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European art from centuries XII to XIX
Argentinian art from XIX century
International art from the XX century
Argentinian art from the XX century
From April 12, 2019 to Sept. 1, 2019
Galleries 37, 38, 39 y 40. First floor
60 works on display
Curator: José Emilio Burucúa
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Museums invite reflection on the variety of ways in which images construct and question the identities, social structures, sensorial meanderings and keys to spirituality in different eras. Such contemplation foments the kind of learning that depends on a diverse, curious and critical vision of the universe of forms, in order to reach a multitude of avenues possible for approaching it. German historian Aby Warburg was a master of the gaze in his ability to conceive of allegorical expressions that enabled thinking about the links between images, texts and history. He awakened a vast field of exploration, questioning the ways in which the present invokes the past to reinvent it, surreptitiously at times and at others, more prominently.
This exhibition is presented in the halls of our Museum in conjunction with the Simposio Internacional Warburg 2019 (Warburg 2019 International Symposium), organized jointly by the Biblioteca Nacional and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. José Emilio Burucúa and a research team comprising Roberto Casazza, Nicolás Kwiatkowski, Federico Ruvituso and Sandra Szir have elaborated a curatorial proposal that takes a series of works from Argentina’s patrimony from different eras and in different styles to raise questions along the lines of certain historical and mythological formulas expressed throughout Warburg’s work.
Motivated by the aim of founding an interpretative practice that would be open to new conceptual inroads, the intervention on the part of this historian from Hamburg has reconfigured our perspective, orienting it toward topics that would have remained barely perceptible without the benefit of his teachings. The revitalization of the arts produced by this critical operation convokes new ways of looking at works that accentuate the Museum’s nature as a mechanism for reflection.
Providing the Museum-going public with an occasion to experience approaches gleaned from Warburg’s intellectual heritage to each and every one of the works on exhibit—and to art history as a whole—constitutes an authentic challenge.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Why hold exhibition on Aby Warburg (1866-1929) at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes? First of all, we are not alone. In recent decades, specialists throughout the West have re-examined the theory of art and culture formulated by this Hamburg-born historian in the first third of the 20th century.
Warburg explored European culture with a wide chronological scope. Convinced that the Renaissance marked the threshold of the modern world, he understood that it was also under the strain of tensions from “the survival of pagan antiquity”. He found a preliminary indication of this posthumous life of ancient worldviews in the appearance of the nymph, a character from old Mediterranean culture that had been forgotten during Medieval times only to reappear in the arts in the late 1400s.
He also analyzed other similar conglomerates, such as the hero at the highpoint of exertion and suffering. Pathosformeln is the name he gave to these groups of visual elements that represent a typified character, transmit emotion and receive signifying value within a certain cultural community. These formulas of expression were loaded with ambivalent feelings, providing rational organization and passionate emotion. The historian also noticed that beginning in the Renaissance and even further back in history, the serpent and magic were fundamental themes in terms of how ancient peoples’ specific way of thinking survived. During an expedition to visit the Hopi people in New Mexico, he believed he had found a key to explaining this phenomenon.
He conceived a cultural theory based on the existence of mental distances between human beings and the world and spaces for thought (Denkräume). In turn, these spaces for reflection make our presence on Earth possible, allowing for the creation of societies and the transformation of nature.
This exhibition aims to illustrate Warburg’s principal concepts by way of European and pre-Hispanic works of art conserved in Argentinean collections. At the same time, it approaches contemporary aesthetic production from the perspective of his theories, in order to examine it under that light. At a moment of cultural crisis, describing and interpreting the relationships between past and present allow us to comprehend the survival of motifs from antiquity, the cyclical manner in which supposedly forgotten symbols become outstanding once again, everyday appeals to the magic of art, the knowledge of space and its conquest, globalization’s way of dilating distances, immediate communications that cause their collapse and the insistent cultivation of memory. All of these elements are common to Warburg’s view of culture and to the state of affairs in today’s civilizations.
José Emilio Burucúa