The Universal Exhibition of Seville in 1992 was a cultural and political event which, organised to commemorate the fifth centenary of the Conquest of the Americas, worked as a device extolling colonization. Opposite the accommodating and optimistic nature of acquired institutional splendour, some of its actors assumed a critical role. Plus Ultra (Further Beyond), the proposal curator Mar Villaespesa and the cultural production company BNV organised for the Andalusian Pavilion, was framed within this second stance.
The Plus Ultra project was divided into four exhibitions. Two of them, Tierra de Nadie (No Man’s Land) and Américas (The Americas), echoed the debates on cultural identity and representation that had started to surface in that period, as attested by the Third Havana Biennial, in 1989, and the show Les Magiciens de la Terre, organised by Centre Georges Pompidou in the same year. Plus Ultra was completed with eight Interventions on many other historical monuments, one in each Andalusian province, and with El artista y la ciudad (The Artist and the City), a survey of urban art in Seville. Although both reflected a critique of institutions’ cultural policies and the euphoria of Expo ’92, they also sought to spotlight how the art system was starting to engender collaborative practices and vindicate public space and the monument, beyond their consideration simply as historical remnants.
This is the backdrop providing context to the pieces in the room which were previously in dialogue with the urban environment but are now in the setting of the Museo and shared by Spanish artists linked to magazines such as Figura (1983–1988) and Arena Internacional del Arte (1989), and galleries like La Máquina Española and Fúcares. Some, such as Federico Guzmán, Mar Villaespesa, Pedro G. Romero, Abraham Lacalle, Victoria Gil, Rafael Agredano and Chema Cobo, appeared caricatured on Curro González’s beer jugs, an ironic cross-section of examples bordering on a generational portrait the artist had already displayed in some of Seville’s bars.
The critique of institutions and the rupture of the division between high culture and popular culture are present in the other pieces in the room. José María Giró attires a dummy with the corporate image he designed for the Andalusian Centre of Contemporary art through a backpack: the original logo designed by Chillida for the Reina Sofía which was ultimately considered unsuitable. The disapprobation of cultural globalisation and consumerism also underlies Victoria Gil’s installation.
The mural-curtain of historical figures with which the Juan Delcampo collective used to cover the old Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Sevilla underscores the interpretation of the institution-museum as a space of cultural affirmation. It was in this art centre, located opposite the Archive of the Indies, where the Agustín Parejo School played with deception and presented the installation now on view in the room: TV screens bearing scenes of Latin America’s present-day reality painted by Lenin Cumbe, an Ecuadorian artist who never actually existed.