The ‘Acceso Prohibido’ Exhibition (Forbidden Access) to Gibraltar , AlCultura – 50 years on
Until July 5th, the AlCultura exhibition hall is hosting works by Alan Pérez, Ambrose Avellano, Ana García and Miguel Angel del Águila.
Since its inauguration on May 10th and until July 5, the AlCultura exhibition hall in Algeciras hosts a collective exhibition ‘Acceso Prohibido’, which delves into the impact that the closure of the Gibraltar border had on the populations on both sides, especially in Gibraltar, through the work of artists Alan Pérez, Ambrose Avellano, Ana García and Miguel Ángel del Águila.
This audiovisual exhibition showcases images and testimonies of how the closure affected thousands of people who, until then, had been coexisting normally, sparking consequences that have lasted until this day.
In the world of art, the 13 years that the Frontier was closed gave rise to a kind of “lost generation”. So said Magda Bellotti, head of exhibitions at AlCultura, during a round table which was one of the events of the Open Studio’19, which coincided with the celebration of International Museum Day, in which, San Roque artist Pepe Barroso also participated, along with Alan Pérez and Ambrose Avellano.
“We had no choice but to make this exhibition”, Bellotti pointed out, considering that, 50 years after the dramatic measures adopted by the Franco dictatorship, the impact “those 13 irrecoverable years” had on both sides of the border – not only politically and economically, but also culturally and even emotionally – has not yet been sufficiently assessed. “Families were divided, all communications were cut off … There was a great element of human drama, which, in a way, is comparable to the one provoked by the Berlin Wall”.
Bellotti and Ambrose Avellano agreed that this situation of “isolation” caused a kind of slowdown – and even ignorance – in Gibraltar, in terms of how contemporary art was evolving, with very few exceptions.
Avellano, son of an Italian father and a Spanish mother, said that he was thrilled to be able to participate in an exhibition of this kind in Algeciras as an artist, and took advantage of the round table discussions to explain that, when he was very young, he remained on the Gibraltarian side of the border by pure chance. “It could have happened differently, and maybe I would be sitting there among the audience now, having a different vision of what happened”.
Alan Pérez, whose mother was also Spanish, was just a child during those years and had fewer memories of what happened. He confessed that it has been the current uncertainty generated around Brexit that has made him look back to the past in order to better understand – as an artist and as a citizen – what is happening in the present.
“I was very young, although I do remember the closure of the Frontier, and my grandmother on the other side … But I think we need to listen to the people who really lived through it to understand how it affected them”, the Gibraltarian artist explained. Like others of his generation, Alan Pérez, who is also a teacher, did have the opportunity to enjoy one of the scholarships the Gibraltarian Government launched in the late 70’s to encourage higher education in different parts of the United Kingdom.
“Nowadays, almost all Gibraltarian artists go to study abroad, mainly in England, and return with another vision, but during the years of the closure there was a generation that did not have that option… It was a dark, grey time, which should have never happened, and which gave rise to certain deficiencies in contemporary art, among other things”, said Bellotti, who, like Pepe Barroso, was pleased that “fortunately, the situation is different now, although we must not forget what happened, so that it never happens again”.
The Acceso Prohibido exhibition, AlCultura, Algeciras, is open until July 5th, 2019.
Visiting hours: from Tuesday to Friday, from 6 to 9 p.m-
Audiovisual works by Ana García (‘Gibraltar: My Rock’), Alan Pérez (‘The Past is Present’), and Ambrose Avellano (‘El Cerrojazo’). Photographs by Miguel Ángel del Águila.
The ‘Acceso Prohibido’ (Forbidden Access) to GibraltarExhibition, AlCultura – 50 years on