Manolo Valdés

Manolo Valdés was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1942.


Barely a year after entering the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Carlos in Valencia in 1957, where he met his future colleagues from Equipo Crónica, the young Valdés embarked on his career as a painter. With the group Estampa Popular, Valdés used his painting to criticise the Franco dictatorship. In 1964, he exhibited at the XVI Salon de la Jeune Peinture organised in Paris by Arroyo, Aillaud and Recalcati. Together with his two friends Rafael Solbes and Joan Antoni Toledo, he decided to form Equipo Crónica, whose aesthetic approach was characterised by its strong narrative vocation at a time dominated by Art Informel and Expressionism. The collective was then inspired by American Pop Art, adopting its codes but giving them a completely different dimension. From 1965 onwards, the collective, consisting exclusively of Valdés and Solbes, took part in numerous exhibitions, acquiring a notoriety that extended beyond Spain's borders.


After the death of Rafael Solbes in 1981, which led to the dissolution of the collective, Manolo Valdés began a solo career. As a connoisseur of art history, he reinterpreted the masterpieces of the past. With Diego Velázquez, he approaches the mysteries of Las meninas; with Pablo Picasso, he resorts to the geometry of the Cubist portrait; with Henri Matisse, he pays homage to the first Fauvist painting, Femme au chapeau; and with Jan Van Eyck, he reinterprets the brilliance of colour and light in the self-portrait Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?). With just a few strokes, he captures the lines and contours of an iconic image, revisiting our classics almost obsessively, giving them an unprecedented modernity. The figure of Mariana de Austria by Velázquez, already known from the Equipo Crónica period, becomes a leitmotif.


Valdés has lived in New York since 1990, where he creates powerful works, skilfully mastering unusual materials with expressive textures such as jute canvas, folded, stitched or treated with paints and various materials such as tar. The hardness of the materials coincides with the strength of the symbol: an eyebrow or the bridge of a nose is enough to evoke a masterpiece of the past, consecrated, thanks to Valdés, with a new modernity. The result is highly aesthetic. In 1984 he received the Premio Nacional de Bellas Artes and a year later the Medalla de la Pintura Española. In 1999 he represented Spain at the XLVIII Biennale di Venezia. In 2002 the Guggenheim in Bilbao held the exhibition "Manolo Valdés. Pintura y Escultura" where an excellent dialogue is established between both artistic languages. Later, in 2006, the Museo Reina Sofía announced the exhibition "Manolo Valdés (1981-2006)", which showcased a comprehensive survey of his work. On a monumental scale, his sculptural work has been seen in public spaces around the world. Most recently at the Place Vendôme in Paris (2016) and at the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia (2017). In sculpture he works with materials such as wood, bronze, brass, alabaster and marble, among others. Today, his work appears in the collections of the most important museums around the world: the MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Kunstmuseum in Berlin and the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, among others.


Manolo Valdés currently lives and works between New York (USA) and Madrid (Spain).

Manolo Valdés in his studio, New York, 2017