Artist in Residence Programmes in Spain: a short introduction

Art Motile's Marta Gracia provides a brief overview of the history of AIR programmes in Spain, looking at the contexts in which they emerged and how they have developed since.

Images of Hangar

Hangar, Barcelona

In this article I will briefly introduce artist in residence programmes in Spain and present them from a historical point of view, taking as a starting point some of the models existing nowadays.

To begin with, what do we mean by artist in residence programmes?

Artist in residence programmes are those programmes which involve the temporary immersion of an artist in a new work space or environment, usually as part of a larger art project. Often the participation of the artists in these programmes implies that they have to travel from the place where they usually live and work to experience living in close proximity to other artists with whom they can exchange ideas.

When did artist in residence programmes begin in Spain?

Casa de Velázquez is currently the oldest artist in residence programme in Spain. It was established in 1920 in Madrid and is run by the French Education Ministry. It was built with similar goals to the French Academy in Rome, which itself was founded in 1666 to host the winning French artists of the Prize of Rome, which was a five year residency in the Italian city which allowed artists to see and study the classical masters from life.

Image of Casa de Velazquez

Casa de Velázquez, Madrid

Art communities and alternative spaces supporting art training and production

Apart from the unique case of Casa de Velázquez, most of the artist in residence programmes currently in operation were conceived at the end of the 1980s and during the mid-1990s, at the same time as a new wave of these programmes was starting to appear in Europe. During this period, two main types of programmes were set up in Spain.The first is set in a rural environment and follows the European and American models for AIR programmes from the second half of nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth. They are residencies established by art colonies (eg: Can Serrat, CAN de Farrera) or developed under the patronage of rich artists (eg: Fundación Valparaíso). These initiatives were typically devised by north Europeans who had come to live in Spain and are mainly focused on hosting international artists.The second type of programme is developed in an urban environment and is mainly aimed at local artists. These residencies are usually based on the temporary use of studios and are typically part of a larger art training and production project (eg: Arteleku, Bilbaoarte, Hangar). In these cases, the international dimension is usually handled through exchange programmes with other centres or spaces outside of Spain. In contrast with rural AIRs, the idea of an art community in urban programmes is not based on life together but in the fact of sharing a working space with other artists.

Image of Fundacion Valparaiso

Fundación Valparaíso, Almería

Laboratories and alternative exhibition circuits

Now, at the start of the 21st century, we are witnessing a mushrooming of new artist in residence programmes in Spain. In addition to some of the reasons that prompted the creation of AIRs during the 1990s (the lack of affordable working spaces for artists in big cities; the institutionalisation of the idea of art as a tool for social mediation and heritage; the phenomenon of globalisation and intercultural exchange; the increase of international mobility, etc), the concepts of art research and the idea of the artist as a researcher have now become common ideas. The new AIR programmes are conceived as interdisciplinary professional spaces (eg: CACIS, Laboral, Artechmedia) where artists have the possibility of developing and experimenting with new processes without the pressure of showing the results within the context of a conventional exhibition space (eg: Casamarles, Nau Coclea). In this way, AIR programmes have become vital as promoters of alternative exhibition circuits outside the traditional art institutions (eg: Homesession).

Image of Laboral

Plataforma 0, Laboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, Asturias


Marta Gracia is the author of the research project Spanish Artist in Residence programmes: an overview, granted by the Catalan Arts Council in 2009, from which this article is derived.

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Research Projects

Art Motile conducts research on artist in residence programmes with the aim of contributing new perspectives and content to the international AIR programme phenomenon.

Read the latest article by Art Motile "From the centre to the periphery and back: artist mobility, residencies and production in Spain", published in the special issue of Interartive magazine on Art & Mobility here (in Spanish only).

Here you can read A Short Introduction to Artist In Residence Programmes in Spain, an introductory article by Art Motile's Marta Gracia on this page. This article is taken from her research project, granted by the Catalan Arts Council in 2009, and which prompted the founding of Art Motile.

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