Back in 1960, a group of architecture students at the University of Barcelona wanted to raise funds for their final year graduation class trip. They were young. They were daring. They were idealistic. And most would have called them dreamers. But because this didn’t matter to them, they stuck to their plan: to write to the leading artists of the day (painters, sculptors, architects and others) asking each for an original drawing that they could return by post. The goal was to exhibit them, then put them up for auction and use the proceeds to fund a trip that would take them to see the works of architecture that had only been available to them in their text books.
It was a daunting task, and even more so in that era, before the existence of fax machines and email. In the end, the students managed to contact 144 artists from 22 different countries. Artists such as Joan Miró, Modest Cuixart, Max Bill, Rufino Tamayo, Giuseppe Capogrossi, Antonio Saura, Walter Gropius, Otto Dix, and Alexander Calder. Much to the surprise of those involved, they were able to build a collection of 130 works (some artists, such as Jean Cocteau and Giorgio Morandi had sent them more than one drawing). True to their word, the students organized an exhibition. But when the astonishing collection was put on show by the students, the dean decided to take matters into his own hands. It would have been a crime to auction off the drawings when fate – and a certain amount of audacity on the part of the students – had worked to bring together this bona fide collection of contemporary art. In the end, the University financed the student trip, taking over the collection that is now part of the holdings of the Association of Architects of Catalonia.
Sixty years later, the Can Framis Museum of Barcelona once again showcases the entire collection of drawings in an exhibition eloquently titled Una colección para un viaje: Promoción de Arquitectos. 1960 (A collection for a trip: School of Architecture Class of 1960). According to curator Victòria Combalia, the show is a “comprehensive narrative of abstract art of the 1960s, featuring works that represent this art movement in all of its forms, from Surrealism to Informalism, in addition to it being the happy result of a youthful dream”. There was only one great artist that did not write back: Pablo Picasso. His name was subtly erased from the original poster designed by the students for the first exhibition, and, as might be expected, this is the same poster that welcomes visitors to the (second) show.
–> The exhibition is now open for visitors at the Can Framis Museum of Barcelona until 3 April.