Artist: Oriol Vilanova
Exhibition title: Palabras Prestadas (Loaned Words)
Curated by: Javier Hontoria
Venue: Museo Cerralbo (ARCO 35), Madrid, Spain
Date: February 17, 2016 – March 27, 2016
Photography: Andrés Arranz, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Parra & Romero
Museo Cerralbo belonging to the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo, Don Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, a cultivated aristocrat whose life straddled the XIXth and XXth centuries. The house museum hosts the exceptional private collection that the Marquis assembled over years and fought to keep together as his inseparable legacy. Don Enrique was an avid researcher. His interest in art, archaeology and other branches of knowledge led him to acquire countless works of art, antiquities, coins, clocks, manuscripts, porcelain and an extensive and lengthy list of highly diverse items and curiosities. The Marquis’ work clearly embodies a connoisseur’s activity, common in XIXth century European cities, and a figure that Oriol Vilanova has been consistently exploring from the very beginning of his artistic career.
Vilanova is a collector too. In fact, much of his work is about collecting and the social and institutional implications that come with the act if collecting. There is an intense reflective exercise involved in linking these images together, which is because of his interest in observing their symmetry and their edges, their harmony and their stridency, their complicity and their dissent. In the different light it sheds on various dialogues, there lies a task that far transcends the simple act of accumulating. Vilanova based his approach to the Museo Cerralbo collection and space on two essential premises. The first is without a doubt the place’s personality, the uniqueness of its rooms, Little can be added to a place like this. Few shapes can compete with what already exists here. The second, and perhaps most important premise, is linked to that contemporary look
Palabras Prestadas (Loaned Words), as his piece is titled, once again opens the doors to the Marquis’s palace; a marquis who returns home to view his collection once again, almost a century after his death, to resume his loving relationship with the catalogue of artworks and curiosities that he acquired in life. It does so from the perspective of our own times, as if, in his absence, the Marquis had remained attentive to the evolution of culture and art to this day, particularly in terms of aesthetics and pop music.
Palabras Prestadas is a soliloquy, a love song. The Marquis talks to the items, recovering songs emphasising the blind and sometimes painful intensity of the feelings binding him to his collection, yet at the same time openly stating the happiness he feels about it remaining together. They’re chaotic, virtually meaningless sentences, since, as Barthes said, “a lover’s discourse exists only in outbursts of language, which occur at the whim of trivial, of aleatory circumstances”. Don Enrique’s voice sneaks into different rooms, filtered between the furniture, lamps or pool cues, becoming one more element, and weaving a dense web of interference. While the public witnesses (whilst trapped in a feeling of alienation) a declaration of love, the Marquis’s voice subtly slips between the public and the items displayed like a second skin, like a ghost, or a new climate: that of the irrational desire caused by reencountering his collection.