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Biosca gallery, first salon of the eleven

In 1942, Eugenio d’Ors, freed from his duties at the “Instituto de España”, promoted the creation of the “Academia Breve de la Crítica de Arte”, with the firm commitment to give visibility to contemporary art movements in a Spain recovering from the still open wounds of the recent Civil War. In fact, the first article of its statutes established the institution’s desire to “[…] Guide and disseminate modern art in Spain by all means at its disposal”. In this context, the “Academia Breve” set itself the obligation of organising one exhibition a year in Madrid’s GALERÍA BIOSCA (Calle Génova, 11), in which each of the 11 academicians would choose an artist. In an environment in which official art had taken refuge in the more academic, in June 1943 the first “Salón de los Once” was opened to the Madrid public in the aforementioned Galería Biosca. That first exhibition included the work of María Blanchard, Pedro Bueno, Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Emilio Grau Sala, Pedro Mozos, Jesús Olasagasti, Pedro Pruna, Olga Sacharoff, Eduardo Vicente, Rafael Zabaleta and Manuel Hugué.


The founder of this gallery, the Catalan painter Aurelio Biosca (1908-1995), is considered by many to be the true precursor of Madrid gallerism, as his gallery became one of the few strongholds called upon to give visibility to modern art in post-war Madrid, where poverty affected both society and artistic creation in equal measure. For several decades the exhibition programme of the Galería Biosca had an intense relationship with the young artists who were to mark the renewal of the arts in Spain. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that in 1958 the legendary Juana Mordó entered the art market in this space as director of this gallery and, later, in 1971, Leandro Navarro also took over the direction, thus giving way to two other great chapters of Spanish art galleries. In 2009, in a great act of generosity and aware of the transcendence of the history of this gallery in the evolution of Spanish Art, the gallery’s archive was donated by the son of its founder to the Documentation Centre and Library of the Reina Sofía Museum.

Aurelio Biosca in 1927. Credits: Javier Tusell and Álvaro Martínez-Novillo, Cincuenta años de arte. Galería Biosca1940-1990, 1991.

Gallerist Leandro Navarro on galería Biosca

Leandro Navarro (Madrid, 1927) partner of the legendary Biosca, collector and founder in 1978 of the Leandro Navarro gallery (Calle Amor de Dios, 1), a reference of Spanish Realism and specialised in Historical Avant-Garde and International Modern Art, recalls the time of Biosca.


Leandro, what professional relationship did you have with the Biosca gallery?


We began a collaboration in 1971. We both put in the same amount of money and Aurelio also contributed the gallery and his experience; I contributed my full-time personal work, my financial contribution and my relations with important collectors.



What brought you to that gallery? What was Aurelio like?


When my artistic relationship with Fernando Mignoni and Elvira González came to an end, Aurelio Biosca proposed me to continue in the art world and as it was such an important gallery, and given my deep vocation, I decided to give it a try.


Aurelio Biosca was an elegant and correct man who had been a painter, who started the gallery in premises that his brother had used to show cars, and we decided to continue using them as an art gallery and offices for what was Aurelio’s main business, which consisted of preparing complete hotels, furniture, decoration, works, etc. and so he carried out numerous important businesses such as the Parador de Santiago de Compostela, the Universidad Laboral de Gijón, or Barajas Airport, among many others. He managed everything from Calle Génova, 11.


Personally, he was punctual, hard-working and cold.


What was the most important contribution of the Biosca gallery to the Madrid gallery scene?


Aurelio Bioca set up a gallery in a large street space and defended an important concept of art. He hired great directors such as Eugenio D’Ors, Juana Mordó and Felipe Santullano. He hosted the Academia Breve de Crítica de Arte in his premises, defending the best art of those years. When I was there, which is what I can talk about, I remember that the first Association of Galleries was held and the participating galleries exhibited its younger artists under the title of “Polémica”. Public authorities were involved to deal with two related issues, art and its exploitation.


What exhibitions do you remember with special interest?


To mention some of the ones I was particularly interested in: the first in Spain by Óscar Domínguez, the one by the painter María Blanchard, the one in memory of the Salón de los Once and the one by Torres García.


What did it mean to you on a personal and professional level?


On a personal level, it meant a radical change in my life, as I had replaced my profession as a court attorney with that of gallery owner. For eight years I dedicated myself to trying to promote the Sala Biosca.


Professionally, I held exhibitions and gave lectures on Spanish art in Mexico, worked with the best-known galleries in Spain, and had contact with galleries in Europe. I opened a gallery in Geneva (Switzerland), made contracts in the USA and got to know and deal with the art world of those days.


At Biosca I learned all the secrets of running an important gallery, which has allowed me to create and run my own gallery for more than 40 years.


Thank you very much, Leandro. Finally, is there anything you would like to share with Arte Madrid, any complementary information?


From Fernando Mignoni I learned to recognise the best in art.

From Biosca I learned how a great gallery works.

From the Leandro Navarro Gallery I learned the good fortune of having my son continue my work with the best competence and to have a grandson with better training than his predecessors and a vocation to continue what has already been achieved.