A Roman circus, the remains of an Islamic courtyard… In the bowels of Valeriola Palace, the jewel of the new “Queen” of Mercadona | Albilad Weekly

A Roman circus, the remains of an Islamic courtyard… In the bowels of Valeriola Palace, the jewel of the new “Queen” of Mercadona |  Albilad Weekly

The land on which the former Valeriola Palace in Valencia stands accumulates so many layers of history that it is not known which has greater cultural value, the Hortensia Herrero Collection which includes and features works by artists such as David Hockney, Matt Collishaw and Eduardo Chilleda. Or everything else: the remains of a Roman circus, the remains of an Islamic courtyard, a hidden street behind a false door of the old Jewish quarter, a late medieval kiln or 22 burials belonging to the cemetery of the Hospital Church of San Juan del, its famous neighbor in the estate. All this adds to the value of the Valeriola Palace itself, whose 17th-century architecture has been restored as heritage of the city.

Hortensia Herrero bought this ancient palace from aristocrat Francisca Diez de Rivera (widow of Alfonso Armada, a soldier convicted of a 1981 coup). It had been in his family for 400 years, but was very dilapidated despite being a World Heritage listed building. Herrero, Vice President of Mercadona, is dedicated, through the foundation that bears her name, to the restoration of Valencia’s artistic heritage, as well as cultural projects related to dance, ballet and art. In the field of restoration, she restored buildings such as the Church of San Nicolas or the Colegio del Arte Mayor de la Seda.

As a collector, he was acquiring a series of works on his own until he met curator and art critic Javier Molins. However, the paths of both Valencians crossed in the United States. “We coincided on an organized trip to Dallas to attend an anthology exhibition on (Joaquin) Sorolla that the Meadows Museum was putting on. I was there as a critic and she was a collector of Sorolla’s work. They took us to see the city’s Arts District, which is an amazing area because it contains buildings by Rem Koolhaas, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster… and they explained to us that this was privately financed by 30 Dallas citizens. Then she told me that she intended to do something along those lines in Valencia with local artists. I, at my discretion, because at that time I didn’t know that “I would end up being part of the project. I told him it didn’t seem like a good idea to me because Valencian artists were already well represented in other city centres. Maybe it would be better to think nationally, and bring good international artists to people who can’t travel. “So The relationship between us and the idea for this project came about,” recalls Mullins.

Matt Collishaw with his work “Left in Dust”, inspired by the ruins of a Roman circus.Raoul Bellenchon

With his advice, Herrero has been putting together a collection that can be visited since November 11 in the renovated Valeriola Palace, and includes works by prominent contemporary artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Anish Kapoor, David Hockney, Andreas Gursky, Olafur Eliasson, Alexander Calder, Matt Collishaw, and Thomas Saraceno. Eduardo Chilleda, Antoni Tápies, Mikel Barcelo and Jaume Plensa, among many others.

It is a current practice – or rather it seems like a competition – for major art collectors to rely on famous architects to design the buildings or spaces in which they display their collection of work to the general public. For example, Bernard Arnault hired architect Frank Gehry for the Louis Vuitton Foundation, and Tadao Ando was responsible for the intervention in the Paris Stock Exchange for the Pinault group. By bridging the gap between the size of the collections, Herrero also succeeded in bringing art and architecture closer together in his project, with the help of Erre Arquitectura, choosing a space of architectural value in which to produce container and content – ​​and his own dialogue. .large in equal parts.

“The choice of Valeriola Palace reflects the personality of Hortensia Herrero and her career as a curator of Valencia’s artistic heritage. Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about large industrial warehouses on the outskirts of the city, but we all thought the best thing would be to be in the center,” says Mullins. “It is better to bring art where the people are than to take the people where the art is.” “So we found this gem that the architects loved immediately. It was a very symbolic building, and served as many things throughout history, from a palace of nobles to a newspaper printing press. Governorates Or a cocktail bar.”

“La Andana,” formerly a drying room, and “February 18, 2013,” by David Rodriguez Caballero.Raoul Bellenchon

The owners of Mercadona, the couple formed by Hortensia Herrero and Juan Roig, have four daughters. One of them, Amparo, is a partner in the Erre Arquitectura studio, along with José Martí and María Ángeles Ros. Together they accompanied Hortensia in her project to open her collection to the public. “When we saw it, it seemed perfect. Although at first it did not allow very large works to be displayed, it seemed to us like a candy box: a box full of very special corners and unique spaces,” says Amparo Roig.

Considering the state of ruin it was in, one had to have an architect’s eye to sense it. “Our mission was to make an intervention that required seriousness, decisiveness and knowledge without competing with art. “A difficult balance, with a language and a sensitivity to pre-existence, but also with the identity of its new function as an artistic centre,” says José Martí.

In addition to the enhancement and restoration of the entire building, among the strong points of Erre Arquitectura’s intervention is the integration of archaeological remains into the architectural and exhibition complex, and the addition of an adjacent building cleverly connected to the palace itself. The road, as well as the reconstruction of the old church and its dome, which disappeared. “The dialogue with the state heritage (Valencia) was constant throughout the process, and it was not about consultations,” says María Angeles Ros. The result is a complex that fully respects and appreciates its past, fully integrated into an architecture designed with a contemporary perspective.

“A Tunnel of Unfolding Time” by Olafur Eliasson. Raoul Bellenchon

Of particular note is the conversion of the old noble room and the balcony into exhibition spaces. The arched windows of the palace’s old drying room, located on the upper floor, are precisely the element chosen as a distinctive feature of the centre. Also, spatially, Erre Arquitectura has displayed precise images that link certain spaces to each other and to the environment, linking the exhibition areas to the archaeological remains, to the city or to the distinctive views of the inner courtyard of one of the city’s oldest buildings: the church next to the San Juan del Hospital.

“The dialogue between the artistic part and the architectural part was very interesting. The most beautiful thing is that the collection was growing at the same time as the building. We were not working with specific dates and deadlines, but were adding works as we restored the spaces. So, part of it came from the collection that was Hortensia already had it. From there, more were bought or ordered, taking into account the rooms or spaces we were counting on,” Mullins explains. The process took five years.

Aside from acquired works, the center contains pieces created by six artists specifically for transient spaces or nooks containing candy boxes. While Matt Collishaw, Olafur Eliasson and Cristina Iglesias contributed to the creations of the passage areas, Jaume Plensa worked on the apse, Tomas Saracino worked on the vestibule, and Sean Scully worked on the stained glass windows of the church. Only Matt Collishaw created three works, one of which was inspired by Fallas at Herrero’s request.

A stained glass window created by Sean Scully for the church. Raoul Bellenchon

The range of supports, media and styles is very diverse, covering painting, sculpture, installations, moving art and multimedia works. From Sorolla to Kiefer, from Celida to Calder, from Kapoor to Saracino, from Plensa to Eliasson, from Hockney to Collishaw… These are duets that give an idea of ​​the diversity of works present in the Hortensia Herrero Arts Center. The uniqueness has been built, and it cannot be said better, to position itself as a relevant center in the field of contemporary art, through its collection and the recovered cultural heritage that is displayed in it.

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