La Retirada and the exodus of Spanish artistic heritage

The Retirada is a time to reflect on the errors of the past and, hopefully, learn important lessons to prevent such atrocities from reoccurring.

Well-documented are the vast waves of refugees, flowing over the border, out of Franco-ruled Spain and into the P-O.

What is less known about the exodus, is that many important pieces of art also fled the tyrannical dictator.

Cultural artifacts have long been targeted by armies as a demonstration of their superiority, dominance and power. Collectors and curators were therefore anxious to protect their cultural heritage.

Joël Mattey, president of the association, Amis du Musée d’art Moderne de Céret, confirms that an agreement was established in Figuerès, allowing Spanish artwork to pass over the border.

Credit: DR, L'Indépendent

Tens of millions of cultural artefacts were removed from palaces, museums, churches, libraries and private collections across Spain.

These priceless works were placed in lorries which then joined the snaking lines of Spanish refugees, all making the perilous route towards safety.

Many paintings, sculptures, books and tapestries passed via the Château d’Aubiry in Céret before continuing their journey, en route for Geneva.

The town is therefore well placed to lead the commemoration of courageous, but often little-known men and women, who risked their lives to protect art.

The Musée d’art moderne therefore invited historian and author, Michel Rayssac, and Retirada specialist, Serge Barba, to share their expertise on the art exodus.

During the weekend of 10th – 11th February 2018, they hosted conferences and round-table discussions on this unique phenomenon and their findings will be transmitted to local college students throughout the year.

So, this February, take a moment to reflect on Europe’s recent history and, in particular, the role played by our region.

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