Juan Genovés, 1930–2020

The Spanish artist, best known for work chronicling the country’s transition to democracy, has died. His most iconic piece, El Abrazo (The Embrace), a screenprint created in 1976, a year after Franco’s death, depicts a crowd of workers with their backs turned to the viewer as they embrace each other. Over half a million reproductions were printed and it became an emblem of the democracy movement, earning the artist a week in prison.

Earlier in his career, Genovés had been associated with various artist groups including Los Siete (The Seven) (1949), Parpallós (1956) and Hondo (1960), but embraced social realism after suffering a crisis in confidence as to the purpose of art in the face of the dictatorship. From then on, with what the artist termed an ‘obsession’, he repeatedly painted pictures of crowds, often seen from a height and rarely showing individual characteristics. The crowds would invariably be depicted running, as if trying to escape an unseen foe.

Genovés was the recipient of a number of important prizes, including the Mention of Honor at the 1966 Venice Biennale; the Gold Medal at the VI Biennale Internazionale de San Marino, 1967; the Marzotto Internazionale Prize, 1968; the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas, Spain, 1984; the Premio de las Artes Plásticas de la Generalitat Valenciana, Spain, 2002; and the Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes, Spain, 2005.

His work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; The Art Institute of Chicago; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid; Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM); and Galeria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome.

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