Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm, Mexico, Paris, San Francisco or Santiago de Chile are just some of the cities that have been able to enjoy the Fundación MAPFRE exhibitions.


Faithful to one of its main objectives — to bring art and culture to the general public through its exhibitions — Fundación MAPFRE has spent the past ten years producing a comprehensive program of traveling exhibitions focused especially on its photographic collections.

In 2009, our Foundation initiated a new line of exhibitions by launching an ambitious project that no other museum in Madrid was offering. The idea was to maintain a permanent program of photographic exhibits throughout the year, with each show presenting a comprehensive vision of one photographer’s artistic career. From the outset, the program focused either on photography’s grand masters or on contemporary artists who, while they are still in mid-career, have already achieved what might be termed their first artistic maturity and, with it, an early, indisputable consolidation as an international artist, yet have not been afforded a major exhibition in Madrid or Barcelona so far.

Thanks to this approach, the Foundation has become a benchmark institution in this area on the international stage and this has enabled it to forge strong links with other 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 coproduction of major exhibitions of the oeuvre of Garry Winogrand, Paul Strand, Peter Hujar or Josef Koudelka, to name but a few.

In order to achieve greater international resonance, the Foundation strives to ensure that all its projects travel to other cities once they have been presented in our exhibition halls in Madrid and, since 2016, in Barcelona. For this reason, over the years, the Foundation has established a network of national and international institutional collaborations with centers such as the FOAM in Amsterdam, the Jeu de Paume in Paris, the Fotomuseum in Rotterdam, the George Eastmann House in Rochester, the C/O Berlin in Berlin, the Andalusian Center of Photography in Almería or the Sala Rekalde in Bilbao, among others. In addition, it has given the works of artists such as Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Walker Evans, Emmet Gowin, Fazal Sheikh, Dayanita Singh or Gotthard Schuh the chance to be exhibited in Brazil, Colombia or Mexico.

This fall, for the first time, we have the exceptional case of the Brassaï, Berenice Abbott and Richard Learoyd exhibits produced by the Foundation coinciding in Amsterdam and The Hague. Moreover, the Jeu du Paume in Paris will be hosting the Peter Hujar exhibi

The Foundation has become a benchmark institution in the photographic area on the international stage

Nadia Arroyo, manager of Fundación MAPFRE’s Culture Area

Cultural institutions of great international prestige have hosted photography exhibitions produced by Fundación MAPFRE in their halls. What does this mean for the Foundation?
The work we undertake to further promote our traveling exhibitions is of tremendous importance to us, as it enables us to boost the national and international repercussion of our activity and also reduce costs. Over the years, we are proud to say that we have risen to become a cultural institution others look up to, given our ability to organize projects that can be adapted and presented in other exhibition halls.

Moreover, thanks to these shows, we have progressively built up and consolidated a network of contacts with other institutions which are potential lenders of works for the painting exhibitions we program in Madrid and Barcelona. The result is that these photography projects also increase the chance of our being able to borrow some exceptional works. This was the case, for example, of Picasso’s Self-Portrait from 1906, with which we opened the Picasso in the Studio exhibition at our Recoletos Halls in 2014, a work which rarely leaves the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This loan proved possible thanks to our collaboration with the Paul Strand exhibit which was to be presented one year later in Philadelphia, Winterthur, Madrid and London.

Which project has been the most relevant over these years?
There have been several, but if I have to pinpoint one in particular, I would mention that of the French photographer of Hungarian descent, Brassaï. This exhibition was presented last year at the Foundation’s halls in Madrid and Barcelona, before moving on to the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco (SFMOMA), an institution of recognized prestige worldwide. The Brassaï exhibition was on show recently at the Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico, where it was really well received by public and critics alike. Since September, it has been at the FOAM in Amsterdam.

Brassaï is a clear example of the extended life all our projects enjoy, once the doors of our exhibition halls are closed on them. All of them travel to at least two or three European or American institutions, thereby multiplying the impact of the Foundation’s activity.

What will the most outstanding photography project be in 2020?
In June 2020 we will be opening an international photography center in Barcelona, which will not only host six temporary exhibitions a year, but also several series of seminars on the exhibits and techniques, as well as an educational program for schools and families.

Peter Galassi, chief curator of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York from 1991 to 2011, and curator of the Brassai exhibition

What do you make of the current global scenario of photography?
During the 30 years at MoMA I tried to keep up with current photography. I failed of course, but I tried hard. I do have the sense that the relative rise of photography’s status within the contemporary art world may have benefitted some photographers by enabling them to make a living from their work—and that certainly is positive—but I’m not at all sure that it has led to better work in photography. Certainly there are many outstanding artists at work today, in many different places, but I have the feeling that the whole circus is somehow less than the sum of its parts.

For over 10 years Fundación MAPFRE has been carrying out an extensive photography exhibition program. What do you think about its trajectory? And how does it compare to other institutions that develop similar photography programs?
I think that Fundación MAPFRE’s photography program has been extraordinarily impressive, and I want to stress that for me, the very beautiful books that accompany the exhibitions are just as important as the exhibitions themselves—in some ways more important, since they don’t disappear and can travel anywhere. (I feel honored that I was able to work on one of these exhibitions and books.) In the short space of a decade, Fundación MAPFRE has established itself as one of the leading photography programs, first in Europe, and now throughout the West. It’s an astonishing achievement.

Peter Galassi

One possible pathway to future development might be to loosen somewhat the format of full retrospectives of individual photographers. As an example: a project that I’m working on at the moment has led me to recognize (as I hadn’t fully before) the extraordinary richness of Irving Penn’s career as a portraitist. All Penn retrospectives include some outstanding portraits, of course, but the need to cover the full range of his work inevitably limits how deep the exhibition can go in any one area. Consequently, as well known as Penn is, there are many excellent portraits that in effect are never seen.

Are there any other great photographers whose work you’d like to see in the Fundación MAPFRE exhibition rooms?
I don’t have in front of me a list of the exhibitions that Fundación MAPFRE has already put on, so I may make the mistake of including some names that are on that list. With that said—and with apologies for what I’m sure is an American bias—the people who come to mind are: Robert Adams, Josef Albers, Diane Arbus, Tina Barney, Herbert Bayer, Bernd + Hilla Becher, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Ilse Bing, Bill Brandt, Harry Callahan, Thomas Demand, Rineke Dijkstra, Robert Doisneau, William Eggleston, Hugo Erfurth, Elliott Erwitt, Larry Fink, Louis Faurer, Frank Gohlke, David Goldblatt, Paul Graham, Jan Groover, Florence Henri, Heinrich Kühn, Russell Lee, Helen Levitt, Santu Mofokeng, Man Ray, Boris Mikhailov, , Tina Modotti, László Moholy-Nagy, Gilles Peress, Alexander Rodchenko, Judith Joy Ross, Erich Salomon, Michael Schmidt, Ben Shahn, Charles Sheeler, Aaron Siskind, Frederick Sommer, Edward Steichen, Christer Strömholm, Josef Sudek, Maurice Tabard, Umbo, Weegee, Henry Wessel, Edward Weston and Minor White.

Entrevista Peter MacGill, President of the Pace/MacGill Gallery

What do you make of the current global scenario of photography?
I think that it’s a very exciting time as more people, institutions, and galleries are embracing photography. My sense is that there is a willingness to incorporate photography into broad-based programs as opposed to keeping it isolated. This approach allows photography to be seen alongside painting, sculpture, and video, where it belongs, and this evolution is creating well-deserved scholarship and excitement in the field. Too, the fact that millions of people have sophisticated digital cameras and advanced distribution systems in their pockets has nurtured a huge number of people to use photography as their language for communication on a daily basis.

For over 10 years Fundación MAPFRE has been carrying out an extensive photography exhibition program. What do you think about its trajectory? And how does it compare to other institutions that develop similar photography programs?
I think Fundación MAPFRE’s trajectory is nothing short of remarkable and am among the many thousands who thank Fundación MAPFRE for what they are doing. At the very minimum, the Foundation is commissioning extraordinary scholarship, curating wonderful exhibitions, and encouraging countless people to see great works of art and carefully consider the beautifully made books, which chronicle their exhibitions.

I don’t think that there’s another institution developing such a robust program in photography. Too, I believe the leading cultural institutions in the world rely on Fundación MAPFRE to form supportive partnerships to bring forward exhibition and publication concepts which wouldn’t, without Fundación MAPFRE’s support, ever be realized.

Are there any other great photographers whose work you’d like to see in the Fundación MAPFRE exhibition rooms?
I would like to see Gilles Peress, Kiki Smith, David Goldblatt, Jim Goldberg, JoAnn Verburg, Henry Wessel, Yto Barrada, and Lucas Samaras

Internationally recognized publications

Paz Errázuriz

As a complement to each of its exhibitions, Fundación MAPFRE publishes a catalog which includes a reproduction of the photographs on show and texts by curators or specialists in the field, so as to offer a complete study of each artist and their work. In order to reach the widest possible audience and maximize their impact, on many occasions these are jointly produced with other international publishing houses in several languages. We could cite the noteworthy example of the Stephen Shore catalog in 2014, published in English, French, German and Italian, with a total circulation of over 16,000 copies. These publications have sometimes gone on to become international reference works, as The New York Times Magazine recently recognized in an article on the ten best books of 2018, which included two of the Foundation’s catalogs, on Shomei Tomatsu and Brassaï. But this was not the only case; that same year, the New York Review Books highlighted the catalog for the Peter Hujar. Speed of Life exhibit and, in 2017, The New York Times Magazine also mentioned in the same ranking the catalog for the Paz Errázuriz exhibition.