Art has never been something that I was very interested in. Visuals are difficult for me to analyze immediately, and I do not always see the point of a famous art piece’s reputation. Why are certain pieces the ones that manage to succeed more than others? Why is one painting famous when another is not? How is someone actually deserved to be called a good artist? My understanding of deeper meanings like these typically finds itself in pieces of writing or music pieces but ceases to exist in most other cases. Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica, however, is one of the few art pieces that I feel I can see for what it is. It has always interested me in general, but after visiting both the painting itself as well as a local art exhibit in San Sebastián solely focused on the one painting, I believe that my understanding of Guernica and physical art in itself has been truly developed more than I ever expected it to. In Madrid last week, I had the pleasure of seeing the painting in person. Yesterday in San Sebastián, I had the pleasure of seeing an exhibit on the painting with my classmates.
When I saw Guernica in Madrid, it was heavily guarded by multiple museum security guards, as well as multiple roped off areas. People were struggling to fit into spots to admire this amazing work, so much so that it almost took away from the experience itself. Tired in a big city on my second day ever out of America, I was both grateful for and oblivious to the rare opportunity I had been given.
Coming to the exhibit in San Sebastián was a completely different experience. With our own guide to show us around the two small rooms, we huddled around projections of Picasso’s process as well as rough cuts of each fragment of the piece. A man working in the exhibit stood before us and explained the significance of each slide and clipping as we watched in awe. We saw changes that Picasso himself decided to make between stages of the 5-week creation, and we were told the multiple contradictory meanings to the painting’s aspects that Picasso himself told throughout his life. We learned things including the exact size of the huge painting as well as the places it has been exhibited since (fun fact: Cambridge, MA, is on the list!). We saw close ups of the damage that had been done to Guernica during its travels between museums as well as how workers transported the painting to begin with, and heard stories of other artists’ defamation of the painting out of political frustration. Even after seeing the real, physical painting in Madrid, I never would have known some of the information we received yesterday. These were the hidden treasures of Guernica’s past, and a clearer deciphering of the piece than I have ever received before.
While seeing Guernica in person was breathtaking and did not quite seem real, there was something different about learning the history of it with my new family in our temporary home. We have spent the past week together seeing San Sebastián and the art that it holds— from colorful graffiti on our school’s building to photography exhibits around the corner to the man who paints nightly on the street above La Concha— and at that moment in this small exhibit, I realized how lucky we are to be here in this small city with each other. Some people don’t get to step foot in such a finely put together art exhibit, never mind one in Spain, but there we stood yesterday. Other people get to see the same things that we did, but do not have genuine people to do it with. This group is being granted the ability to see all the beauty and art San Sebastián (and Spain in general) has to offer for these three weeks, and we are doing it together. Eight months ago if someone had told me that I would be here in Spain today with ten people who I get along with perfectly and have come to love in a matter of one week by my own choice, I would have laughed as a natural response. Somehow, though, I am here, learning to appreciate the art the surrounds me at every second of the day no matter where I am. What better way is there to spend my time in San Sebastián than with my friends?