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    Letter from Madrid
by Ysabel de la Rosa
Portrait of an Old Man
by Nicolas Lagneau (1600-1650) Krugier-Poniatowski Collection
The Prayer
by Odilon Redon
Krugier-Poniatowski Collection
Figure Study
by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Krugier-Poniatowski Collection
Teresa Lanceta
Middle Atlas I
at the Reina Sofia
Shaman's mask from "Water Spirits," Caixa Foundation
Alfonso Claros
at Museum of the Americas/Museo de Américas
Marlborough montage, "In Praise of the Visible"
Cartoon by Jordi Figueroa Serra
at the Círculo de Bellas Artes
ARCO (Feb. 10-15, 2000) is Madrid's Wagnerian art event, an international art fair, epic in scope as well as square footage. This year, Madrid's museums, art institutes and galleries have created a rich adjunct to the fair, with a variety of exhibitions that are best described by the Spanish expression, "una delicia." They are each visually "delicious."

The Krugier-Poniatowski Collection
I went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum's "The Timeless Eye" (Miradas sin Tiempo) show, thinking that looking at the 200 works from the Krugier-Poniatowski Collection would be like taking an art history class field trip. I could not have been more wrong. Jan Krugier and his wife Marie-Anne Poniatowski, dedicated collectors since 1968, have gathered paintings, sculptures and works on paper by important artists of the last 500 years. The nucleus of their collection and of this exhibition are drawings -- exquisite, personal and fresh -- by Ingres, Victor Hugo, Gaugin, Piranesi, Rubens, Veronese, Tintoretto, Constable and many others.

The couple's selection, informed by their own artistic training and gallery-ownership experience, results in a viewing experience that is warm, intimate and with many a graceful surprise. Says Krugier, "Art has a specific language and rhythm. More and more, we are losing these criteria. Art has rules." In "The Timeless Eye," those rules never become the end, only the means to it. Art from the past has never looked so new to me as it did in this visual "trans-historical" dialogue. The exhibition is on view through May 14, 2000.

Teresa Lanceta at the Reina Sofia
Barcelona native Teresa Lanceta is the quiet type. She shuns press conferences, welcomes personal conversation and finds her artistic voice in a long-anonymous art form, the Moroccan tapestry. In an unusual and spectacularly well-mounted show at the Reina Sofía Museum, Lanceta's complex wool tapestries and stark, stitched linen paintings are placed side by side with pillow covers, wedding veils, rugs and wall coverings woven by Berber tribeswomen from four different regions of Morocco.

This absorbing show is divided into three distinct areas, one of which displays Moroccan floor coverings and cloths mounted in the floor beneath glass panels. A large portion of the Moroccan tapestries come from the collection of Bert Flint, who was present for the opening and played a significant role in the show's organization. The exhibition, on view here through May 3, 2000, was curated by Marie-France Vivier of Paris's Musée des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie.

Also at the Reina Sofía in Espacio Uno: An installation by Ana Laura Aláez called Dance & Disco. This could be interesting -- "an esthetically balanced disco space, where exhibition-goers can dance, have a drink or a good time."

"Water Spirits" at the Caixa Foundation
The Caixa Foundation's new show, "Water Spirits: Art from Alaska and British Columbia," is -- incredibly -- Madrid's first major exhibition of North American Indian art. The 200 objects, dating from 200 BC to the 18th century, are already drawing crowds in the show's first week. After touring Spain, "Water Spirits" travels to Houston under the auspices of the de Menil Foundation, which collaborated in the exhibition's organization. For tour details:

At the Museo de Américas
The staff at the Museo de Américas has been especially busy. In addition to assisting with the design, procurement, and cataloguing of the Caixa show, the museum hosted a major exhibit of Peruvian colonial art, which closes mid-February, and just opened a temporary exhibit of contemporary Bolivian art. The Bolivian show, on view through Feb. 27, represents 10 artists, all participants in Taipinquiri, a national, interdisciplinary arts organization. Taipinquiri is an Aymará word that means "center of the center."

At the galleries
Marlborough Madrid's current exhibit fits nicely with ARCO's international perspective. "In Praise of the Visible" (Elogio de lo Visible) features a wide range of works by 27 artists, including Botero, Lucian Freud, Kitaj, Paula Rego, Chen Yifei, Claudio Bravo, Red Grooms and Israel Herzberg. Marlborough is located on Calle Orfila, 5; the show is up through Mar. 18.

A show by Greek artist Dimitrios Dourdoumas, with paintings that explore "the marginalization that leads to insanity" is underway at Angeles Penché Gallery, Calle Esquinza, 11.

Prints by Spanish contemporary artists are up at Garage Regium Gallery, Calle Pradillo, 5. Soledad Lorenzo is showing José María Sicilia. Calle Orfila, 5. Through Feb. 17.

Just for fun
If you make it to ARCO, it's worth a trip into the heart of the city to have a "café cortado" at the 19th-century Bellas Artes Café and to see the annual exhibition of humorous graphic art, called "Joven y Brillante" (Young and Brilliant), sponsored by J&B. The works, all by artists under 30, are a treat: well-executed, witty and intelligent.

One of the cartoons is a direct take-off of a recent Spanish car commercial. In the TV spot, an art-dealer takes a client through an artist's retrospective. The paintings are quite grand, measuring about 18 feet high by 9 feet wide, and all are black on black.

The last painting in the show looks something like a Morris Louis gone amuck, and is "awash" with garish colors slipping over each other. The client asks, "What happened here?" The dealer shrugs and replies, "All I know is the artist changed cars."

In the cartoon done by Jordi Figueroa Serra of Valls, Spain, when the client looks at the final, colorful painting, the dealer says, "And here, all I know is that they changed the Minister of Culture."

With national elections scheduled for Mar. 12, the cartoon could prove to be prophetic, whomever wins the presidency. If Socialist Candidate Joaquín Almunia is elected, the Minister of Culture position is sure to be filled by someone other than the post's current occupant, Mariano Rajoy.

On the other hand, given that Rajoy also serves as incumbent President José María Aznar's campaign manager, Rajoy could well move to a different, but equally strategic position in the new cabinet, if Aznar remains for a second term.

See you in Madrid!

YSABEL DE LA ROSA is an art historian who writes on art from Spain.