Joan Colom, Photography made Narrative

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Exposició Joan Colom

On 6 February 2012, just one month after beginning a new period as Director of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, I had my first meeting with Joan Colom. In July of that same year, his complete archives entered the museum as a donation by the artist and, just one and a half years later, in December 2013, we inaugurated a major exhibition of all his work, the most public and visible part of a large project that culminates now with the publication of this book-catalogue of his fund.

Cover of the book-catalogue I work street, Joan Colom

Cover of the book-catalogue I Work the Street. Joan Colom, Photographs 1957-2010.

I am enormously grateful for having had the privilege and the good fortune of taking part personally in this process, one which has been condensed in time but intense and an experience of great personal value.

The museum has produced an exhibition satisfying all the necessary rigour and demands in what can only be described as record time, so that, as he himself asked us literally, Joan Colom would be in time to see it. We are especially grateful for the trust he has shown in the museum and in the exhibition’s two curators, David Balsells and Jorge Ribalta, who have done a wonderful job. It’s important to point out that it was they themselves, fifteen years ago, who began the process of retrieving Colom’s work with the exhibition the Museu Nacional devoted to him in 1999.

Joan Colom (in the middle) in the museum in the press presentation of the donation

Joan Colom (center), at the museum, during the press presentation of the donation of his work, July 2012.

Joan Colom is an exceptional photographer. His production is of an extraordinary quality and he has left us a corpus of work that has been minutely organised and arranged by the artist himself. These archives, as the curators so rightly say, transcend their creator to become the narrative of an entire period and are also of vital importance for understanding other experiments Colom took part in with other photographers.

Joan Colom is not an easy photographer and some of his work poses problems which are part of its greatness and which must be approached as part of the culture of the age his work belongs to. Far from running away from the difficulties –which would have been a betrayal of Colom’s work–, the exhibition takes them on face to face and invites us to reflect on them. This exhibition is also another step forward in the museum’s determined commitment to the photographic heritage. In this respect, this is a model project for the museum, which can offer a major exhibition of one of the country’s most outstanding photographers and at the same time add his work as a whole to the public heritage so that it can be accessed by specialists, students and society in general.

I would like once more to thank Joan Colom, his daughters Carme and Montse and the rest of the family for their trust, their generosity and their enthusiastic involvement in the project.

(abstract of the introduction by Pepe Serra for the book-catalogue of Joan Colom, 2014)
Pepe Serra
Director del Museu Nacional

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