The Exhibition “On the Margins of Art: Creation and Political Engagement”

Art and politics are inextricably joint, and so are the dissemination of political ideas and the printing press: the first known documents printed in the West, predating even the Gutenberg Bible, were political broadsheets. The relationship between artistic creativity and political engagement reached an unusual degree of intensity in the middle decades of the last century, spurred on, amongst other things, by rapid and far-reaching social transformations in Western society, including industrialisation, the development of communication media and the growth of a consumer society. In the 1950s and 1960s, driven by these and other phenomena, the cultural world was troubled by numerous political concerns —both conservative and progressive— that ultimately found expression in the visual arts. Thanks to the immediacy and powerful impact of images, art provided an ideal vehicle for transmitting particular attitudes and ideological positions.

This was the topic chosen for an exhibition of documentary material that we presented at the exhibition space of the MACBA Study Center. The curator of this show was the renowned artist publication collector and specialist Guy Schraenen, who was, at the time, one of our most active advisors on the growth of the Study Center’s documentary collection. Weaving together the history of art, politics, and print, this show aimed to use the documents already present in the (back then, incipient) archive and library holdings, to illustrate the different ways in which art and politics came together during the second half of the 20th century.

The selection of magazines, artist’s books, posters, flyers, postcards and many other formats of printed matter that were exhibited included Surrealist tracts, anonymous posters produced during May 1968 in Paris, Guerrilla Girls pieces, abundant examples of Latin American mail art of the sixties… adding up to over 250 items that attracted the public’s attention even more than we had first expected.

More info about this exhibition here.