on site art projects

Salamanca – self-proclaimed Ciudad de Cultura y Saberes (City of Culture and Knowledge) – houses the oldest university in Spain, numerous culturally important buildings and sites as magnificent witnesses of a three thousand years old history and especially the 16th century with the city being a European center of learning. Thus, though Salamanca’s cultural and historical importance cannot and should not be denied, it must have been painfully obvious in 1998, when the city was declared European Capital of Culture for the year 2002 (shared with Bruges), that something is terribly missing – a space for contemporary art. Consequently, the city’s old provincial prison, originally constructed in 1930, was remodeled and the much-needed space – Domus Artium 2002, often shortened to DA2, as a center of contemporary art – was finally born with more than 2.600 m² of room for display.

A former prison transformed into a center of contemporary art. Photo: © Domus Artium 2002. Fundación Salamanca Ciudad de Cultura y Saberes.   

Being integrated in the Fundación Salamanca Ciudad de Cultura y Saberes, established by the City Council of Salamanca in 2003, the center houses two art collections – the Colección DA2 containing works by national as well as international contemporary artists and the Colección/Fundación Coca-Cola focusing on Spanish and Portuguese art. Generally, the exhibition program is aimed at displaying the most recent tendencies in Spanish and international art, concentrating on the period from the 1990s onwards till today, while trying to support especially younger local and regional artists. This ambition is more or less fulfilled with the exhibitions currently on display at the DA2.

Alexis Esquivel, Unforgettable, Acrylic on canvas, 2014. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: © Anna Sauer.   

With Memorial Garden, a touring exhibition previously displayed in the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (CAAM) in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in 2014, featuring Cuban artist Alexis Esquivel, the international part is covered. In this exhibition, Esquivel’s engagement with the genre of History painting applied to showing scenes of political events in the 21st century in general and broaching postcolonial issues still relevant today can be seen.

Exhibition view of Con la boca abierta, Domus Artium 2002, 2015. Photo: © Anna Sauer.   

DA2’s claim of showing Spanish contemporary artists, is currently achieved by the exhibition Con lo boca abierta, a touring exhibition coming from the Centro de Arte Tomás y Valiente (CAERT) in Fuenlabrada, and presenting 54 black-and-white photographs by Cristina García Rodero, considered to be one of the most important Spanish photographers. As the exhibition title already reveals, all the photographs show a group of people or one person from all ages and races, nationalities, cultures, male and female, with their mouths open – because of joy, grief, anger, astonishment or amazement, in order to share a kiss or in a ritual context, for example.

 Exhibition view of Muestra de proyectos de la Escuela de Arte de Salamanca (EAS). Domus Artium 2002, 2015. Photo: © Anna Sauer.    

Another current exhibition at the DA2 is dedicated to artworks by students of the Escuela de Arte de Salamanca (EAS), the School of Arts of Salamanca. Thus, this display features young local and regional artists, fulfilling another one of the center’s ambitions. The art shown ranges from (traditional) sculpture, photography, ready-mades, painting, graphic art, drawing to audio art, and offers some extremely interesting and promising new ideas and positions in contemporary art; maybe one should keep names as Jennifer Custodio Pérez (Blancos y negros), Adrián Castañeda Romero (Un palo del que trepar) and Luis San Francisco Andrés (Nos queda la palabra) in mind.

Though the DA2 seems to be treated slightly stepmotherly by the City Council of Salamanca within the city’s cultural program, since the center is located quite outside the usual city-tourist-buzz and does not appear to be much promoted, and while also the adoption of touring exhibitions maybe indicates a lack of (financial) possibilities – although an understandable current problem in Spain for that matter, the Domus Artium 2002 clearly deserves more attention and is absolutely worth seeing when one is visiting Salamanca – Ciudad de Cultura y Saberes.