Historical brushstrokes at the Academy of Fine Arts of Sabadell Private Foundation

Although the beginnings of this hundred-year-old organization are shrouded in a certain haze that, due to the passage of time, makes it difficult to clarify its origins, it seems that everything began as good projects begin, that is, with the meeting continuation of a small group of painter friends in a small room of a baker's house on Carrer Sant Pau. From this first contact arose a small group formed by the artists Joan Figueras, Joan Vila Cinca and Ramon Quer who were anxious to go further and, with youthful illusions, on September 20 of the year In 1880 they founded the Academy of Fine Arts of Sabadell, taking as a model to follow the well-known Center Artístic d'Olot of the brothers Vayreda and Josep Berga, with whom Joan Figueras maintained ties.

They mainly devoted themselves to the cultivation and teaching of drawing and painting through classes, exhibitions and trips to paint in the open air with that spirit of youth that characterized them and, at the same time, they shared their interests and artistic discussions with each other, all strengthening the group and its ideals.

In 1882, the first exhibition organized by the Academy took place, which featured a total of 128 works by 34 different artists. Since they did not have their own room, they had to occupy the Examination Hall of the Escolapis Parents' College (current City Hall). The exhibition mixed recognized and consecrated painters such as Marià Vayreda, Josep Berga, Ramon Martí Alsina, Modest Urgell, Santiago Rusiñol, Eliseu Meifrèn, or Joaquim Mir with Sabadell authors Joan Vila Cinca, Ramon Quer, Joan Figueras, Narcís Giralt, Josep Juliana , Frederic Oliver, Josep Espinalt, Josep Oriol Bernadet, Josep Casanovas Clerch, Josep Figueras and Antoni Coll. Therefore, we could say that this exhibition acted as a true declaration of intentions and support for the cultivation of Sabadellian arts; although he did not receive the expected support from the industrial bourgeoisie of the time, managing to sell only three works to the public of the city.

From this exhibition that consolidated the initial plant of the organization, others followed that added names to the flock of artists from Sabadell, such as Francesc Pulit i Tiana, Llorenç Lladó Julià, or the well-known ceramist Marian Burguès i Serra, renovator of modern Catalan ceramics. This fact led the organization to establish itself as an artistic society in 1891.

In 1902, the Academy took an important part in the creation of the Industrial School of Arts and Crafts of the Manufacturers Guild, together with the Caixa d'Estalvis de Sabadell and the City Council itself. At the same time, aware of the importance of the city's historical and artistic heritage, the Academy collected various objects that eventually led to the creation of the City Museum in 1930; museum that was also promoted by the Academy itself, the Guild, the Caixa and the City Council.

The organization kept changing locations until in 1908 it opened its first premises on La Rambla with the intention of permanence. Even so, in 1920 they moved again to Carrer Sant Pau, now to the Casino headquarters, where they remained for a few months until they returned once more to La Rambla, specifically to the vaults of Ca l'Oliver, renovated and decorated with great elegance by the architect Josep Renom and which seemed to be the ideal seat of the Academy. However, towards the end of the 20s they returned to the Casino, located in the "La Peixera" lounge. This seemed to be the definitive place again, which is why they installed a monumental fireplace that had previously been given to them by the ceramist Marian Burguès.

After the years of the Civil War, in which there was no activity, the art of Sabadell continued in the vicinity of the Academy and little by little it was recovering the vitality of other times. Later, the decade of the 1950s was born with two Arte Actual salons and four biennials that laid the foundations for an era of full artistic and intellectual ebullition for the Academy. Indeed, it is the moment when the Riutort magazine was created (1956-1965) and the Sala d'Art Actual was inaugurated.

Riutort has its origins in the first Salón de Arte Actual in 1950 and in the subsequent biennials that favored the favorable climate so that, a few years later, appeared - not without impediments of censorship - this periodical publication led by Andreu castles The 40 issues that were published proclaimed it as an avant-garde magazine, of great quality and value, where subjects of art, architecture, photography, dance, music, cinema, theater and literature were discussed and was often accompanied by graphic work original by various artists of the moment; likewise, it came to have subscribers in Spain, France, Italy and the United States, especially thanks to the special issue dedicated to children's art.

In 1958, a small group of young artists (who a short time later would form the well-known Gallot Group) created the Sala d'Art Actual at the Academy with the intention of spreading the new international aesthetic currents. In this way, Sabadell could see the interesting works of Lucio Fontana, Joan Josep Tharrats or Romà Vallès, among others, who shook up the local artistic scene.

In the mid-1960s, the Academy moved again, this time to its current location on Passeig Manresa. The sculptor Camil Fàbregas made the murals at the entrance and the artist Antoni Vila Arrufat was in charge of designing the interior spaces where he took the opportunity to place in a place of honor the famous fireplace of the ceramist Marian Burguès. Now, the Academy had exhibition rooms, a theater, a library and several meeting and meeting rooms.

At the beginning of the seventies, the famous "classrooms" broke into the Academy which, grouped under the various fields of art and knowledge (Classroom of Current Art, Class of Culture, Class of Theater, Class of Cinema and Class of Music ) boosted and dynamized Sabadell culture even beyond the city's own limits, as is the case with the Aula de Teatre, which became a point of reference for experimental theater in Catalonia.

In this favorable climate, the well-known Sala Tres (1972-1979) was inaugurated at the institution, which arose from the Aula d'Art Actual and which would aim to publicize new aesthetic experiences and, in particular, the conceptual art With Sala Tres, one of the most remarkable periods of artistic modernity in Sabadell was born, imbued with the air of restless and rebellious youth.

Indeed, during the seven years that this room lasted, a series of exhibitions and activities took place that brought together the most representative artists of conceptual art in our country and helped place the Academy within the Catalan artistic scene.

Even so, perhaps paraphrasing JV Foix's "I exalt the new and I fall in love with the old", it was also then that the Academy organized some interesting anthological exhibitions on Isidre Nonell, Joan Vila Puig, Ramon Casas, Antoni Vila Arrufat , Francesc Gimeno, Marian Burguès and, perhaps the most interesting of all for its future impact, the one dedicated to six Catalan artists: Lola Anglada, Teresa Romero, Pepita Teixidor, Consol Tomas, Visitació Ubach and Lluisa Vidal.

During the nineties, the Academy continued to hold large art exhibitions, such as the anthologies dedicated to David Graells, Joan Vilacasas, Ràfols Casamada or Jordi Roca, which continued to unite local artists with foreign artists.

In 2000, the organization was established as a private foundation. During these last decades, the Academy has continued with the exhibition tasks that characterize it through three different rooms, one of them dedicated to emerging artists called Cub d'Assaig. It also carries out painting, watercolor, art history workshops, classes for children, for young people and the nuu drawing class; at the same time, classes taught by an artist or guest teacher are organized every three months. In addition, the Academy currently has a cycle of classical and rock music as well as its own theater company.

Perhaps one of the points that currently place the Academy within the arts scene is the Emerging Art competition which, sponsored and with the collaboration of Banco Sabadell, since 2015 has disseminated and annually awarded new emerging talents. Although it is also necessary to mention the Young Art Biennials (years 2013, 2015 and 2017), intended for the promotion of artists between 24 and 35 years old resident in Catalonia. From September 2019, monographic exhibitions of established Sabadell artists began, taking advantage of the dates of the city's Festa Major. Thus, so far it has been possible to see the works of Ricard Calvo (2019), Alfons Borrell (2020), Maria Bosch (2021) and those of Isidre Manils and Antoni Marquès (2022), being able to bring their works closer to the whole citizenship and perhaps collecting the testimony of the old exhibitions of the “Singulars Propis. Contemporary Sabadell artists" organized by the city's Art Museum.

Patxi Ocio Casamartina
June 2023