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Museo de Arte de Ponce to open curated exhibition of British art alongside contemporary installation
Artist Jorge Díaz Torres.

PONCE, PR.- Museo de Arte de Ponce opens 2013 in a big way with a curated exhibition of British art entitled The Art of the Empire: Three Centuries of British Art alongside an installation of contemporary art titled Art in Response: Jorge Díaz Torres. The dual opening on Saturday, February 23 for the general public is not coincidental but rather reflects the museum’s institutional goals of catering to a wide range of interests and enabling audiences to have a common space to meet, discover new horizons, and begin new dialogues.

The Art of the Empire: Three Centuries of British Art
February 23–September 30, 2013

Eighty-four works of art—paintings, sculptures, art on paper, drawings, and photographs—comprise the exhibition The Art of the Empire: Three Centuries of British Art, which embraces a display of the museum’s British Collection presented in a never-before-seen manner.

This exhibition reflects the evolution and vitality of 300 years of British art, from the 18th century to our own day, showing the faces of its society, the landscapes that enthralled it, and the vision of the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of indomitable young artists who would transform English art forever. In the 19th century, England was the proud head of a vast global empire. However, for British artists this was a period of identity crisis and self-exploration: The country that had given Shakespeare and Adam Smith to the world, and was in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, still had not made a name for itself in the fields of painting and sculpture.

Organized by curator Pablo Pérez d’Ors both thematically and chronologically, this exhibition shows how, since the 18th century, British artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, Edward Burne-Jones, and Frederic Leighton dealt with the tension between an exploration of their roots and a fascination with the exotic, between finding their own voice and paying tribute to the best art from different times and places. “This exhibition includes works from a historical period when England was at the head of an empire on which the sun never set, when Queen Victoria’s word was law from the Caribbean all the way to India,” Pérez d’Ors explains. “But there was also a crisis in terms of art, there was a quest. ‘What is our voice?’, asked the artists of the time.” The selection also includes works by artists from the second half of the 20th century, when British artists were confronting the reality of a world in the midst of radical changes. We see this struggle in works by Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst, and Chiris Ofili.

Agustin Arteaga, director of the Museo de Arte de Ponce, notes that the exhibition The Art of the Empire: Three Centuries of British Art “showcases the best of our collection in a new and different way, allowing us to reintroduce our very finest selection and celebrate it with Puerto Rico.” The exhibition applauds the legacy to Puerto Rico of a collection of British art that stands among the great collections of the world. It was compiled by Museo de Arte de Ponce founder, Luis A. Ferré, starting in the 1960s. Its 68 major works are being shown together for the first time, along with an important loan of originals by William Morris, from the Casa del Libro in San Juan. Accompanied by rarely seen paintings, prints, and sculptures by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Liam GIllick, Henry Moore, Raqib Shaw, and Mark Titchner, from private collections in Puerto Rico, the exhibit will show the solidity of a tradition open always to the new. “We are fortunate that in Puerto Rico there are great contemporary British art collections,” Pérez d’Ors pointed out. “We’ve brought in great figures both from the 20th century, with the beginnings of Abstraction in the United Kingdom, and the first years of the 21st century.”

The exhibition also marks the publication of the first volume of our new catalog for the museum’s British Collection. This catalog was developed with experts from the Tate Britain gallery in England, who were able to work with the works from the Museo de Arte de Ponce when the British Collection travelled to London.

Art in Response: Jorge Díaz Torres
February 23–May 27, 2013

Directed by associate curator María Arlette de la Serna, Art in Response is a program that invites contemporary artists to choose an art piece, or a period represented in the Museo de Arte de Ponce’s collection of European art, as a point of departure for the development of a piece or series, which in turn is exhibited later as a counterpoint to the original work.

“With programs such as Art in Response, the Museo de Arte de Ponce serves as a forum for a dialogue between traditional and contemporary creation. This time the museum has invited young artist Jorge Díaz Torres, who presents a contemporary sculpture that initiates a dialogue with the collection and the architectural spaces of the museum itself, the Edward Durell Stone building,” explained María Arlette de la Serna.

The work by Díaz Torres reminds us of the experimental spirit of Marcel Duchamp, with key aspects such as the use of everyday materials and the exploration of the frontiers between art and life. Díaz Torres’ work reflects the ephemeral material world and the overrated value placed on objects, in harmony with Auguste Rodin’s innovative practices (inspired by tradition, but rebellious in its idealized forms) and Duchamp’s truly innovative artistic reevaluation of everyday objects.

An essential part of the development of modern art is the evolution of sculpture that took place throughout the late 19th century and early 20th. In Art in Response, Díaz Torres portrays, in sculpture, urban elements, but outside their usual contexts. He re-positions them in a controlled environment, thereby creating awareness in the spectator of things that ordinarily go unnoticed. The artist also plays with the perception of what is real and uses his sculpture to stimulate emotions and bring us new ways to look at objects.

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