The "la Caixa" Collection of Contemporary Art grew out of our commitment to bring art and culture to the people. In the early 1980s, the "la Caixa" Banking Foundation began organising exhibitions that presented the latest in contemporary art and showed how works were linked to the art of the twentieth century. It was an exciting time, marked by innovative projects that established contacts between artists of different generations and trends.
The art scene was opening up, which made it possible to interpret Spanish art in an international context. It was also an ideal time to reflect on the role art should play in society.
This excitement, opening and reflection gave rise to the idea of going beyond temporary exhibitions and creating a collection that would fill the gap that existed at that time in Spain, where contemporary art had not yet found a place in museums and major collections.
The original idea was to preserve the memory of the present, connect Spanish art to major international trends, and create a collection that would allow us to bring contemporary art to the public and promote awareness and study in this area.
Since 1985 the "la Caixa" Collection of Contemporary Art has grown to include over one thousand works. The original nucleus of the collection consisted of works created in the 1980s, the period when it was established. The focus was on finding works that were notable for their impact and significance. Later, pieces were added to progressively reconstruct the broader frame of reference, with the acquisition of works by major artists of the 1960s and 1970s, many of whom are still active. An effort was also made to include works that could be related to each other and that would serve to stimulate the creative activity of young artists.
From the start the collection had an international orientation. Some of the first artists represented were Joseph Beuys, Bruce Nauman, Antoni Tàpies, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Anselmo Giovanni, Giuseppe Penone, Luis Gordillo, Joan Hernández Pijuan, Robert Ryman, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Antoni Muntadas, Mike Kelley, Robert Mangold, Agnes Martin, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Ilya Kabakov and Paul McCarthy.
The collection has been rounded out with works by present-day artists like Roni Horn, Steve McQueen, Pierre Huyghe, Juan Uslé, Cornelia Parker, Marlene Dumas, Mona Hatoum, Cristina Iglesias, Damián Ortega, Francis Alÿs, James Coleman, Olafur Eliasson and Dora García.
Over time, the collection has developed its own momentum and opened up pathways to new expressions and visions of contemporary art. All artistic practices are represented, from painting and sculpture to photography, film, installation and video art. The "la Caixa" Collection of Contemporary Art is not intended to be encyclopedic in scope. Nor does it aspire to offer a comprehensive overview of styles and movements. Rather, it takes as its point of departure the individual character of the artists represented and showcases the diversity of options and the wealth of visual and conceptual discourses found in contemporary art.
Exhibitions serve as a means of bringing the collection to the public. "la Caixa" Banking Foundation's CaixaForum centres in Barcelona, Madrid, Palma and other cities regularly present selected works from the collection, which are organized in relation to a topical theme or an intrinsic aspect of artistic practice. Shows are based on diverse readings of the works, ranging from formal approaches to interpretations based on a more sociological perspective. The works featured may be selected by an independent curator or an artist, resulting in an exhibition that reflects their particular vision of contemporary art. These collaborations can lead to surprising combinations and readings that offer fresh insights. More than ever before, the collection can be seen as a living thing that reflects the spirit of our times.
"la Caixa" Banking Foundation is determined to break down the barrier that separates many people from art and culture. Exhibitions are always accompanied by outreach activities aimed at different audiences. The goal is to offer keys to interpretation that allow people to engage with contemporary artists and their works.
In addition to regularly being on show in CaixaForum exhibition rooms, in recent years works from the "la Caixa" Collection of Contemporary Art have featured in over a hundred exhibitions held in Spain and various countries in Europe and the Americas. This wide exposure raises awareness of the collection and reflects its spirit: connection with the living reality of present-day art, and the capacity to create associations and forge links between art and the world around us. In pursuit of the same objectives, "la Caixa" Banking Foundation has established an important partnership with the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) to provide a framework for joint projects.
When we talk about the "la Caixa" Collection of Contemporary Art we use the word commitment. Our commitment is to society, which is the subject of art and its mirror; to art professionals, who explore its meaning; to artists, who imagine, reflect and pose questions; and to the public, at whom their works are directed.