Sala Aixelá (1959-1975)
23.11.2019 – 23.02.2020
Curator: Laura Terré
Opening: Friday 22th November 2019, 7 pm
Free guided tours, from November 30th: Tuesday at 6 pm; Saturday and Sunday at noon
Free guided tours by Laura Terré: Thursday 23 January, 6 pm, Wednesday 5 de February, 6 pm
Aixelá was a specialist audiovisual equipment shop that opened its doors at number 13 on Rambla de Catalunya in Barcelona in July 1958.
Some months later, the lawyer and photography critic Josep Maria Casademont took over the running of the shop’s advertising department and launched a regular programme of film screenings, talks and contemporary, classical and jazz music listening sessions in its room downstairs. At the same time, Casademont commissioned Zen, a studio founded and directed by Alexandre Cirici and Paquita Granados, to design Aixelá’s corporate image, its window displays and the documents it used to publicise its cultural activities.
In 1959, Aixelá embarked on a programme of photographic exhibitions, starting with Terré–Miserachs–Masats. In 1963, it also began to publish Imagen y Sonido magazine, edited by Casademont with the help of Pere Figuera.
Sala Aixelá, as it was known at the time, continued its programmes of cultural events until 1975, developing over the years into a meeting place and a platform for promoting photography, mainstream and amateur films and the latest trends in music.
A pioneering venue that played a part in the reconstruction of a modernity that the Franco dictatorship interrupted, Aixelá founded a model in which cultural experimentation coexisted alongside a commercial offering, paving the way for the initiatives and institutions that came after it.
The exhibition we are presenting at La Virreina Centre de la Imatge is the result of a labour-intensive process to locate photographers, documents and works. It constitutes the first methodical research into Aixelá carried out to date.
The museographical itinerary has been structured on the basis of a selection of 29 photography, comic and painting exhibitions presented in Sala Aixelá between 1959 and 1975, together with a section given over to film and a compilation of music available for download. In order to provide context and to show what the physical space of the shop was like, we have reinterpreted the designs, typefaces and colour combinations created by the Zen studio at the time, as well as the devices – radio and television sets, hifi equipment, projectors and cameras – on sale during the same period.
In addition to a tribute to Josep Maria Casademont, the exhibition presents an overview of various generations who shaped the cultural scene of the day. Works that are now iconic were shown for the first time in public at Aixelá, and creative figures who had already made a name for themselves both nationally and internationally shared the exhibition space with others just starting out on their subsequently successful careers.
Sala Aixelá (1959-175) provides insights into the spirit of the times, the travails and triumphs of those who were attempting to promote Barcelona culturally despite the lack of civil liberties and the all-prevailing censors. In addition, it helps us to imagine the context prior to the development of institutions characteristic of the transition to democracy, and to understand what of those initiatives has been lost and what has survived.