By Shanti Escalante-De Mattei
The Spanish Ministry of Culture confirmed today that it would purchase the impressive archive of avant-garde art collected by prominent Spanish businessman José María Lafuente, reported El País.
“It is a private file with a public vocation,” Lafuente told El País. “And the time has come for the transfer to the hands of the State. This is the moment.”
Known as the Lafunete Archive, the collection is compromised of 120,000 objects, 19,000 of which are original artworks, with the remainder being archival materials. While Lafuente and the Ministry of Culture have not settled on an exact figure that the Spanish State will pay to the collector to acquire the archive, the decided upon sum won’t reflect the actual value of the vast collection. “If we had to pay what those pieces are worth, there would be no money left in the General State Budgets,” Minister of Culture Miquel Iceta told El País.

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The pieces will now be managed by the Reina Sofía, the country’s main museum for 20th-century art, but will be shown in the former Banco de España building in the northern coastal city Santander. Currently, the archive’s headquarters are run out of Lafuente’s cheese factory in Heras in Cantabria, an autonomous region in Spain that also includes Santander.
Lafuente, who made his fortune in the production of mozzarella and other cheeses for a major Spanish grocery chain, first began his collection in 1992 with a screen print by Eduardo Arroyo. Soon after he expanded his collection to include Cantabrian and Spanish artists like Maruja Mallo and Eduardo Westerdahl.
But a meeting with journalist Miguel Logroño, an amateur archivist himself, inspired Lafuente to collect materials like letters, sketches, old exhibition catalogues, fanzines, posters, and more. His interest in the avant-garde expanded, and his archive came to envelop the development of avant-garde literary and artistic movements across Europe and Latin America. An emphasis on documents and ephemera related to the development of various artistic movements is a center point to the recently rehung permanent collection galleries at the Reina Sofía.
The archive is the result of enormous effort and dedication. “Buying a certain work is possible with money, but the art and the ephemeral documentation that explain how a creator has come to conceive that work is also essential to later build historiography,” he told El País. “Here we believe that what is important is not only the work, but the context in which it is produced.”

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