their work during the festival.
All art materials for their projects are supplied by the town, along with food and lodging, and a one-off royalty of 1,000€. In return, the artists donate their creations to town, and take part in activities and presentations during the festival. You can visit the artists in residence at work in locations such as the Cooperativo de Castaños and the Colegio Rural Almazara.
During the two weeks, various side events include daytime theatre workshops and children's art activities. The artists make evening presentations in the village hall (Sala Uso Multiple). Later in the evening, free entertainment such as a live band, comedian or entertainer takes place in the main square, enjoyed by artists, visitors and villagers alike.
Open-air art museum
After 14 editions of the festival, about 80 pieces by artists from Spain, as well as other countries in Europe, South America and around the world, are now displayed permanently, turning the town into an authentic open-air art gallery. Additionally, 70 more delicate, non-weather-proof works are displayed or archived in the town's museum, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Fernando Centeno López.
Whilst it is difficult to estimate the total value of the art works, Miguel Angel Herrera, mayor of the village from 2011 to date, estimates that it could be as much as one million euro. Many of the pieces have highly sentimental value, such as the carving of local residents' faces in an olive tree called Raices (roots) by renowned wood sculptor Ricardo Davila. The people portrayed in the olivo have since passed away, so the sculpture provides a permanent testimonial for the family.
Over recent years, the art projects have been influenced by new technology, which has led to a reduction in the number of physical works, especially those outdoors. Video and digital works are popular and can (hopefully) be found on YouTube or at the museum.
Many renowned artists have taken part in the festival over the years, including Eugenio Merino, Juan Francisco Casas, José Luis Serzo, Isidro López Aparicio, Jesús Zurita and Ricardo Davila.
Los Encuentros de Arte del Valle del Genal has become a cult viral event in the art world, partly due to the originality of the concept, and also due to the quality of the works.
In 2018 the opening presentation took place on 1st August 2018 in the main square followed by a live music performance.
Since 2017 Miguel Angel Herrera has been overseeing the setting up of a foundation to separate "Los Encuentros de Arte" project from the town hall itself. The aim is to ensure the continuity of the project by separating it from the political sphere or a future change in focus by a future mayor.
Herrera's dream is to have an artistic community living permanently in the village. Miguel Angel, who speaks fluent English, is hoping that people interested in art, culture, tradition, and nature will opt to live in the village and also help to increase the visitors all year round.
Streets and main square of Genalguacil.
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Fernando Centeno López C/ Lomilla, 9
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