Madrid Abierto 2004-2008

Jorge Díez


MADRID ABIERTO (1) is an artistic interventions programme aimed at activating the public space by reflecting on our political, social and cultural environment through contemporary art. Artistic practices that seek new spaces of interaction based on multidisciplinary and contextual approaches, together with the concepts of public sphere, territory and identity, are in the theoretical and programmatic nucleus of projects like Idensitat, which we will turn to later, whilst in the case of MADRID ABIERTO, these artistic practices have gradually emerged in the event's trajectory, comparing and contrasting them with each annual edition's experience.

A trajectory of five consecutive years that has entailed a gratifying but exhausting effort, centred on the production of projects presented in response to an international open call for participants which has generated increased interest among artists. The number of participants has risen from 234 in 2004 to 567 in 2008, and the temporary or ephemeral interventions have taken place in the month of February with some form of reference or presence around the junction Paseo del Prado-Recoletos-Castellana of the city of Madrid.

From Arnold Hauser (2) to the more recent Deyan Sudjic (3) , different authors have described how since the Greek era political leaders have used art and architecture to seduce, impress and intimidate their subjects by depriving them of their condition of citizens and, therefore, of being active agents of the social configuration of the public space. This function of art, even with the variations produced in the concept of art, remained in place over time and first came into question with the avant-gardes of the early 20th century, facing head-on opposition in the decade of 1960 by the different artists and groups in some way involved with the idea and practice of public art, for example, Siah Armajani (4) .

In the presentation of MADRID ABIERTO in 2003 we already aligned ourselves with Lucy R. Lippard in her definition of public art as "accessible work of any kind that cares about, challenges, involves, and consults the audience for or with whom it is made, respecting community and environment; the other stuff is still private art, no matter how big or exposed or intrusive or hyped it may be" (5) .

The context: setting and background

Our project is based in the city of Madrid (6) , although we initially set ourselves the still pending objective of expanding or connecting it to the largest cities of the Autonomous Community of Madrid and to try to organise the isolated initiatives emerging in a number of those cities (7) . And in the city of Madrid the decision was made to intervene in the junction Prado-Recoletos-Castellana, which crosses the city from south to north and concentrates the offices of the most important institutions and cultural, political and economic organisations, a faithful representation of the historic and current power through buildings and monuments. The reason for this decision, questioned with good reason by certain sectors of the artistic sphere, requires a description of the origins of the project.

The International Contemporary Art Fair (ARCO), which held its twenty-seventh edition in 2008, stands among the world's most important art events for the large number of visitors and the wide range of activities associated with the different fields of art. In the space of the five or six days of the ARCO event, both the exhibition site and the city of Madrid become a meeting point for artists, gallery owners, collectors, critics, curators, researchers, the media, museum directors and public and private cultural institutions, as well as, as opposed to other fairs, a large and very young public coming from different parts of Spain to meet this annual appointment with contemporary art.

This fair began in 1982, the same year that the Socialist Party won the general elections, the year after the failed coup d'état of February 23rd and five years after Spain's return to democracy, following the long period of General Franco's dictatorship. At that time, the Spanish gallery sector was extremely weak, institutional contemporary art initiatives were scant and collecting was practically inexistent. With the arrival of the director, Rosina Gómez Baeza, the objective of the fair to promote the collection of and to generate a market for contemporary art was rounded off with two parallel lines of action.

On the one hand, the presence of institutional spaces in the fair, which gradually increased in number and size in line with the emergence of more contemporary art centres and museums and the collections of large companies, which through foundations, awards or competitions sought to associate their image with the country's modernisation process and, at the same time, obtain added fiscal advantages. On the other hand, the organisation of all kinds of activities associated with mediums like video, music, design and internet, as well as seminars and forums, managing to bring together in the space of a few days more activities than those organised during the rest of the year through the regular programmes of the city's cultural institutions.

All in all, ARCO became the great annual artistic and commercial event which absorbed a large part of the resources and much energy. This double facet of artistic and commercial event represented both ARCO's success, even surviving the difficult years of the nineties, and its weaknesses. In recent years an attempt was made to re-steer the fair towards a more professional format, comparable with that of the most important international fairs, an objective the new director, Lourdes Fernández, is working towards with the enormous difficulty of finding an individual niche for ARCO against the backdrop of the Anglo-Saxon and central-European dominant position and the strength of emerging powers like China.

Thus, within the numerous activities generated by ARCO over the years, in 2000 it presented the Open Spaces, sponsored by Fundación Altadis, a foundation dependent on the Spanish-French company of the same name, heir to the old public monopoly on tobacco, which in January 2008 was bought by the British company, Imperial Tobacco. On that first occasion, several works of art, basically sculptures, both for the public and the exhibition space, were selected and installed in the fair's exterior accesses, and a number of round tables on public art were organised.

The following year, through a competition between various galleries and institutions, a number of pieces were installed in different passage ways of the installations of the fair, and a jury presided by Jérôme Sans, then co-director of the Palais de Tokio in Paris, awarded the prize to the best work.

Although the term "public art" was called into question, on a general and non-specialised level, public art continued to be largely identified with sculpture in public spaces. These unsuccessful Open Spaces in ARCO mainly responded to this approach and were strongly criticised by a sector of artists and specialists. Consequently, the project MADRID ABIERTO emerged as a result of the suggestions of ARCO's director and the competent persons of Altadis, and after many consultations and a long period of work meetings, aimed at organising artistic interventions outside the fair, in the public space of the city of Madrid.

Initially, the physical space was confined to the junction Prado-Recoletos-Castellana as this made it possible to incorporate into project institutions like Fundación Canal, Casa de América and Círculo de Bellas Artes, whose offices would become the subject of interventions, the sponsors could be given the visibility that they demanded and it made it possible to concentrate the work of the artists (initially restricted to less than eight) in a central and accessible space.

From an artistic point of view, the disadvantages to this were plain to see and accusations of "decorativism" and subordination to ARCO and the institutions were soon heard. However, in 2008 the fifth consecutive edition since 2004 was held, managing to expand the physical space outside the above-mentioned junction and to produce all kinds of projects in any environment. The fifty-five interventions included in this publication have been produced and the pieces of work selected in the last two editions in the categories of audiovisual and sonorous art, a total of forty works, twenty in each category, also mentioned in this publication, have been transmitted in different specialised media.

The visual arts sector in Spain has undergone a deep transformation process in the last twenty years, in terms of the artistic market, private initiative through collections, foundations, art centres and awards, and public activity. Many cultural centres, museums and exhibition centres have been opened, in the midst of a sometimes absurd competition between the different public administrations. However, deficiencies in education, training, production and international presence continue to be very large.

Looking further back we can see that, despite the strict political control and the censorship under Franco's dictatorship regime and the efforts of the regime to improve its image by participating in international exhibitions and biennials in the fifties and sixties, culture was one of the most active battlegrounds of Franco's left-wing opponents, particularly in the seventies.

Spain's recovery of democratic liberties and rights brought a burst of initiatives in the cultural terrain, on many occasions, of a festive nature and with the street as stage. The "movida madrileña", the hallmark of that thirst for entertainment and creativity reached the furthest points of the planet, and the most important media channels echoed it as a synonym of youth, freedom, art and culture. In the field of plastic arts, the German Neo-Expressionism and the Italian Transvanguard found fertile ground in our country, and all Spanish conceptual art, simultaneously critical with the regime and with the dominant artistic tendencies, was swiftly and selfishly buried by the triumphant new figuration, which on the one hand connected with the sculptural and pictorial tradition and, on the other, reflected the general yearning for political and cultural normalisation.

As if that weren't enough, after ‘la movida' of the eighties, parallel to the crisis of the international art market in the nineties and the triumph of the Neoliberalism of Thatcher and Reagan, Madrid suffered a serious setback, coinciding with a long period of the most anachronistic conservatism in the city's government, aggravated by a lack of solid cultural structures and the still too recent weak cultural public policies in Spain.

A symbol of this setback was the installation in the centric crossroads of the street Alcalá with Gran Vía of the sculpture, La Violetera, as a tribute to the seller of violets staring in the zarzuela of the same name. As a result of an exhibition held by the Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, several of his works of art were purchased and installed in the Paseo de la Castellana. Both initiatives were strongly criticised in artistic and urban-planning media, particularly the sculpture of La Violetera, which was removed and subsequently installed more discreetly in another part of Madrid. The original spot was used in Madrid Abierto 2004 to install Perspectiva Ciudadana by Fernando Sánchez.

The work revealed, on a low platform, the molten bronze fragments of the statute of Felipe IV located in Madrid's Plaza de Oriente, acting with the same popular strategies of false historic representation or romantic ruin to defend the continuous questioning of the imposed or desired heroes that historically have been eliminated and swiftly replaced. The work of Sánchez Castillo produced by MADRID ABIERTO was subsequently exhibited in different exhibitions and was finally bought by the Artium museum in Vitoria to add to its collection.

But when it first appeared, Perspectiva Ciudadana, and consequently MADRID ABIERTO, was the target of sarcastic criticism by Fernando Castro Flórez (8) , who later went back on his words or the evolution of the project was so radical that it led him to change his mind (9) . On the same spot where Perspectiva Ciudadana was installed, Alonso Gil and Francis Gomila intervened in 2007 with Guantanamera, a multimedia project that reflected on the use of music as a torture instrument.

Going back to Madrid's municipal policy, in that same period other sculptures of a number of Spanish politicians of the 19th century were also placed throughout the city, as well as a series of fountains and monoliths combined with the heavy and lavish urban furniture introduced by that municipal government. Subsequently, the post of mayor was filled by Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, of the same political wing, who made his major projects, also in the cultural terrain, the hallmarks of his administration. Projects like Matadero Madrid or Noche en Blanco are, with their pros and cons, the most relevant in the cultural arena.

The same team that is currently working with this mayor in the area of culture, headed by Alicia Moreno and Carlos Baztán, backed the creation of MADRID ABIERTO from the Government of the Autonomous Community of Madrid when Ruiz Gallardón was its president, and once in the City Council, he continued to do so as of the first edition in 2004, in addition to acting as our interlocutor in processing the installation permits for the interventions, one of the key and problematic areas of any public art project, co-ordinated by the General Directorate for Cultural Projects and its most senior head, Cristina Conde.

Likewise, the Department of Culture of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, headed by Santiago Fisas, has collaborated in a decisive way in the five editions organised through the successive general directors of Archives, Museums and Libraries, Álvaro Ballarín and Isabel Rosell.

If we look to Barcelona, the presence of art in the public space has been different as a result of its urban-planning policy after the restoration of democracy and the strong impulse of the Olympic Games of 1992, which the city has tried to give continuity to with the largely failed operation of the Fòrum de las Culturas. The works of Antoni Tàpies, Roy Lichtenstein, Francesc Torres, Rebecca Horn and Tom Carr, among many other recognised artists, have played a role in the city's urban-planning transformation strategy. The work of other famous artists has also been appearing in other Spanish cities, for example, Manuel Valdés, Andrés Nagel and Miquel Navarro, through an increasing number of competitions and commissions.

Such initiatives are generally in the form of the permanent installation of monumental sculptures in public spaces, largely of a figurative nature and with the commemorative or symbolic zeal of the new democratic powers, generally associated with specific public works - although, in the worst cases, they are purely based on the personal taste of the public authority commissioning the work or the individual's connivance with some clever gallery owner or curator.

Thus, for example, in 2003 a certain scandal broke out as a result of the acquisition of paintings by the Ministry of Development, under the Presidency of Aznar, whose minister, Francisco Álvarez Cascos, commissioned the works to the Marlborough gallery and International Public Art, which the minister's girlfriend happened to be a consultant to. It also transpired that the organisations responsible for airports, railways and roads, also dependent on the Ministry of Development, also acquired works of art from the same sources totalling 3.3 million euros.


However, that is neither the scale nor the model of MADRID ABIERTO, which is closer to several initiatives that emerged in Spain at the end of the decade of 1990 and which, from the artistic sphere, put emphasis on the social and political context, generally from critical standpoints, to interact with these contexts by involving the public. One such initiative was Capital Confort, produced by the collective of artists, El Perro, in Alcorcón (Madrid) between 1997 and 2002, as well as the above-mentioned Idensitat, called Calaf Arte Público in its first edition in 1999, directed by Ramon Parramon, who successfully reconverted a sculpture competition of this small town (3,435 inhabitants) in the province of Barcelona, extending it in successive editions to other cities like Mataró and Manresa, to generate an interesting network.

Ramon Parramon, Pablo España and Iván López, original members of the former group of visual artists, El Perro, who have since created the group, Democracia, (curators of the 2008 edition), have participated in different ways in the successive editions of MADRID ABIERTO and form part of the advisory committee set up in 2007 to review the model of our project, together with Cecilia Andersson, Guillaume Désanges, Arturo-Fito Rodríguez and Mª Inés Rodríguez, with the co-ordination of Rocío Gracia, art historian and member of RMS La Asociación.

Looking at international projects like Skulptur Projekte in Münster (Germany), whose first edition was held in 1977, or inSite_05 in the border between the United States and Mexico, in San Diego-Tijuana, held between 2003 and 2005 for the purpose of stimulating public domain experiences in the everyday flows of that border zone, as well as other initiatives like Muestra de luces de artistas associated with the promotion of the Winter Olympic Games of Turin or the public art programme parallel to the Istanbul Biennial (Turkey), we can make a number of observations on their scale and projection.

For example, most of these projects are held in medium or small cities, are associated with other events that either gave rise them or are organised to complement the first, and they depend on public initiative or funds. These features appear throughout this text as we contextualise MADRID ABIERTO and explain its evolution and current state, as of its above-mentioned origins in the Open Spaces of Fundación Altadis in ARCO.

The initial work meetings, which began in March 2002, repeatedly came up against the differences between the physical and economic scale of an exhibition inside the fair and the possible interventions in the public space of the city of Madrid, in addition to the objective difficulty of reconciling the concept of public art with that of a commercial fair and with some of the most important galleries' opposition to any activity held outside the installations of the fair, which in their opinion might distract collectors and potential buyers visiting ARCO.

As a reference, an amount of fifty thousand euros was considered for producing a project of an adequate artistic scale and quality, which was the initially available total budget. In addition, and for various reasons, none of the public institutions were single-handedly prepared to join Fundación Altadis in directing the project.

Faced with this situation, I proposed redesigning and directing the project externally, focussing it on the production of artistic interventions with a maximum assignation per intervention of six thousand euros (subsequently, the assignation was increased to twelve thousand euros per selected project, and in the 2009-2010 edition to fifteen thousand) and introducing it in two phases. In February 2003, coinciding with ARCO, four projects from invited emerging Spanish artists would be produced and installed in the junction Prado-Recoletos-Castellana and, simultaneously, the 2004 international call for participants would be published.

ARCO would give up space inside the installations of the fair for the presentation of MADRID ABIERTO, would disseminate the international call for participants and would participate in the production of one of the interventions. The initial funds would come from Altadis, the City Council of Madrid and the Government of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, who would assume the different expenses of the project. During the rest of 2002, sponsorship agreements would be established with cultural institutions with offices in the area of the above-mentioned junction, such as Casa de América, Círculo de Bellas Artes and Fundación Canal, as well as with organisations associated with contemporary art, such as Fundación Telefónica.

In addition, it was suggested that the TV programme, Metrópolis, shown on the 2nd channel of TVE, should produce a monographic programme on the first edition and that the State Society for Design and Innovation Development (Ddi) should be responsible for the promotional and information space in ARCO. The proposal was accepted and the lines of action began to be implemented with success. At the end of the year, the procedure for obtaining the installation permits for the four invited projects was initiated and blocked by the Committee for Urban Aesthetics, set up by Madrid's mayor, Álvarez del Manzano.

With hardly any room for manoeuvre to try to have the decision overturned, in the month of December we proposed, and it was accepted, the launch of the call for participants to the event forecasted for 2004, which would include the previously invited projects. With the only supports of a bilingual Spanish-English leaflet establishing the conditions of the call for participants, two advertisements in specialised Internet providers and the dissemination of information to the media, we received 234 proposals from 316 artists from 25 countries, with 57 projects for the specific intervention on the Elevated Deposit of Fundación Canal.

The Arts Department of the new municipal government appointed Teresa Velázquez (subsequently director of the Museo Patio Herreriano in Valladolid and contents director of Matadero Madrid, currently responsible for the exhibitions of the MNCARS) to co-ordinate the processing of all the installation permits, an always crucial issue, especially in the first edition.

That first edition took place between the 5th and the 22nd of February 2004 and had very wide and positive media coverage, although it also received strong criticism in certain cultural supplements, which interpreted it as another ARCO event without the necessary maturity from an artistic point of view. The assessment of the sponsors was positive and they agreed to continue lending their support.

Four editions later, one of the above-mentioned supplements praised MADRID ABIERTO 2008 because "it probes into its role, its mission, its function, its need, its aesthetic validity, its plastic command, its political approaches, i.e. citizenry" (10) . After five editions, the advisory committee to MADRID ABIERTO spent one year carrying out an analysis and debate on a new model for the programme which, on the approval of the sponsors, gave rise to the call for participants to the 2009-2010 edition. The general lines agreed were:

- Maintain the open call for participants. The number of invited artists may not exceed 50% of the total number of artists selected in the open call for participants.
- Establish a biannual regularity, dedicating the first year to the round tables, including the presentation of selected artists, and incorporating the artists into the work sessions in an open workshop format. Continue to hold the interventions in the month of February of the second year.
- Include in the call for participants a brief introduction generally contextualising the event plus a specific text from the curators.
- Proceed with the physical and conceptual overflow in the junction Prado-Recoletos-Castellana.
- Continue with the audiovisual and sonorous sessions and expand the specific media for their transmission.
- Maintain the current advisory committee until completing a cycle in which all the members have performed curator tasks in MADRID ABIERTO.
- Generate documents and publications to expand on the experience and knowledge gained from the editions held.

On another front, we are aware that the resources available and the management structure are to blame for the current dissemination shortfalls and the lack of, for example, a pedagogical programme. Currently, the project is managed by the Cultural Association MADRID ABIERTO, set up for the sole purpose of developing the project, since in the first three editions the project did not have a defined institution or entity directing it but several institutions headed by the main three sponsors plus a small number of persons, between three and five, in charge of management and co-ordination tasks.

An essential boost, both for the continuity of MADRID ABIERTO and for setting up the association, was given by the director of Fundación Altadis, Alberto Sanjuanbenito, as in practice, the foundation was forced to assume a series of legal tasks and responsibilities, as well as others of a different nature, which went beyond those corresponding to the foundation's role of cosponsor.

From the beginning, the technical management has been performed by a management company specialised in the artistic sector, RMS La Asociación, in which Marta de la Torriente has assumed the general co-ordination of MADRID ABIERTO. All the image, graphic and web design tasks have also been realised, from the first edition, by a designer involved in contemporary art reflection and practices, Aitor Méndez, in collaboration with Fernando A. Cienfuegos. The rest of the tasks have been contracted out, on an individual basis, to different professionals and, occasionally, students from Universidad Europea of Madrid have collaborated in the odd project and, in the last two editions, students doing work practice as part of the MBA course on Cultural Companies and Institutions offered by Santillana Formación/Universidad de Salamanca.

Therefore, the project has no fixed personnel structure in place or a permanent physical office, which allows reduced operating costs and greater flexibility. However, the other side of the coin is that the expansion of the project is restricted, specific aspects cannot be given the necessary continuity and the response to all the occasional incidents inherent to conducting a project of interventions in the public space is often fragile and unstable.

MADRID ABIERTO's target public is the citizens of Madrid and its visitors, especially those interested in contemporary artistic practices, and professionals of the art world, many of whom concentrate in Madrid for ARCO. Although the time has come to leave certain clichés behind, such as taking art to the street or bringing art to the public, public art is no doubt called to appeal directly to the people, as well as to propose new forms of critical construction and use of the public space.

Also evident, therefore, is the near impossibility to activate mass participation and wide knowledge of the proposals generated, beyond the interventions centred in specific communities or contexts of the city, despite the certain degree of imposition entailed in intervening in the public space. In this respect, and especially after the negotiation battle to ensure the installation of their work, the intervention of Dier and Noaz, authors of Estado de excepción, in the last edition's round tables was very significant, as they addressed the imposing nature of their work, urban art, in sharp contrast with the egocentric and continued performance displayed by Jota Castro as of the presentation act to the press, as a result of an incident with his work, La hucha de los Incas.

The disappearance of the moneybox the morning after it was installed, recovered by the municipal cleaning services at some distance from its original site in the area of the Open Air Sculpture Museum very close to where Dier and Noaz's work was installed, and ready to be immediately reinstalled, was followed by a gruesome succession of events and the subsequent removal of the work by the artist.

The incredible conclusion was Jota Castro's offer to settle all the problems, together with his threats of lawsuits, by allowing him to collect the moneybox from where it had been deposited until the end of MADRID ABIERTO so that his gallery could sell it in ARCO. The incidents, the negotiation, the response of the public and the institutions are very important factors in any public art project and, to a certain extent can be anticipated, although with a high degree of uncertainty and, consequently, are difficult to manage.

As mentioned above, the nucleus of MADRID ABIERTO is the production of artistic interventions in the public space of the city. An expanded space progressively extended from the junction Prado-Recoletos-Castellana to other physical and social contexts of the city, with the clearest examples seen in 2008, with the projects Explorando Usera by the group LHFA and Speculator-Empty World by the collective Todo por la Praxis.

Together with the extension of the initial physical axis, from the beginning, different projects of MADRID ABIERTO have been developed in an extended public space, which has included advertising supports like panels, the network of monitors and screens of the Metro, different media like the press, radio, Internet and mobile phones. All sharing different intervention strategies in a public space understood as a communication environment dominated by commercial and institutional discourses.

In this respect, the different artistic interventions try to generate proposals both of a symbolic and practical nature to open new critical and participation channels for the public in the configuration of the public space.

The selection of projects by MADRID ABIERTO through an international public call for participants responds to the double intention of combing the international panorama every year and using the call for participants as a channel for giving exposure to the project. Although it is true that a call for participants of these characteristics, until now with a maximum assignation of twelve thousand euros per project (includes production, travel expenses and the artist's fees), on the one hand, dissuades specific artists from participating and, on the other, increases the number of those who do, making the selection more difficult and giving rise to frustration in the organisation and many of the participating artists.

In the past five editions, more than one thousand five hundred projects were received and a total of fifty-five produced, which is a considerable number but a very small share of all the proposals presented. On another front, the open call for participants complicates the curators' task of co-ordinating and giving coherence to the whole of each year's interventions, although the possibility of including guests and the curators describing their work guidelines in the call for participants attempts to correct these problems.

Sonorous and audiovisual art

The collaboration, in the first three editions, with the programme La ciudad invisible on Radio 3-RNE and with Canal Metro led us to consider the possibility of incorporating two specific calls for sonorous and audiovisual pieces into MADRID ABIERTO. Hence, in 2007 we selected eight specific works for radio and eleven audiovisuals from the twenty-four and seventy-four, respectively, proposals presented; in 2008, twelve sonorous projects were selected from the one hundred that responded to the call for participants and we incorporated the nine audiovisual pieces from the eighth edition of the project, Intervenciones TV, organised by Fundación Rodríguez and Centro Cultural Montehermoso of Vitoria-Gasteiz, with whom we have reached a collaboration agreement.

In both cases, they involve pre-existing pieces of a maximum length of ten minutes for the sonorous projects and three minutes for the audiovisual projects, with a payment of five hundred euros per author for broadcasting rights. A copy of all the projects is kept as part of MADRID ABIERTO's document resources and public archive, and the artist may allow the work to be placed in MADRID ABIERTO's website for non-profit purposes.

On another front, in the first two editions, the contemporary culture programme, Metrópolis, shown on TVE's channel 2, produced and broadcasted monographic reports on MADRID ABIERTO which, in addition to adding to the exposure of the project, fulfilled the purpose of documenting the project.

Round tables

Also, as of the third edition we widened our project to include a cycle of round tables in La Casa Encendida. Under different formats, these tables have included the presentation of projects by their artists and presentations on other national and international public art projects, such as El Perro (Capital Confort, Alcorcón, Madrid), Javier Ávila (Periferias, Gijón), Maribel Doménech/Emilio Martínez (Portes Obertes, El Cabanyal de Valencia), Ramon Parramon (Idensitat, Calaf, Barcelona), Bartolomeo Pietromarchi (Trans:it Moving Culture through Europe, research project), Cecilia Andersson (Urban Workshop, Liverpool), Guillaume Désanges (cofounder of Work Method, agency based in Paris and co-ordinator of artistic projects of Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers), Dionisio Cañas (Cambio de Sentido, Cinco Casas, Ciudad Real), Tania Ragasol (inSite, Tijuana-San Diego), Arturo Rodríguez (Tester, project on the Web), Mª Inés Rodríguez (Tropical paper editions, editorial projects of artists), Daniel Villegas (Madrid Procesos), Vít Havránek (Tranzit, Praga) and Nelson Brissac (Arte Cidade, Sao Paulo).


The total expense budget, which in the first edition was one hundred and twenty-six thousand euros, is now two hundred and seventy thousand euros, mostly funded by the three main sponsors (Fundación Altadis, the City Council of Madrid and the Government of the Autonomous Community of Madrid) and the rest by other collaborators such as ARCO, Casa de América, Fundación Telefónica, the general directorates for Co-operation and Fines Arts of the Ministry of Culture, La Casa Encendida, and the odd donation from the embassies of the participating artists' countries, production companies or galleries in very specific projects.

We should also highlight the collaboration of certain institutions that display projects, such as Círculo de Bellas Artes, Centro Cultural de la Villa and the above-mentioned Casa Encendida, which has become one of our most important collaborators as venue of the round tables and the presentation of projects, as well as acting as a permanent consultation centre on all the previous interventions and editions since the start of MADRID ABIERTO.

Approximately 65% of the budget is spent on the production of projects, including travel and artists' fees; 15% on personnel expenses, including members of the jury and curators; 15% on publications, dissemination material and the information point; and 5% on sundry expenses, nearly half of this on advertising, confined to specialised media on the Internet.

Results and dissemination

In the five editions held, 55 artistic interventions have been produced, 20 sonorous pieces have been transmitted and 20 audiovisual works shown. Three round table cycles on public art have been held. In addition, an annual information journal with a print run of 50.000 copies has been published and distributed in the information points, by the collaborating entities and ARCO. Each of the editions has been documented in photographs and video and all the information is available on the website www.madridabierto.com. In collaboration with Fundación Telefónica, the publication Locutorio Colón has been launched, the result of a project by Ali Ganjavian, Maki and Key Portilla-Kawamura, and Tadanori Yamaguchi, of the same name, produced in the 2006 edition.

The project has been presented, among others, in the visual arts symposium, Simposio de Artes Visuales, La naturaleza pública del arte, Universidad Federal de Espíritu Santo de Vitoria, Brazil (June 2008); the workshops on architecture, art and the city, Jornadas-Encuentro de Arquitectura, Arte y Ciudad Simbiocity, Tabacalera, San Sebastián (May 2008); the 10th Spain-Japan Forum held in Nagasaki (October 2007); the 16th symposium on plastic arts, 16º Simposio de Artes Plásticas de Porto Alegre (Brazil), Experiencias actuales en arte público (July 2007); the course, Contextos y proyectos de arte público. Modelos efímeros de intervención, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MARCO), Vigo (February 2007); the debate workshops, Cuestionando el arte público: proyectos, procesos y programas, Idensitat, Centro de Arte Santa Mónica de Barcelona (2006); and the 4th International Conference on Public Art, held in Taipei (Taiwan), Espacios públicos y arte público (2004).

The international exposure has been very positive and the response from the public in the different presentations given has also been favourable. With regard to the public, which every year either voluntarily or casually comes faces to face with the artistic interventions produced by MADRID ABIERTO, the above-mentioned programmes produced by Metrópolis, and many radio and television reports, reflect the reactions of individual members of the public. However, in general, news and current events programmes tend to emphasise the public's surprise at these contemporary art projects or to provoke a jokily response, often because they do not have the necessary means to contextualise the project in the everyday interests of the public, which paradoxically are the origin of many of the projects.

There are many people who, at first out of curiosity, have gone to see, for example, in 2008, the project by Santiago Cirugeda, Construye tu casa en una azotea, and then have explored the subject further or joined the project's debates on housing, Empty World. Only in very specific cases do we have real figures on participation, such as the approximately eight thousand persons who went to see, after having signed the required safety conditions, the Mirador nómada by the Mexican artist, José Dávila, in Casa de América in 2005.

However, a merely quantitative assessment would suggest that the several hundred immigrants who participated in Locutorio Colón in 2006 or the nearly four hundred persons who voted to select the buildings virtually demolished by El Perro in 2004 are a negative result, when in fact the exposure, the knowledge and the artistic repercussion of both projects were very significant (11) .

With regard to the media, as mentioned, despite the lack of backing from advertising companies, the exposure is very wide in terms of number of media channels and reports published, compared with other artistic events, and the specialised press has gradually shifted from a certain indifference to general positive recognition.

Outlook and future issues

As mentioned above, an advisory committee has spent one year debating the current model (regularity, type of call for participants, curatorship model, selection of artists, setting, objectives, debates and publications) and the future prospects of the project, incorporating the conclusions into the call for participants to the 2009-2010 edition, where everything which up until now we had been doing on an annual basis will be spread in the space of two years.

After these five editions, the projects seems firmly consolidated in the artistic environment, but its continuity is complex, given the recent takeover of Altadis by Imperial Tobacco, the line of activities developed by the City Council of Madrid for the project and the restrictions in the way of managing the project under the current management structure.

We are also up against a series of questions that only practice can answer, whilst no doubt others will arise. There are very specific aspects open to debate such as the suitability of the association's legal status with regard to managing the project, or the possibility of extending the interventions in time, which a biannual model could facilitate. Also, from the point of view of the continuity of this kind of projects in time it is worth considering the combination of private and public funding as well as that of a number of collaborating institutions and companies, which can vary each year in line with the specific projects; this could guarantee more independence, but at the same time it multiplies the annual sponsorship tasks and restricts the contributions of each sponsor by having to share the limelight of the initiative with others, which can make the project even more fragile.

Of a more general nature, other issues must also be addressed, such as the possibility of separating the management from the contents of an artistic interventions project in the public space, i.e., to what extent is it possible to manage a project that seeks to position itself in the context of a city like Madrid from a purely cultural approach or should we consider a more social approach.

Likewise, we should also consider the degree of invention and continuous reconversion necessary to hold one's place, through contemporary artistic practices, in a terrain dominated by the market and institutions, especially when some of those institutions end up reproducing similar projects with far more resources, and when in its campaigns commercial advertising steals the language and the tactics used by public art. Without of course forgetting the so-often-absent theoretical star or target of these initiatives: the public.

(1) A precursor of this text, with a different structure and approach, was published in Gestión cultural. Estudios de caso. Barcelona: Ariel, 2008, pages 257-277.
(2) "The tyrants (the Greeks) employ art not merely as a means to fame and a propaganda instrument but also as an opiate to soothe the opposition". Hauser, Arnold. The Social History of Art. Routledge, 1999.
(3) Vid. Sudjic, Deyan. The Edifice Complex. Penguin, 2006.
(4) "Let's not fool ourselves: the cultural image of the city no longer depends on erecting monuments or placing decorative works; on the contrary, this is a time of growing social and cultural rejection towards "commemoration" sculptures and ornamental statues. Citizens are increasingly refusing to accept the imposition of monumental landmarks that they disagree with, and public places being taken up by works of art that are a testimony to the personal tastes, the imaginative capacity and the individual expressions of artists with whom citizens don't identify with. Citizens prefer interventions in the shape of what since the decade of 1960 has been referred to as ‘public art', an art that cares for and tries to satisfy the specific needs of the public and to replace ‘the myth of the artist' with a civic sense of ‘useful art', capable of sensitizing everyday spaces, constructions and objects". Marín-Medina, José. The Useful Sculpture: Siah Armajani. El Cultural [El Mundo]. 10th-16th October 1999, pages. 32-33.
(5) Lippard, Lucy R. Looking Around: Where We Are, Where We Could Be. In: Mapping the Terrain: Genre Public Art. Seattle: Bay Press, 1995.
(6) 3,128,600 registered inhabitants in the city and 6,008,183 in the Autonomous Community in 2006. Source: Institute of Statistics of the Autonomous Community of Madrid.
(7) For example, in Alcobendas (104,118 inhabitants), Arganda del Rey (45,085), Alcorcón (164,633) and Leganés (182,471). Ibid.
(8) "I was walking through the street of Alcalá, if I may use the phrase of the "chotis" song, when I came across, or rather, no exaggeration, I nearly tripped over a pile of metal things scattered on the floor. I thought it was the fault of the decades-old compulsion, zoologically common in moles, of the City of Madrid to dig up the streets. I admit that I had had a rough evening. Before I began to blaspheme, I realised that what my eyes were seeing was a ‘sculpture', cut in pieces more than deconstructed. The plaque took me from a furious uncertainty to a mixture of perplexity and sadness. (...) I hadn't seen anything so (once more, excuse me for saying what I think, even at the expense of friendship) disastrous in a long time. (...) I thought, making a sudden mental connection, that one cannot misappropriate the spot of La Violetera and get away with it. (...) The worst thing was that I even felt nostalgia for that tacky thing as a fitting antidote for trans-pompier art. (...) I will repeat myself over and over again in describing what I saw: stupidity served in bulk, aesthetics of posh (pseudo) antagonists, zombie literalism, canonised hash and mess and, something blatant, shameless plagiarism (for example, in those birds of Casa de América)". Castro Flórez, Fernando. Nostalgias de La violetera (multi-pass, futuribles y otros merodeos). ABC Cultural [ABC]. 14th February 2004, p 32.
(9) "From the architectural interference of Santiago Cirugeda, to LaHostiaFineArts which sets out a post-situationist drift through Usera, the display of messages by Fernando Llanos in Videoman and the Watchtower of Noaz and Dier, we are evidencing something more than mere metaphorical operations to get over the act. All of them emphasise the urgent need to rethink the metropolitan, to offer courses and standpoints that go beyond aesthetic pleasure or the conversion of artistic experience into a supplement of entertainment culture. The community is not possible; we must escape a rhetoricalized nihilism or a hermetic attitude that will ultimately lead to critical impotence". Castro Flórez, Fernando. El arte hueco y el montaje plano. ABCD de Las Artes y Las Letras [ABC]. 8th-14th March 2008, pp. 44-45.
(10) Pozuelo, Abel H. Madrid intervenido. El Cultural [El Mundo]. 14th-20th February 2008, pages 76-78.
(11) Other numeric data includes the number of visitors to Madrid Abierto's website, which in 2007 was 42,066 with 235,963 pages consulted. Only in the month of February 2008, the figures were 10,519 and 76,122, respectively, 49,761 pages corresponding to the USA, 18,566 to Spain, 2,257 to non-identified countries and 1,924 to other EU countries.