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Women in the Arts and Letters in Navarre (7). María Josefa Huarte Beaumont: collector and patron of the arts


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Diario de Navarra

Angel J. Gómez Montoro :: Angel J. Gómez Montoro

President of the University of Navarra Museum board of trustees

Diario de Navarra, in partnership with the Chair of Heritage and Navarrese Art of the University of Navarra, addresses, monthly, with the help of specialists from various universities and institutions, aspects on the relationship of women with the arts and literature in Navarra.

An enterprising family from Navarre

María Josefa Huarte was the third of four children born to Don Félix Huarte Goñi and Doña Adriana Beaumont Galduroz. Don Félix, of modest origins, was self-made and, although he would have liked to be an architect, he worked as a draughtsman at programs of study after attend at the municipal schools of Pamplona. He soon set up his own business, moved to Madrid and there managed to develop a successful professional degree program . Doña Adriana, dedicated to housework, was his perfect companion. In María Josefa's words, if her father had a strong character, her mother was a "constant balance". The couple had four children: Jesús, Juan, María Josefa and Felipe.

Don Félix was an enterprising man, full of energy, with a spirit of modernity, social commitment and a great love for Navarre that had multiple manifestations, both in the cultural field -he supported young artists, the Pamplona Choral Society, the Pamplona Conservatory...- and in the industrialization projects that he carried out from the Vice-Presidency of the Provincial Council. His children inherited many of these traits, although each one oriented them according to his own personality and interests at agreement . Their capacity to promote avant-garde cultural enterprises is astonishing: they supported artists such as Oteiza, Chillida, Palazuelo, Balerdi or Sistiaga; musicians such as Antonio Baciero or Luis de Pablo; they commissioned renowned architects such as Sainz de Oiza, Corrales y Molezún, Fernando Redón or Rafael Moneo. They created or promoted companies such as H Muebles, focused on avant-garde designs (one of whose contests was won by a chair presented by a young Rafael Moneo); X Films, a production company focused on experimental projects; the group Alea, which under the direction of Luis de Pablo promoted the musical research , Ediciones Alfaguara or the magazine Nueva Forma. And they promoted the 1972 Pamplona Encounters , whose fiftieth anniversary has just been commemorated.

The fact that María Josefa was the only daughter, surrounded by boys, could have led her to be the spoiled one in the family, but in reality, it stimulated in her a competitive sense and a desire for independence. With great sensitivity, in her youth she was attracted to dance, an activity that was cut short by a serious illness. The focus then shifted to the plastic arts. At that time her brother Juan was already very committed to the art world and, in particular, to the promotion of young artists. Through him, María Josefa had her first contacts with some of them, such as Oteiza, Chillida or Basterretxea. It was also through Juan that she met Santiago Amón, a meeting that would be very important in her artistic training , until then rather self-taught.

María Josefa, collector

María Josefa had married Javier Vidal Sario in 1971, an engineer who was not only the companion of a long life but also her accomplice in the activities in which she would turn her energies: the care of homeless children and contemporary art. To help children at risk status founded in 1971, with the financial aid of Doña Adriana, the association Navarra Nuevo Futuro, from which she promoted the creation of foster homes, not only in Spain but also in countries where there were serious armed conflicts: Colombia, Honduras, Croatia.... She did not limit herself to finding the funds and developing the projects, but went to those places herself, regardless of the risks that this often entailed.

His interest in art materialized in the training of his magnificent collection, centered on Spanish abstract expressionism, an admirable bet if one thinks of the Spanish context of the time but which responded perfectly to a search for spirituality linked to a deeply rooted religious sentiment. It is not a very large collection -47 paintings and sculptures by 18 artists- but exquisite and very staff. attention Her direct contact with the artists and the visit to numerous international museums -often on the occasion of Javier's business trips, which she accompanied- refined a sensitivity that was already innate. She bought the works personally, in galleries or at the artists' programs of study , not at auctions because, she said, she was horrified by the idea of competing for a work of art; and each acquisition was the result of a relationship staff a crush, she always said- with each one. But it was also an accurate taste: he knew how to buy when the artists were not yet so renowned and to choose works that, in many cases, are especially representative.

The first piece she acquired was Iris by Palazuelo, one of the artists best represented in the collection and whose work is easily linked to the great elegance of María Josefa. Also from that early period is the acquisition of Chillida's La música de las esferas (The Music of the Spheres ). She had a very special relationship with Oteiza, whom in 1956 she commissioned two very special works for her home in Madrid: a limestone fireplace - Elíasy su carro de fuego - and a fantastic mural - Homenajea Bach - which the artist sculpted in her home while she watched with fascination. Later, but with great force, the work of Tàpies entered her collection: in 1971 she acquired L' esperit català from the Maeght gallery in Paris; and in 1991, in New York, Incendi d'amor, a 2.5 x 6 meter mural. Along with them, works by Feito, Manrique, Rueda, Burguillos, Hernandez Monpó, Sistiaga, Millares... or, the last work he bought, the Rodchenko Rojo ( 2004) by Manu Muniategiandikoetxea. The collection includes three works that indicate the limits of the collection, avant-garde, abstraction, spirituality: Mousquetaire by Picasso, a drawing by Kandinsky and a precious oil on paper by Mark Rothko. The latter artist fascinated her in a special way and she sometimes recalled - between sorrow and amusement - how she missed the opportunity to buy another of his works in a Basel gallery where seven large paintings were exhibited. Her desire to acquire one of them was met with her husband's categorical refusal at a price that, although high, was far from the level at which his work was later acquired.

María Josefa did not collect to have but to live the experience of art and, for this reason, practically all her work was in her house in Madrid; only two of the pieces - Incendi de amor and Composició amb cistella - had to remain in storage due to their size. He personally organized their distribution throughout the house, showing not only a very special ability to find dialogues and relationships between the works but also a great vision of space, which led him to tear down partitions and rebuild others.

The University of Navarra Museum

María Josefa's magnanimity could not remain enclosed within the walls of her house in Madrid. She believed in the transformative power of art, she wanted others to be able to appreciate and enjoy it as much as she did. For that reason, in homage to her mother, she created together with Javier Vidal the Beaumont Foundation; and to honor her father she erected in 1997, at the University of Navarra, the Chair Félix Huarte of Aesthetics and Contemporary Art. She promoted research, congresses and conference, but also courses for professors of teaching average because for María Josefa it was essential that what was done at the University reached everyone. Of particular relevance were the Lessons in Poetics in which Claudio Magris, Tomás Llorens, Cristobal Halffter and Jaume Vallcorba, among others, participated. From the Chair the publication of an important series of monographs and, in 2005, Revisiones: revista de crítica cultural (Revisions: a journal of cultural criticism). María Josefa and Javier followed with interest the activities of the Chair and not infrequently opened the doors of Villa Adriana, their home in Pamplona, to the participants.

I think that these years of direct relationship with the University of Navarra and the good fruits of the Chair influenced her decision to leave her collection to the University. Initially she thought of creating a Museum of Contemporary Art located in the Citadel, the space she considered most emblematic of Pamplona. Faced with the impossibility of carrying it out, she turned to the University. The proposal was made to the then President, José María Bastero, with whom they had a close relationship; after the change in the Office of the Executive Council, I was lucky enough to receive the project. María Josefa wanted the collection to remain in Navarra, open to the whole of society. But she also wanted it to be used to promote the research, in continuity with the work of the Chairand to bring art closer to the younger generations of students.

I must say that, although there was no lack of difficulties, what followed was for me a particularly joyful stage. And not only because of the scope of project, but also because of the possibility of sharing so many moments with María Josefa and Javier, something in which I was frequently accompanied by Jaime García del Barrio, who joined the University to promote the new Museum. After a slow study of the legal aspects and the economic viability of project, the donation was signed on April 10, 2008 in an emotional ceremony in which she was accompanied by Javier and an important representation of her nephews and nieces.

Previously, María Josefa had suggested that Rafael Moneo, who, in addition to his ties with the family, knew the collection very well, should design the building. María Josefa spoke with him and I remember the first meetings at Central Building of the University. After the second meeting, the three of us visited the site of its possible location. At that time he agreed to do so and I think he already sensed the building, wedged between two small hills and closing the Campus. The next relevant intervention of María Josefa was the approval of the model that Rafael presented to us, already very similar to the final building. I was impressed by his ability to "see" the spaces and imagine the play of the roofs.

Shortly thereafter, María Josefa fell ill, in a rapid process that meant that she could no longer continue the work or enjoy the final result . It was undoubtedly the most painful part of this project. Fortunately Javier and a good representation of the family were able to be present and greet Their Majesties the King and Queen on the day of the inauguration of the Museum, January 22, 2015, precisely in front of the painting Incendi d'amor. Just two weeks later, on February 8, he passed away in his beloved Villa Adriana. His generosity - "I think it is important to know how to give away what interests me the most, to donate what I appreciate the most," he said in an interview- and his drive made his dream come true: "to collaborate with other institutions in placing Navarre in its rightful place in European cultural trends.