An art-full legacy
Peter Stampfli in Stiges
May 2007 - If there’s one thing Sitges is known for—other than the nightlife along Sin Street—it’s art. The town’s origins as a bohemian enclave can be traced back to Modernist painter Santiago Rusiñol, who set up his workshop here in the early 1900s, and established Sitges as a meeting point for painters, poets and free thinkers. Its reputation as an artistic hotspot endures today, enticing artists like Chilean illustrator Fernando Krahn, Mexican painter Miguel Condé and Swiss pop artist Peter Stämpfli to live and work here, proving that the light, sea and spirit of Sitges still inspire.
Yet despite the weighty presence of artists throughout the past century, there has been no museum or cultural centre promoting contemporary art—until now. Last November, Peter Stämpfli, a celebrated Pop artist since the Sixties and a part-time resident of Sitges for nearly as long, announced the creation of a foundation in his name that would, thanks to the artist’s donations of exhibition space and works, establish a contemporary art museum in Sitges. It is an ambitious project that will exhibit the works of some of the best-known international artists of the latter part of the 20th century. The museum will include nearly 800 square metres of exhibition space spread throughout several interconnected historic buildings near the Ajuntament. The town is donating part of the old fish market, currently used as the municipal police station, to the cause, as well.
The museum will be the centrepiece of a planned remake of the historic centre. “We want to create an artistic landscape where artists are able to create,” said Mayor Jordi Baijet. The Fundació Pere Stämpfli will be an icon of the town’s rebirth as an art centre. Thanks to his name, it’s possible for Sitges to establish itself as a focal point of the contemporary art world. Really, Sitges has won the lottery.”
Stämpfli's love affair with Sitges began nearly four decades ago, when he and his wife, Anna, bought the ruins of a medieval fortress on the central Carrer d’en Bosc, and set about restoring it, uncovering a piece of the old city wall in the process. The Stämpflis contributed greatly to the town through the years, slowly transforming the Carrer d'en Bosc into one of Sitges’s most charming streets, and planning quirky events like dropping 10,000 carnations over the town during the 1986 festa major. The latest contribution, the foundation and donation of five historic houses (including the one they live in) is the most enduring.
“Since we don’t have children, art is our child,” Peter Stämpfli said, chatting atop the 14th-century defensive wall that runs alongside his house. The 60 to 80 works that will comprise the museum come from the Stämplis’ private collection, and from the private collections of esteemed artists like Jean Pierre Raynaud, Peter Klasen, Eduardo Arroyo or Antonio Segui, who are donating their own works to the foundation. Although the museum will not be finished until 2010, these works will be on display beginning next year.
“The paintings displayed will be important works that represent the iconic style of each artist, artists who come from all over the world,” Stämpfli said.
Stämpfli, himself, was an early mover and shaker in Pop art circles, and his work is known across the globe. The tyre—an unlikely artistic symbol—has been his icon since the early Seventies, and versions of it large and small, literal and abstract, can be seen in museums, galleries and public spaces from France to Korea.
Sitges has been a source of inspiration for more than 30 years, but like all great love affairs, his with the town is difficult to put into words. “Why do you love your spouse? You can’t explain it. Sitges is different.”