On Friday March 23 took place at the headquarters of the Spanish Association of Painters and Sculptors, the presentation of the book entitled “Salon Vilches. Art galleries with history “, by the author Susana Vilches Crespo, which includes an arduous investigation about the author’s grandfather, Manuel Vilches Ramón (Córdoba, 1870 – Madrid, 1940), founder of the Salón Vilches, also known as Sala or Casa Vilches.
The event was attended by José Gabriel Astudillo López, President of the Spanish Association of Painters and Sculptors, who, in an introductory manner, highlighted the work that people like Vilches carried out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in favor of Spanish art.
He also mentioned the great exhibitions that some of the partners of the entity, took place in the Salon Vilches, as was the brothers Zubiaurre, Eugenio Hermoso, Gonzalo Bilbao, Benedito, Argelés, Plá, Barbasán, Beruete, Bilbao, Domingo, Sorolla, Lupiañez, Mir, Regoyos and many of the founding partners of the centenary entity, linked this way and in this way to our institution.
But in addition, in 1952 the Association of Painters and Sculptors organized an exhibition of still lifes in the Salon Vilches, generously provided for this purpose, with works by Fausto A. Moya, Renata Obijou, Mercedes Pérez Ahumada, Ladislao Tinao, Rafael de Infantes, Manaut , Enrique Segura …
José Gabriel Astudillo, made a prologue in which he analyzed the art galleries and their importance that we reproduce here:
“Art galleries have very particular characteristics, they are often immaterial, a volatile but always material, changing and phoenix-like entity. They possess a moral entity, which denotes in a society a cultural maturity and a taste for the conservation and promotion of that heritage that elevates it to a higher instance of advanced society, capable of valuing and treasuring what its artists do.
One of the primordial functions of art galleries is that of the socialization of art. We could say that it is a bridge institution since it leads to other institutions that are much more consolidated, such as museums and collections of natural or legal persons. Another of its functions would be to revalue and put into circulation the works of art in a society.
In reality, the gallerist does what he does is translate a work of art into money while at the same time it is a quality filter of the work of art. That is to say that this translation is nothing more than an introduction of art in terms that society understands, an insertion in the economic and political-moral circulatory torrent of a society.
The galleries are commercial premises open to the public where you are not forced to buy, it is not a utilitarian trade, but is used by the community as a place of leisure and knowledge. In this sense, “the world of culture and art is a vast public good, a good that is bypassed by zones of total commerce and yet remains gloriously immune to a general commodification.
In addition to this essential purpose, to produce some benefits of intellectual or spiritual order, the artistic object has acquired a patrimonial value or of change that grants the social consensus based on the collective acceptance of its aesthetic and original content. The value of the work of art that leads to its acquisition, consists of three types of value: artistic value, use value, which in turn is characterized as value of enjoyment, production and exposure and the third value, of exchange.
“The creation of the salons …, where from the second half of the XVIII, periodically they were exposed to the public contemplation of the works of art, it was a clear antecedent of the current commercial galleries and supposed for the artist to have to face with a hitherto unusual situation of anonymous consumption, those clients without a face of the market, the freedom conquered against the a priori commission … propitiated the picturesqueness, sometimes tragic of the bohemian … “1. With the salons and the spirit of opening of artists appeared art exhibitions, first collective and later “the era of particular exhibitions was inaugurated, which became more and more frequent in the course of the XIX century … In truth, the interest of the artist to expose isolated sets of his production and the desire of the public to know such works, impelled the creation, apart from the official organizations, of the particular exhibition galleries and the new industry of the marchand … ”
Many galleries were created from shops related to the art world.
Exactly: houses of frames and mirrors, stamping shops, establishments selling products for the artist, antique dealers … When the old forms of patronage and the commission go into decline, the artist possesses the imperative need of public visuality. Then in a spontaneous way, from the method of trial and error, this type of establishments will exhibit works of art and with time they will begin to organize exhibitions.
There is a bibliographic gap on the art market and the world of galleries, motivated, among other reasons, by the great difficulty of the researcher to access primary sources. That is, to the archives of the galleries. The chrematistic dimension of the art market has motivated opacity and secrecy. And yet, every time we become aware that contemporary art is an ecosystem and that all agents, artists, critics, collectors, galleries, institutions, are interrelated and that one can not think without taking into account the other.
Contemporary art is a cultural process of interrelations and hence the growing interest in galleries and the need to study them. In the end it is about obtaining reading guidelines for the understanding of contemporary art.
That is what the book by Susana Vilches presents us, a must read to understand the current art, studying the past art that in such a masterful way, starred in the Salon Vilches.
For her part, Susana Vilches recalled the biography of the Vilches Salon founder, Manuel Vilches Ramón, who, at twenty years old, arrives in Madrid to try his fortune and is used there in the old café Fornos, where he begins to make contact with the Literary and artistic world of the capital. His boldness and unwavering confidence bear fruit in the opening of a first store in Calle del Principe 19 and 21, an establishment dedicated to the sale of artistic moldings, caricatures and miniatures, which would soon have a small space dedicated to exhibitions, since already in 1895 begins the direct deal with the artists.
Numerous are the exhibitions that are organized in the Salon Vilches during the first years of the 20th century, which will give prestige and fame to the House throughout its existence. It should be noted the passage through the establishment of such important figures in the history of Spanish art as Pradilla, Unceta, Pichot, Lam, Regoyos, Rosales, Pinazo, Rusiñol, Moreno Carbonero, Gutierrez Solana and many others.
In the twenties, the business expands its sights and moves to the Gran Vía 22 street (former Conde de Peñalver street and then José Antonio avenue) where it will remain until approximately 1955.
On the death of Manuel Vilches, in 1940, the Exhibition Hall passes into the hands of his children, although it will be José Luis, the oldest of them, present in his father’s business since his childhood, who will manage the room until the Fifties inaugurated a new room on Calle Serrano 50, while his brother Alfonso began his journey on Gran Vía 84 a few years later.