Albir Hosts Civil War Art Story Exhibition

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THE Frax Foundation building near the Cactus Hotel on the seafront in Albir, stood empty and incomplete for many years.

It is now open and houses itinerant exhibitions throughout the year. One of particular note opened last Saturday and is due to run until February 26 next year.

It contains items which were evacuated by the then Spanish government back in 1936 from the Prado, El Escoril, the Royal Palace and the National Library and other museums, to avoid them being plundered or damaged in the uncertainties of the Civil War.

These pieces which were deemed at the time to be “most important artistic works”, were moved from Madrid to Valencia for safekeeping, in what comprised twenty five separate convoys during the War.

The exhibition deals not only with the works themselves, but also with the story of the people involved in the dangerous and visionary task of saving the works of art in what was the most turbulent of times for any country.

In 1938 and early in 1939, after the Republican defeat at the Ebro, two delegates from the Internationale Commitee formed by the painter Josep Maria Sert, contacted the then Prime Minister Juan Negrin asking for permission to move the priceless collection abroad to Geneva for safekeeping.

Permission was granted; the works were saved, and they were transferred within 71 lorries by volunteers who made the treacherous journey up the coast via Valencia, Sitges (Barcelona), Figueres, and on to the safety of the French border, before continuing on their journey to the safety of Geneva in neutral Switzerland.

It is the story of these museum staff and volunteers who risked their lives that is being celebrated in the exhibition.

The exhibition has been organised on the 70th anniversary of the saving of the works of art, and that act, all those decades ago was one of the first measures that led to the formation of UNESCO, the organisation which exists to protect sites and works of heritage.

The exhibition was opened by the Government Minister, Leyre Pajin, together with other local dignitaries in attendance. It includes audio visual interaction to enable the visitor to feel “immersed in the events” that are portrayed, showing how the works were saved and transported, including images of the War itself to highlight the reality of the events.

From the Prado alone 525 paintings were saved., 198 drawings, and the treasure of the Dauphin (the collection includes items and jewellery of great Dauphin Louis, son of Louis XIV of France),the works , ‘The family of Charles IV‘ and ‘Saturno devouring his son‘,‘the Knight of the hand on the chest‘ by  El Greco, Goya’s  ‘The Holy family of the little bird‘, Murillo’s  ‘The martyrdom of St. Bartholomew‘ of Bank; ‘Las meninas‘, and ‘Los borrachos‘ and Velázquez’ ‘The garden of earthly delights‘ and also has works of Pieter Brueghel.

It really is a must see exhibition for anyone who has an interest in Spanish culture and history.

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