Episode 6

A Drunken Boat: Eclecticism, Institutionalism and Disobedience in the ‘80s

Nouvel Building, Floor 0

In the 1980s, different exhibitions sculpted the sensibilities of the time. For the 1982 Documenta in Kassel, the curator Rudi Fuchs contemplated the possibility of titling the exhibition The Drunken Boat, after Arthur Rimbaud’s poem, in reference to an art drifting aimlessly, wandering outside of “style wars”. 

Rooms in the collection

Patrocina

A Drunken Boat: Eclecticism, Institutionalism and Disobedience in the ‘80s

Nouvel Building, Floor 0

In the 1980s, different exhibitions sculpted the sensibilities of the time. For the 1982 Documenta in Kassel, the curator Rudi Fuchs contemplated the possibility of titling the exhibition The Drunken Boat, after Arthur Rimbaud’s poem, in reference to an art drifting aimlessly, wandering outside of “style wars”. This absence of hegemonies would end up translating into an eclecticism of forms that defined artistic practices in that decade. Part of historiography interpreted it as a shift towards conservative values, where the absence of history and critique, as well as the recovery of artistic individualism, corresponded to a social and political reality dominated by the Reagan-Thatcher era.

The fledgling democracy in Spain would drive an institutionalisation of art that replaced social struggles against Francoism, and within this context the creation of the ARCO Art Fair and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía came with an intense policy of national and international exhibitions, and a return to painting as the lingua franca. Opposite this apparent conservatism, a series of practices of disobedience rose to the surface, expressing their discontent with institutions and facing crises such as the AIDS pandemic. An art that embraced post-punk attitudes, new versions of feminism and the subversion of bodies.