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Category Archives for César Manrique

Housing Bubble – Exploring The César Manrique Foundation

If you’re staying in one of our villas in Costa Teguise, such as Villa Catamaran you are just a ten minute drive away from a property that is really out of this world.  As the small village of Tahiche, which is just a couple of kilometres from this coastal resort is home to the César Manrique Foundation, which used to be the home and studio of the eminent artist of the same name, who was born on Lanzarote in 1919 and who played a vital role in the controlled development of tourism on the island.

 

Cesar Manrique Foundation, Tahiche, Lanzarote

Going Underground at The CMF

 

Gone With The Wind

Given the amount of wind that Lanzarote is subjected to – the island is located in the path of the Trade Winds – it is no surprise to find that cave houses and other partially submerged dwellings have quite a heritage here, providing much needed protection from the elements.  The famous artist César Manrique took this concept one stage further though in 1968, when he built the first stage of his home, which at this time was known as the Taro de Tahiche.

Housing Bubbles

Manrique had found the site for his new house when out walking with friends across the lava fields which dominate in this part of the island.  Glancing the green shoots of a fig tree across the flow, the artist stumbled across a series of large underground chambers, which were to become the basement of his new home.  Creating an amazing edifice on two levels with a total surface area of 1800 metres square, along with a further 1200 metres dedicated to terracing and gardens.

Traditional Features

Manrique had long preached the importance of maintaining and preserving the islands rich architectural heritage to other islanders, so it is little surprise to find that the upper and most visible level of his house pays homage to these same styles and traditions.  Featuring elements such as the distinctive, almost Russian Orthodox looking chimney shape and uniform white washed walls.

Visitors enter via a bougainvillea clad wooden door that leads into a small entrance hallway, giving glimpses of one of the chambers below.  This entrance then opens out into the main upper level exhibition space, which features works by some of Manrique’s contemporaries such as Pablo Picasso.

Public and Private Spaces

Underground Chamber, CMF, Lanzarote

Subterrenean Living....

Today, the Taro de Tahiche is home to the César Manriqe Foundation, a body dedicated to pursuing the artist’s protectionist policies and as a result is an interesting mix of both public exhibition space alongside intimate glimpses into more private areas, such as bathrooms and living rooms.

Like all of Manrique’s best known works the site features a beautiful water feature, which is the prelude to entering the subterrenean volcanic chambers below.  Here Manrique interlinked the five volcanic bubbles beneath his house creating a separate and distinct environment in each.  Which visitors have to pass through before finally emerging into a much larger gallery space which houses lots of Manrique’s best known canvasses.  The interaction between man and nature is also aknowledged here with the odd rock from the surrounding lava flow incoporated into the walls.

As well as paintings, visitors can also view a selection of other Manrique memorabilia such as pottery, graphic designs and drawings for some of his architectural creations such as the Mirador Del Rio.

The César Manrique Foundation certainly provides a fascinating insight into the life and work of the man who has made such an impact on Lanzarote and as such is a real must see for anyone keen to know more about the island’s culture and development.

Background Information

The CMF is open daily from 10.00 to 18.00 and admission costs €8 per adult, with children under 12 admitted free of charge.  The Foundation also stage regular exhibitions and are currently showing Workshop of Dreams, a recreation of the work space created by the artist in Haria, where he lived after moving away from Tahiche.

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Art Cars, Manrique & The Olympics

 

Cesar Manrique, BMW Art Car Collection

Driven By Design...Manrique´s Art Car

Cesar Manrique was pimping rides long before MTV got into the game.  And his famous BMW Art Car is currently on show in London as part of the London 2012 Festival, which is being staged to help mark the Olympics in the UK capital.

Art Drive! Exhibition

Art Drive! Is an event that is being organised by the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) in London and features 15 vehicles from the BMW Art Cars Collection.  Every year since 1975 BMW has invited a leading contemporary artist to customise a BMW 730i in their own individual style.  And over time this has led to a veritable who´s who of the modern art world contributing to this unique and innovative project.

Car Canvasses

Previous contributors include Andy Warhol in 1979, David Hockney in 1995 and Roy Lichtenstein in 1997.  And Lanzarote´s favourite son Cesar Manrique made his mark on the project when he was invited to customize a BMW in 1990.  The resulting design typifies Manrique´s colourful, high impact abstract style – and along with the other vehicles in the collection can now be viewed for free in London over the coming weeks.

In true art guerrilla style the ICA have commandeered the brutalist architecture of the Great Eastern Street NCP Car Park in Shoreditch as their gallery display space and backdrop for the exhibition of 15 vehicles from the Art Car Collection.  And they will be on display to the public free of charge until the 4th of August.

 

Art Drive, BMW Art Car Collection

Another Car Canvas on Display in London

Birth of the Art Car

The whole art car concept came about as the result of an idea originated by a French art and car lover called Herve Poulain who wanted to combine his twin passions in order to make a memorable splash in the Le Mans 24 Hours Race.  Poulain was close friends with Alexander Calder – one of the most eminent sculptors of his day – and in tandem, the pair approached BMW and persuaded them to allow Calder to customise a car for entry in the gruelling 24 hour rally.  The concept of the Art Car was born!

BMW were so delighted with the resulting publicity that they soon began commissioning other artists to come up with their own designs for future events and over time the project became a showcase for some of the biggest names in the art world.

Manrique was perhaps a slightly unusual choice as the artist had reservations about the impact of motor cars on the natural world that he fought so hard to protect.  But at the same time the pragmatic artist also accepted that cars were an inevitable and indispensable facet of life in the modern world, so he accepted the commission.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of Manrique´s ultimate demise will recognize the rather bitter irony of this decision as just two years later the artist was killed in a fatal car crash just yards from his home in Tahiche (now the Cesar Manrique Foundation).

The BMW Art Car Collection has been exhibited in most of the world´s major art galleries such as the Louvre in Paris and the Tate in London.  And the ICA´s latest event adds a further modern twist to this fascinating collusion between the art world and BMW.

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César´s Empire – Manrique´s Lanzarote

César Manrique, Art Cars

César Manrique

“Those of us born of you (Lanzarote), those of us who know about your magic, your wisdom, the secrets of your volcanic structure, your revolutionary aesthetics; those who have fought to rescue you from your enforced historical isolation and the poverty which you have always suffered, begin to tremble with fear as we see how you are destroyed and submitted to massification.  We realize just how futile our accusations and cries for help are to the ears of speculators in their hysterical avarice.”César Manrique

Hail César

It’s hard to visit Lanzarote without coming across the name of César Manrique.  His giant wind toys are visible on roundabouts across the island, whilst the six Centres of Art, Culture and Tourism that he developed during an intensively creative period between 1968 and his untimely death in 1992 remain the most popular tourist attractions on Lanzarote to this day. 

But perhaps most importantly Manrique also helped to protect the island from the worst depravations of property developers and speculators during the tourist boom – heading off the sort of ecological destruction that so devastated the Spanish Costas and indeed other Canary Islands during the 1970´s and 80´s. 

Early Years

Manrique was born on April 24th 1919 (along with his twin brother) in the island capital of Arrecife into a middle class family and quickly started to express himself fluently through his precocious talent for drawing.  Arrecife was very much a working port city at the time and the young César was fascinated by the various trades and crafts this engendered – possibly sowing the seeds for his own expressions of plastic art in later life.

The sea – namely the Atlantic – also had a profound impact on him as a child, especially during long summer breaks taken in Caleta de Famara on Lanzarote´s rugged North West coast.    Where Manrique became completely beguiled by the intense natural beauty of this setting, a fact that he himself later noted during a speech in 1992;

“Today my childhood memories are very close. Those wild summers in Caleta, where light was my personal possession and every day the sea filled the salty fisherman´s eyes of Feliciano strike me with nostalgia and joy.”

First Steps As An Artist

By 1939 Manrique – along with the rest of Spain – was emerging from the horror of the Civil War, a conflict that must have been especially injurious to the sensitive young artist and which helped to foster a stridently anti militaristic outlook. 

Manrique now started to immersed himself in the art world – making connections with Canarian sculptors such as Pancho Lasso and painters such as Alberto Sanchez, both of whom encouraged him to continue developing his obvious talent.  By 1942 Manrique was staging his first exhibition and by 1944 was showing his paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Madrid, along with other young Canarian artists.  He then moved to the capital a year later to study at the St Ferdinand Fine Arts Academy and began earning renown as one of the nation´s brightest young talents, before going on to found the Fernando Fe Gallery in 1955, which provided an ideal showcase for his abstract, non figurative works.

As is often the case with artists this growing reputation earned recognition from the corporate world and Manrique was commissioned to create paintings and murals for a number of public and private spaces, most notably at Barajas Airport in Madrid.  This brought Manrique into contact with architects and planners, sowing the seeds for his future battles with speculators whilst also providing inspiration for his own larger scale projects, such as the Jameos del Agua and the Mirador del Rio, which were both considerable feats of engineering.

New York, New York

After the bereavement of his partner Pepi in 1963 Manrique was seeking fresh stimulus and a change of scene – and decided to move to New York, which at this time was a veritable hot house of artistic and cultural expression and development.  Here Manrique came into contact with the leading players in the nascent pop art scene, such as Warhol and Rothko – influences that were to have an enormous impact on his development.

But at the same time Manrique missed Lanzarote – and was aware that the development of tourism, if left unchecked, could spell disaster for the island´s fragile volcanic landscapes, ecology and culture.

“I am a little apprehensive about the avalanche of tourists which is approaching Lanzarote.”

Return To Lanzarote

 

Jameos del Agua, Lanzarote

Jameos del Agua

Manrique was intelligent and pragmatic enough to know that tourism provided a way out of the poverty which was the norm for the vast majority of the island´s residents.  His skill lay in striking a balance between development and conservation – creating unique, ecologically friendly attractions and evolving a recognizable ‘Lanzarote brand’ for visitors to idenfify with, whilst at the same time preserving the nature of the island intact.  A philosophy that is best exemplified by his creation of the Jameos del Agua.

In conjunction with the island government he also created a model for controlled territorial planning, which effectively outlawed high rise buildings and which also confined and controlled the spread of the tourist resorts on the south coast of Lanzarote.  This proto ecological model soon won plaudits and acclaim worldwide – picking up the World Ecology and Tourism Award in 1978 and ultimately helping Lanzarote to secure the status of a World Biosphere Reserve from UNESCO in 1993.

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