TEXT: ALEJANDRA FERNÁNDEZ IMAGES: Fundación MAPFRE

This October, Fundación MAPFRE will be launching its new cultural project in the city of Barcelona – the KBr photography center. This initiative reinforces its commitment to this artistic practice, ongoing for over a decade now.

Our Foundation will be taking yet another step in its support and promotion of photography with the opening of its new premises, the KBr Fundación MAPFRE Photography Center. As well as continuing with the range of exhibitions currently offered, there will be new initiatives never before envisaged within the Foundation’s photographic activity. These include organizing exhibitions of photographic collections with a Catalan theme, thus protecting, promoting and disseminating the region’s heritage, and strengthening Fundación MAPFRE’s presence as a cultural force in its capital city. In this sense, next year will see the first exhibition organized in collaboration with the CRDI (Center de Recerca i Dissemination of Imatge) – Girona Town Council.

In addition, there will be a permanent educational program which, rather than offering explanations related to a specific exhibit, is designed to train the future generations to better understand the photographic language and its artistic dimension. The schedule will also include seminars and series of conferences. Due to the health crisis caused by COVID-19, and following the measures established to prevent it spreading, these initiatives will be launched from 2021 onward.

In addition to all these activities and exhibitions, a prize with an international dimension is to be created. In the words of Nadia Arroyo, Fundación MAPFRE culture manager: “following four satisfactory years actively present in the cultural life of the city, this new project clearly expresses Fundación MAPFRE’s interest in reinforcing its contribution to the dynamism and visibility of Barcelona through a medium – artistic photography – so closely associated with the cultural excellence of contemporary Catalonia.”

The Center

This new space, which replaces the current premises – Casa Garriga Nogués, located in the Eixample [Expansion] district and a fine example of Catalan Modernism – will be housed in one of the most representative buildings of modern-day Barcelona: the MAPFRE Tower, in the Olympic Port district. Located specifically in an annex known as the Vela [Sail], this distinctive curved building with street-level access boasts a total of 1,400 m2 with two exhibition halls, an area for educational activities, an auditorium and a bookstore. This is certainly an iconic setting that clearly states Fundación MAPFRE’s intention to have a marked presence in Barcelona. Check out all the information at https://kbr.fundacionmapfre.org/

These new premises are located within one of the most representative buildings of modern-day Barcelona: the MAPFRE Tower, in the Olympic Port district

And why KBr?

KBr is the chemical symbol for potassium bromide, a salt used in the analog photography development process. Its main function is to restrain or delay the action of the developing agent, so as to prevent the formation of what is known as chemical fogging, thus enabling a greater purity of whites to be obtained in the image. The name expresses the continuity of our institutional track record paying special attention to the tradition of the grand masters of photography. Moreover, the universality of the symbol reflects photography’s significance as a shared contemporary language and the profound international vocation with which the Center was conceived.

Paul Strand
Blind Woman, New York (negative),
1940s (print)
Gelatin silver print
Fundación MAPFRE Collections, FM000886
© Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Bill Brandt
Parlourmaid and Under-parloumaid Ready to Serve Dinner, 1938
© Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

Bill Brandt and Paul Strand, two fundamental artists of modern photography

The new premises will be opened with two major exhibits. The main hall will be housing photographs by Bill Brandt (Hamburg, 1904 – London, 1983).

An apprentice in Man Ray’s studio and influenced by his contemporary Brassaï, Brandt is currently considered one of the founders of modern photography, together with Walker Evans or Cartier-Bresson. His pictures, which explore society, the landscape and English literature, are indispensable for understanding the history of photography and, even, British life in the mid-20th century.

The second, on display in hall two, is the first time we have dedicated an exhibit to showcasing our collection of photographs by Paul Strand, the most extensive of this artist’s oeuvre outside the United States.

Over 100 works that offer an overview of the whole career of one of the 20th century’s most important photographers.

Passion for photography

The list of photographers is impressive: from grand masters such as Walker Evans, Eugène Atget, Lewis Hine, Álvarez Bravo, H. Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Emmet Gowin or Paul Strand, to photographers of great renown such as Fazal Sheikh, Ana Malagrida, Lynne Cohen, Stephen Shore, Hiroshi Sugimito or Richard Learoyd, among others. Over the past decade, Fundación MAPFRE’s exhibition halls have hosted memorable exhibitions of the greatest names in photography.

Fundación MAPFRE’s passion for this art form lead to its acquisition of The Brown Sisters by Nicholas Nixon in 2008 and, in 2009, Fundación MAPFRE held the first major retrospective on Walker Evans in the Azca Hall in Madrid. Since then, it has not stopped expanding. Proof of this can be seen in the opening of the Bárbara de Braganza Hall in Madrid devoted exclusively to photography and, in 2015, the Garriga Nogués Hall in Barcelona.

This commitment is today an integral part of our Foundation’s DNA, not just because of the important photography collection it has built up over the years, but also its ability to produce exhibitions that travel around the world so that many other places can enjoy these works of art. Our foundation is now considered a benchmark photographic institution on the international stage and has forged strong links with entities such as the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the Morgan Library in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the Art Institute of Chicago, leading to the co-production of major exhibitions such as those of Garry Winogrand, Paul Strand or Peter Hujar, to name but a few.

The opening of the photography center in Barcelona is one step further in the consolidation of this institution’s commitment to art and, in particular, photography