Political artist Francesc Torres (Barcelona, 1948) with a blessed vocation of expression publishes hermetic bell (Catedral/Univers) is a memoir that is beyond autobiographical data, a summary of knowledge and reflections on art and life. He has exhibitions in the most important international museums (Whitney, MoMA, International Center of Photography), lives halfway between Barcelona and New York, is back from almost everything and does not bite his tongue.
He affirms that the profession of the artist is very harsh, even brutal, and that the entire art system seems to have been created to destroy the artist. How did he manage to survive?
I have significant working capacity and monumental stamina. This is not a bluff. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here now. I don’t think there is anyone who gets up in the morning and thinks, “Let’s see what I can do to screw up the artists.” It is capitalism. The art market needs scarcity. If there is too much, it is bad because those who sell it, the middlemen, have to be few in order to be of great value. You cannot lower your guard or the intensity of your effort at any time because if you do, a unit will pass over you. Your position will always be filled by someone else.
“The art system seems to have been created to destroy the artist”
Is the market the only justification filter?
Until relatively recently, there was some weighty criticism, with numbers competing with each other just as we compete with ours. There was the whole academic context that influenced the art… And most of all, there was more flexibility for artists to open up new spaces that they would sooner or later have to recognize. But we shamelessly swallowed the wild neoliberal model where the only thing that legitimizes art is success, namely the market. This is unprecedented on the scale in which it occurs. And if it was hard before, now it’s a pitched battle.
It also affirms that art, no matter how radical, is always decorative.
In this profession, everything is slippery, laws are not written, words are not spoken… Everyone understands where the talk is going, but no one speaks because if we all spoke and said what we know, the art world would have two news bulletins. . . You wouldn’t understand because it’s a glove box at the waterline and everyone is worried, scared or terrified and thinks if he opens his mouth he can go and sell the encyclopedia. You can’t question things as simple as 50% that galleries get here. But it is universal. When was it decided? Who were they? Where have you been? Because Robert de Niro’s manager only owns 15%. The things we live together every day cannot be said. And if you say these things, be prepared. It’s like a house of paper, if you say goodbye it will fall apart. And everyone is very aware.
How do you experience the paradox of coming to the house of the person you criticize from a very obvious ideological position?
First of all, you have to be very honest and not tell stories to yourself or others. There is a small gap between the shredder and the artist, but it exists.
What is the most defining fact of your biography?
The most important event in my private life, what made me do everything I do and become who I am, happened nine years before I was born: the Civil War. And a monumental bitch. Because I suffered the same consequences without being able to defend myself. If I left this country, in a way, it’s because I escaped all this. I was going to life. If I stayed here, I would have no choice but to fight politically, but that wouldn’t be fixed if I hadn’t been shot at all costs.
Are art and life the same?
The comparison between art and life is one of the worst things to happen to contemporary art. Luckily, it seems to be losing its strength now. Back in the sixties it seemed like an idea that would make everything better. The aim was always to try to suppress the difference between art and life. It was almost like a mantra. And so it seemed to me, and even more ridiculous today. It sounded great, ah, how nice, I get up in the morning and make scrambled eggs and it’s art. Allan Kaprow did that sometimes. Okay, that’s cool, but getting life out of that is another story. Art happens in life because if there is no life, there is nothing, but the reverse cannot happen, there can be life without art. I think it hurt because we spent too much time relying on simplicity.
“The important thing is that the art is made, it is not so important that it is good. If it is good, it is better. But it does not matter if it is not made”
You came to art thanks to your father, who was a market painter.
My father, who was a perfect person with few bellows, was my mother, but he was a great professional and wanted to be an artist from an early age. He came from a very poor family and they could not pay for it. My grandmother was a widow with four children. My father started working at the age of 10. He was an advertising cartoonist. He had worked for pharmaceutical companies, record covers and things like that before graphics were invented. He did it because it was the closest thing to his sensibility. He painted in his spare time and it didn’t do it that bad. I found it fascinating as a kid. When my father started painting, the whole family was watching, and he would do it in the summer or at his cottage in Viladecans. My grandfather’s friends came to visit and maybe my father thought of painting a nude that looks like my mother. This was madness. “This is Maria!” they said. And when I was just a few years old I thought: “Something’s going on here!” The important thing is that the art is made, it is not so important that it is good. If it’s good it’s better, if not it doesn’t matter.
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