Three years ago, and thanks to the sponsorship of Telefónica, the Museo Reina Sofía launched Rethinking Guernica. History and Conflict in the 20th Century
, a website project with the aim of studying Pablo Picasso's painting trough different approaches, methodologies and tools. Since then, the project has received more than one and a half million unique visits and numerous international honors, including the prestigious Webby Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS).
Rethinking Guernica was conceived from the beginning as an open project to be enriched permanently and progressively. With this new upgrade, its documentary collection, which has once again been sponsored by Telefónica, is increased by more than two hundred documents. Furthermore, it includes now two new sections: (Im)possible Counter-Archives and Oral History, that respond to the same premises with which this project was originally conceived: on one hand, the use of the most advanced technology in order to open up new possibilities for visualization, access and interaction, and, on the other hand, to give voice to new researches related to Guernica.
In addition, Los viajes de Guernica (The Travels of Guernica) is being presented, a publication initiated from the study of the materials gathered for the website, with the help of different professionals and researchers, to outline an extensive constellation of relationships, chronologies and case studies around the painting.
(Im)possible Counter-Archives, the political resignification of Guernica
(Im)possible Counter-Archives is a new section that arises from Museo Reina Sofías wish to study Picassos painting from a contemporary point of view, linking it to other fields of knowledge, geographies and different historical moments. This section contains the results of a research made by Francis Francina, Professor of Visual Arts at Keele University (Staffordshire, United Kingdom), specialized in History of Art after WWII and in the countercultural scene of the sixties and seventies in the United States. The research offers an extensive map of relationships and connections that start from the political resignification of Guernica that various American groups of artist-activists carried out in two specific moments: the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and the Iraq War (2003-2011).
Pablo Picasso's painting, an antiwar statement created in 1937 in the context of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), served as a symbol for other artist-activists who, with different approaches and practices, embodied protests and allegations that aspired to transform the system and its institutions through art, for example those led in the sixties and seventies by the Art Workers' Coalition (AWC) and the Guerrilla Art Action Group (GAAG) in front of the Guernica itself, exhibited then at the MoMA in New York. These collectives demanded a firm and public commitment from the museum against the Vietnam War, as well as with respect to other political and social conflicts of the moment, such as the anti-racist and feminist struggles, and for this they often resorted to strategies situated on the margins of the artistic system.
On the other hand, the Retort collective, based in San Francisco, used the system itself to amplify its positions, even though this meant participating in the same dynamics and logics that it faced. Their installation Afflicted Powers, that alludes specifically to Guernica, was conceived as a political intervention to denounce the Iraq War waged by the international coalition led by the United States, as well as the treatment in the key of a show offered by the large media groups. This piece, which visually linked the bombings of Guernica, Vietnam and Iraq, was presented at the second International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Seville (BIACS 2) in 2006.
New testimonies in Oral History with Roland Dumas, Claude Picasso and Tony Shafrazi
The Oral History of Guernica is a new section conceived as a collection in progress made up of first-hand testimonies through interviews with some of the figures involved in the most recent decades across the history of the painting, stretching from 1960 to the present day. Made with the collaboration of Museo Picasso de Barcelona and Musée Picasso Paris, today it features three interviews, and will be upgraded with more contributions in the future.
Roland Dumas (Limoges, France, 1922), lawyer, politician and executor of Pablo Picassos will. Dumas was in charge of drafting the artists will with respect to Guernica, guaranteeing that both the painting and its preparatory works would only reach Spain once public liberties representative of democratic States were reinstated, and regardless of government.
Claude Ruiz Picasso (Boulogne-Billancourt, France, 1947), artist, film-maker and son of Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot. In this interview, Claude Picasso offers his view of the process to transfer Guernica to Spain following the death of his father in 1973: the conflictive relationship with Roland Dumas, executor of the artists will, his familys grievance over the moral right of the work, and its installation in the Museo Reina Sofía.
Tony Shafrazi (Abadan, Iran, 1943), artist and art dealer. To the backdrop of the Vietnam War and its political and social impact in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States, Shafrazi explains the reasons behind his 1974 action protest against an anti-war icon such as Guernica.
Rethinking Guernica, the archive of archives
Rethinking Guernica is envisaged as an archive of archives, comprising different public and private archives from institutions and Spanish and international agencies and tracing an approach to the history of Picassos mural by acknowledging its quality as an artwork and icon which transcends its own materiality to become a constantly updated image and symbol. Moreover, the plural nature and provenance of the materials brought together leads to an understanding of the contexts surrounding Guernica direct or indirect, physical or symbolic and the multiple historical circumstances it has contributed to, and continues to do so, or in which it has been involved.
This initiative, made possible through the joint work of different departments in the Museo, is an open tool of knowledge, progressively enriched with new documents and setting out from the artistic and symbolic values in Picassos painting to analyze contemporary history and the processes which build its imagery.
The Travels of Guernica
On the occasion of the website upgrade, the museum presents The Travels of Guernica, a publication that intertwines a network of relations, chronologies and cases studies around Pablo Picassos mural Guernica, one of the best-known and most widely reproduced and studied works in Art History. The Travels of Guernica does not set out a linear reading or take one sole approach to the work. Instead, it brings together multiple gazes and perspectives from different professionals and theorists through an in-depth study of a selection of documents compiled in Rethinking Guernica. Manuel Borja-Villel (director of Museo Reina Sofía) and Rosario Peiró (Head of Collections) have also produced, for the first time, a detailed account on the theoretical-practical and museological framework which, since 2008, the Museo Reina Sofía has been carrying out with respect to Guernica; an open and ever-evolving exercise encompassing other settings, agents and works from the Collection, and the most visible results of which rest in the different locations and contexts of the painting in the rooms of the institution.