Interview with Jacques Hachuel


Both Jacques and Hachuel will strike North Americans as unusual names for someone from Madrid. Would you introduce yourself by telling us something about your background?

All right. It’s tough, at least for me, to handle the kind of life-sketch I think you’re asking for, but I’ll be very glad to try.

I was born into a Jewish family. It was the beginning of the 1930’s and Tangier then had a special political status and so was open to all and everything. My father who is Argentine, was especially concerned that I get an education that would be more than a compendium of useful bits of knowledge needed to be successful in a life that’s measured, nearly always, by money. As a matter of fact, the musical intuition of my grandmother Sol, who use to sing –and quite well- her favorite operatic arias, was also part of a whole mood that I remember with a great deal of tenderness, and that began, I guess, to seep into my very first perceptions of life when I was still very tiny. I think my passion for music heated up in that atmosphere that we lived in at home.

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Selection of Works from the Collection

Jacques Hachuel, Richard Serra, Anthony Caro and Eduardo Chillida

From left to right Jacques Hachuel, Richard Serra, Anthony Caro and Eduardo Chillida.



After the long night of Franquismo, which kept the country closed up unto itself, the new democratic Spain has eagerly opened itself not just to the outside generally, but to current culture, which is what gives real meaning to relations among peoples. In this sense, I was fortunate to be able to verify directly, during the period when I held the position of Director of the National Exhibition Center of the Ministry of Culture (1983-1989), the interest and enthusiasm that the Spanish public has demonstrated for a series of shows of avant-garde art from our century, despite the nearly total lack of previous exhibitions in this field, which was not pleasing to the authorities of the dictatorship, and which, logically, they did not support.

Today, then, we can say that the situation of contemporary art has changed almost completely in Spain, and that its society has become much more receptive, calling for higher standards, better exhibitions, better museums and activities related with todays artistic creation. One of the most significant and stimulating changes in this field is surely the existence of a vigorous new trend in private collecting, which now, thanks to the initiative of The Spanish Institute of New York, will be the object of a series of monographic shows, beginning with the one now being inaugurated with the title Modern Masterpieces from the Collection of Jacques Hachuel.

If private collecting is a good thermometer to measure the social interest in something contemporary art, in this case and also the basis of the future wealth of a countrys artistic patrimony, the new Spanish patrons, with their present shows of passionate support for what is being done now, bring a warming trend that makes us look hopefully to the future. Still, while it is important that there be people in Spain willing to invest in contemporary art, breaking with the traditional indifference and indeed fear that reigned before the political transition, far more important is their attitude; because though most of them are personalities in the countrys economic and financial world, they have not conceived their collections as mere investment.

The specific case of Jacques Hachuel is exemplary in this respect, and has been recognized as such in Spain, into whose historic Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (an institution to which Goya belonged) he was recently admitted as a member. In a perceptive inaugural address, which took place in solemn session on 27 June 1990, Jacques Hachuel was on target when he reflected, in a spontaneous and straightforward way, on that attitude of excitement and renewal. His discourse bore the title, Reflections of a Merchant: his Collecting and in it, rather than flaunt the important works of contemporary art which he has brought together steadfastly over the years, the lay speaker told his illustrious academic audience modestly and naturally the story of his own life as a business man, and of the birth of his passion for contemporary art, a passion which arose not only in response to a restless personal sensibility, but also out of conscious commitment to the age in which he happens to live, and out of the moral responsibility to make his wealth culturally productive. On this point he cited what Adelph Berle, and old collaborator of Roosevelt, wrote in this famous book, American Capitalism: The Compensating Power that any economic power can be legitimized only by philanthropy, one of whose modern forms is precisely cultural patronage.

In this sense, we should point out that Jacques Hachuel, who was born and spent his youth in the cosmopolitan Moroccan city of Tangier, then under international political supervision and a meeting place for original and sophisticated writers and artists from the whole world, has not limited himself to art collecting, but has also supported avant-garde Spanish music, theater and cinema. We should not forget that it was he who produced the first film of Pedro Almodvar, now an internationally famous director, and Mozarts Cosi Fan Tutte, which was performed in his home in Madrid. And he who invited Andy Warhol to show for the first time in Madrid. He has also, naturally, contributed when asked to initiatives meant to support the countrys exceedingly rich historical and artistic heritage -for instance, the Calcografa Nacional, an institution of obvious academic importance. He takes an active role in the development of the University of Tel Aviv in Israel and of the Fundacin Toledo in Spain. Recently he was named a member of the Board of Trustees of the Guggenheim Museum of New York, thus serving to strengthen the cultural bonds between Spain and the United States.

Turning now to his collection of contemporary art, I wish to stress first of all that the selection has been based, logically, on what would most interest the New York City public. From this perspective, we have naturally chosen the best pieces of the great Spanish artists of this century, beginning with Three Women Bathing of Picasso, one of Mr. Hachuels favorites, continuing with other relevant works of Juan Gris, Joan Mir and Julio Gonzlez, and ending with the most internationally consecrated artists of today, such as Antoni Tapies and Eduardo Chillida. We have also opted for the presence of other preeminent figures of the European avant-garde, such as Braque, Lger, Arp, Giacometti and Bacon, reserving a special place for the great American sculptor Calder, who so loved Spain, and three of whose most notable pieces have been chosen from the Hachuel Collection for this exhibition.

I am convinced that this selection will be enough not only to form an idea of the importance of what Jacques Hachuel has been able to put together, but also to interest every and any lover of contemporary art, even those from New York, which has the best museums in the world in this field. I would like, notwithstanding, to stress that what we have chosen is but an approximate synthesis, mirroring the depth of the Hachuel Collection, which has many other important works, though these have not come to join the exhibition, either since they belong to American artists, such as Newman, Rothko, S. Francis, J. Mitchell, Kelly, Twombly, Warhol, Stella, Noland, Smithson, Serra, etc., who are naturally better known in New York, or for other reasons, for example, installations in situ. In any event, even if it has not been possible to exhibit them in New York, I wish to mention the presence of many other relevant artists in the Hachuel Collection, such as Klimt, Klee, Malevitch, Mondrian, Tanguy, Masson, Matta, Morandi, Dubuffet, Klein, Fontana, Michaux, Albers, Nicholson, Alechinsky, Soto, Beuys, Lindner, Hockney, Merz, Long, Rckriem, Penck, Shapiro, etc. And finally, though they are less well known outside the country, I should note that the Collection of Jacques Hachuel contains a very full representation of the best Spanish art of the last thirty years, including the youngest artists who have arisen in the post-Franco era, some of them already endowed with a certain international fame, such as Barcel and Sicilia.

In conclusion, I believe that the initiative taken by The Spanish Institute of New York to let the New York City public in on the new Spanish collecting, is an excellent way to have a close look at the dynamic image Spain enjoys today, also I also believe that there could be no more stimulating and timely beginning than this presentation of the Collection Jacques Hachuel, a merchant decidedly in love with the art of his time, and a generous maecenas of contemporary Spanish culture.