Saturday, November 12, 2011

Art, Where Beer Once Brewed

ABC Museum of Drawing and Illustration / Museo ABC de Dibujo y Ilustración
11/12/11 – Calle Amaniel, 29-31

The ABC Museum is so new that the image on Google Maps shows a façade still covered in graffiti.  Architects have remodeled this 1900 building (the first Mahou beer factory in Madrid) inside and out.  Except for one wall of red brick, not a hint of brewery remains.  Tucked into a narrow side street, the remodeled exterior succeeds.  The courtyard has a cool, shattered-pavement vibe.  

ABC Museum courtyard

Street view

Inside, the walls are white, and sparsely covered.  Though the museum boasts in its literature of a permanent collection, the galleries are reserved for temporary shows.  The latest exhibit, “The Elegance of the Drawing: Chronicle of Paris,” is a straight-forward presentation of over 700 fashion illustrations by Carlos Sáenz de Tejada during his time in the City of Light, 1931-36.  Docents were leading groups of 5-year-old tots and their parents through the exhibit, part of the museum’s Saturday programming for families.  Given the subject matter, the attention span of these children was most impressive. 

Exhibit space, "The Elegance of of the Drawing"

A Spaniard born in Tangier in 1897, Tejada started out as an avant-garde painter and designer for the theater, but in 1926 switched to a more practical career.  Later in life, he taught drawing and illustration at the School of Fine Arts in Madrid, where he died in 1958.  The coveted “look” for women throughout the 1930s was long, languid, and decidedly glam.  Tejada worked for the most prestigious fashion designers and magazines of his time.   

I'd wear it!

Tejada liked to include dogs

Tejada’s illustrations also appeared in American newspapers, such as the New York American (“A Paper for People Who Think”).  The culture page for 16 April 1931 features an illustration by Tejada under the banner “Frock of Shimmering Silver Cloth Is Sterling Spring Choice for Wear in Evening.”  The rest of the page contains some fascinating distractions—including enlightened advice, doled out by Arthur Dean, Sc.D., Parents’ Councelor [sic], for the parents of teen daughters who stay out dancing until 4 o’clock in the morning and return home in the cars of unknown young men.
After viewing the exhibit, I stopped in at J & J Books and Coffee, a few blocks away on Calle Espirito Santo, 47.  The cellar is lined with shelves of used paperbacks in English, the largest collection I’ve seen yet in Madrid.  Three battered copies of Eat, Pray, Love!  Upstairs at the coffee bar, an English gent bemoaned the price of doing business in Spain, while an American woman with an MBA nodded in sympathy.  In a corner, an older woman conversed with a large dog.  I left with Sue Grafton and Curtis Sittenfeld in my bag.  Every so often, we all need to wag the mother tongue.  

The exhibit “La Elegancia del Dibujo” runs until 26 February 2012.

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