Created in 2002 by the Santander-based industrialist José María Lafuente, the Lafuente Archive sets out to assemble and disseminate a documentary map which fosters new historiographical interpretations, original perspectives and, in general, research and production of knowledge in the field of modern and contemporary art. The Archive grants a significance to transformations in the visual substance of language during the 20th century which stems from the conviction that art not only entails a process of exploration on the esthetic plane, but also constitutes a form of knowledge and communication in its own right.

Archivo Lafuente, Sede Santander
Lafuente Archive, Heras - Cantabria

The seed of the Lafuente Archive was sown in the nineteen-eighties. It was then that José María Lafuente set about assembling an art collection, which would grow rapidly with the inclusion of works by Spanish painters and sculptors. To these he gradually added pieces by international artists. Lafuente’s interest in art soon led to his gaining first-hand experience of the absence in Spain of private or institutional archives. He could find none that offered access to original sources of documentation, to the “primary information” which forms the basis for arguments on how art developed throughout the last century. Around 2002, Lafuente’s attitude and interests as regards collecting underwent a significant change of perspective. This would translate into the true founding spirit behind the Lafuente Archive. And a decisive factor in this transformation was acquisition of the documentary legacy of two figures of some relevance on the Spanish cultural scene in the second half of the 20th century.

Miguel Logroño (Zaragoza, 1937 - Madrid, 2009) was an art critic and founder of the Salón de los Dieciséis, first director of the Library of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and a friend to untold artists. Logroño’s library and personal archive, as well as various works of art, were acquired by Lafuente in July 2003. The pieces included small catalogs, ephemeral material and a huge quantity of diverse documents and publications, many of which were hitherto either little known, or very rare. When seen as a whole, this collection faithfully recorded in considerable detail the most important developments in the contemporary Spanish artistic panorama all along the 20th century.

Pablo Beltrán de Heredia (Gran Canaria, 1917 - Santander, 2009) had an intense involvement in politics, a field in which he was closely linked to José María Gil Robles, and supported the royalist cause of Don Juan de Borbón. In the cultural field, besides being an editor and professor, Beltrán de Heredia rose to prominence as a member and active supporter of Imprenta Bedia. This publishing house played a crucial role in disseminating 20th century Spanish poetry and was famed for the exquisite formal quality of its publications. In the last years of his life, Beltrán de Heredia formed a close friendship with José María Lafuente, and in August 2009 Lafuente inherited his personal archive, which illustrated in great detail Beltrán de Heredia’s intense activity as an academic and publisher. Lafuente had already acquired a small yet significant section of the personal archive in May 2002. It was the piece relating to the Escuela de Altamira, an organization in which Beltrán de Heredia had so enthusiastically participated and whose activities included the Encuentros [Encounters]. Held in 1949 and 1950, these meetings had set out to promote exchanges between Spanish and international artists, with a view to recovering and revitalizing Spain’s artistic avant-garde. Beltrán de Heredia’s documentary records included a number of artworks and, alongside them, exchanges of correspondence, ephemeral printed matter, manuscripts and all kinds of documentation and catalogs about the participating artists and intellectuals.

The integration of these personal papers and other materials into José María Lafuente’s collection had a profound impact on his activity as a collector, and from that moment on documentation would play a major role in his work. This change in direction led to the growth of the Lafuente Archive being based on two premises:

On the one hand, it would set out to highlight the two-fold nature of a document – be it a book, sketch, manuscript, or in any other format – as both informative, contextualizing material, and at the same time as a creative work in its own right. So disciplines and genres traditionally considered secondary or minor, such as graphic design, typography, artist books or experimental writing, are situated at the same level as painting or sculpture. Bridging the material gap between works and documents, the accent is no longer placed on their differences, but rather on the points they share and the close ties that bind them.

On the other hand, while the core interest is clearly focused on Europe and Latin America, a panoramic perspective prevails in the Lafuente Archive which is not strictly contingent on geographical boundaries, artistic movements or simple chronological ordering. Rather, by their very texture, the links connecting the diverse documents that make up the Lafuente Archive should reflect, literally, the densely-woven relationships of affinity, influence, collaboration, competition and even conflict that bind the production of a huge number of 20th century artists.

Archivo Lafuente, Sede Madrid
Lafuente Archive, Madrid

The various collections and collections that make up the Lafuente Archive have been displayed in Spain since 2003, in numerous temporary exhibitions organized by both public and private institutions. Systematic cataloguing of the Lafuente Archive contents began in early 2014, along with on-line dissemination of a representative selection of its pieces. Recent acquisition of the 1962-1978 Collection, also in 2014, has consolidated a broadening of the Archive’s scope of interest towards a more contemporary approach. It has now incorporated a solid selection of artists publications and exhibition catalogs dating from a crucial period in which artists expanded their sphere of action into communication material and printed matter, and the artist book gained the status of artistic genre.