Antonio Lucas Madrid


Updated Wednesday, February 28, 2024-9:30 p.m.

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Manolo Valdés, painter, Valencian, 82 years old.

He has lived in New York since 1989. He was the other part of Equipo Crónica, the collective of two (the other was Rafael Solbes) that

popularized pop in Spain

and developed a painting with a critical appetite against the dictatorship.

In 1981 Solbes died and Valdés chose to continue alone.

He held out for a few more years in Valencia and in 1989 decided to try his luck in New York.

The project was to test the city for a year.

He's 35. He has a studio between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue.

Little by little he has lost his sentimental ties with Spain.

He does not regret it, he just recognizes that the past is a portable suitcase with which he travels without nostalgia.

"I have few ties left here

," she says.

"I got rid of the house in Madrid and what I had in Valencia. My family was disappearing, as well as my closest friends. So the tank of affection was emptied. It's a bit dizzying, yes. I don't know the people anymore either. of the profession that is emerging, nor what they do. Before I was aware of everything, but distance and time prevail.

It seems like chosen isolation.

Although it isn't either.

"What you lose on one side you gain on another."

Manolo Valdés has an exhibition in Madrid.

He titles it



For some years he has been working with Opera Gallery, an international firm with 16 offices around the world.

He displays some large-format fabrics in the room, material-laden burlap.

And sculptures by the Valdés label: heads with crazy headdresses and an accumulation of metals, butterflies, impure glass, resins... Any waste will do.

"I continue to be a voyeur. I do not lose my amazement. I learn the same from a painting as from a stained glass window. And what interests me I bring to my work. If Picasso taught me that eyes can be painted in a crazy way on a face,

any material can give me other unpublished keys


He also presents an artist's book, a giant artifact, published by Ártika publishing house.

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The work of this


Valencian who

belonged to the Communist Party

and took steps forward in his own way is exhibited halfway around the world.

"I have always been interested, and more and more, in showing my things in places where they don't know me. In South Korea, in China, in Taiwan... I am seduced by the idea of ​​showing my interpretations of

Queen Mariana of Austria

in countries where almost no one knows the work of Velázquez, whom I have researched so much.

And his painting and his sculpture give off an obsessive insistence that

limits to the north with Matisse, to the east with Goya, to the west with Ribera and to the south with Velázquez


The art for the art.

"As long as there is memory there are reasons. And my memory is fed by the history of painting, which is never exhausted."

- What if it was repeating itself?

- At some point they suggested something like that to me.

And I hesitated, but I have already overcome those anxieties.

I have been working without complexes for a long time


The Opera Gallery exhibition is full of whims.

Of my whims.

I'm no longer worried about having a strategy.

And I assure you it is a liberation.

- Do you miss something?

- Something about what.

- For example, the

cultural effervescence of the 80s

, when this country was yet to be made.

- A little of that is missing.

They were tough, but exciting years.

I knew, for example, what some critics were going to say about my work at each exhibition, and they were not always pleasant things.

I think of Francisco Calvo Serraller or Fernando Huici, who had important tribunes in the press in the 80s or 90s.

They hit me hard at times and, however, now I miss them


They made a difference in the cultural debate.

A high debate.

A serious debate.

They weren't favorable to me, okay, but there was a level that you don't find today.

When he decided to settle in New York he was one of the thousands of artists trying their luck there


He did well and soon he signed with the Marlborough gallery.

Then he decided not to return to Spain except to visit.

He was involved in the creation of the Valencian Institute of Modern Art (Ivam) and in so many adventures.

But when he moved

he found the possibility of working better, without so much noise around him


He is now in dozens of public and private collections.

"I achieved success when I became the best-known person in the building where I have my workshop," he jokes.

"Until recently the British painter Cecily Brown arrived and she took that position from me."

He does not know what work of his will hang on the ArcoMadrid stands (from March 6 to 10 at Ifema), but he expresses a complaint.


I haven't visited the fair in years. I won't this year either.

I'm very upset."

And so?

"The gallery that represents me, Opera Gallery, has not made the cut made by three or four shitty local galleries. They have banned an international gallery from an international fair. It's laughable. It doesn't matter what they think of Opera Gallery's work or of their artists [they represent Baselitz, Tony Cragg, Giacometti or Dubuffet, among others], but how can they consider themselves qualified to censor a brand much more important than them. The

Arco selection committee is a horror. To what degree of deterioration have we reached?

This fair has a surplus of useless galleries. In Juana de Aizpuru's time this was unthinkable. That woman is a heroine. She had judgment, she imposed. But what is happening now...".

And he counts the days until he returns.