Culture / Art Republik

Good As Gold: Manolo Valdés at Opera Gallery Singapore

Opera Gallery Singapore presents the sculptures of Spanish artist Manolo Valdés

Sep 14, 2017 | By Art Republik

Manolo Valdés, ‘Cabeza Dorada’, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Opera Gallery

In his first exhibition in Asia, Spanish artist Manolo Valdés (b. 1942) will be showing at Opera Gallery Singapore from 15 September to 15 October, and is supported by the Singapore Tourism Board. The show will also take to the street in order to bring the art to the people, with 11 sculptures running along the boardwalk beginning from Ion Orchard, where the gallery is located.

Manolo Valdés notes, “You see the same sculptures change as they interact with the landscape and their surroundings or vice-versa, and it’s wonderful to see how the same sculpture talks to you in very different locations and how it influences its surroundings.” The thing about public art is, well, it is public. It must function outside of a vacuum (a place the art world sometimes calls the ‘white cube’). As a consequence, it is crucial for a sculptor of public art to think carefully about his or her works’ adaptability to a mutable environment.

To Valdés, his monumental sculptures should constantly be tested in a public space.  The same sculpture speaks differently in different locations. The sculptures that Opera Gallery will show have been displayed in many places before arriving in Singapore, including Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain; Chatsworth House, England; Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, USA; Hofgarten, Düsseldorf, Germany; Jardins des Boulingrins, Monaco; New York Botanical Garden, USA; and Place Vendôme, Paris, France.

Manolo Valdés, ‘Fiore Bronze’, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Opera Gallery

The context of each location leads the response to the work. At Chatsworth House, a private English home away from the city, the use of natural elements such as butterflies echo the English country. At the New York Botanical Garden, the elegant female forms and tasteful millinery reflect the city’s reputation of fashionable sensibilities. At Place Vendôme, built in 1702 and previously home to people like Frédéric Chopin, the weight of history bears down on the sculptures and suggests a touristic expectation of cultured France. Valdés’ sculptures are adaptable, localising itself firmly into its environment.

The sculptures that Opera Gallery will show reflect Asia’s cosmopolitanism and Singapore’s reputation as a garden city. An example is Valdés’ brand new sculpture, ‘Cabeza Dorada’. Finished in brass and golden stainless steel, the sunlit effect in Singapore’s tropical climate is remarkable. This bust, which has the indeterminate facial features typical of his work, is crowned with a nest of sleek, elegant gold poles that subtly remind us of the built-up nature of urban Singapore. There are also three ‘Butterflies’ sculptures in bronze, steel and aluminium.

While his sculptures often seem to take centre stage, quite literally because of its size, Valdés is a painter at heart, and says that he “can’t imagine a life without painting”. He reacts and reflects upon the works he sees, reads or experiences in museums. The most evident influence in his work for the Singapore audience is Diego Velázquez, a 17th-century Spanish painter. Two of the sculptures that Opera Gallery will show are ‘Reina Mariana’ and ‘Infanta Margarita’, which are made after ‘La Infanta Margarita Con Vestido Azul’ and ‘Las Meninas’ by Velázquez.

Manolo Valdés, ‘Reina Mariana’, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Opera Gallery

What puts Valdés’ practice together is not a specialisation in sculpture or painting. Rather, it is the genre of portraiture. While artists might have been portraying people since the beginning of art, it was only around the 15th century that some paintings of people began to be seen as portraits. The idea of a portrait implies self-consciousness, and is suffused with the belief that art is able to portray more than just superficial beauty. Like his constant eye on art history, Valdés’ interest in the human face is a positive outlook on art’s power to speak of the personality within as well as about the world around it.

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This article was written by Chloe Ho for the upcoming issue of Art Republik.

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