Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Victor Balaguer, 'Surge et Ambula'!

On October 26, 1884, politician Victor Balaguer inaugurated his own museum here in Vilanova. Last Sunday, actor Lluís Soler read his 125 year old opening speech for the many people who had come to celebrate the renovation of the façade of this building – emblematic to the town and the almost the first thing you see if you arrive here by train. After that, the jubilee exhibition Surge et Ambula, (Get up and Walk), as of the museums motto, was officially opened.

If the Victor Balaguer museum always provides clues to which things and phenomena fascinated an 19th century intellectual, this exhibition goes one step further and recreates the interiors as it can be seen in photos of the early years. More or less all original items have been brought out from the archives, and hung without any chronological or thematic order. On purpose, there are not any explaining signs, so those who want to learn what they see have to look into the program.

That might seem unstructured with our perspective, but was apparently perceived differently by Balaguer and his contemporaries. The intention behind this art museum and library was not to entertain, but to found an academy and spread knowledge to the local inhabitants as well as to rest of Catalonia.

Victor Balaguer must have had a great persuasive talent since thanks to him, a big share of the new won wealth which the americanos brought here in the late 19th century, went into projects for the common good. In an interview in El Punt, museum director Montserrat Comas points out that, during those years, Vilanova did not merely evolve, but decided that it wanted to become a modern town and took radical measures – among which the railway connection with Barcelona stands out for its scale - to reach that goal.

I will not pretend to be especially interested in the odd objects this man collected, but his personality fascinates me. There cannot be many people who better personify the Catalan expressions “fer pais” and “fer ciutat” - to build a country and a town, respectively. I wonder what visions he would have for Vilanova, the Penedès or the whole of Catalonia of our days. Get up and walk, Victor Balaguer! We need your spirit.

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The temporary exhibition "Surge et Ambula" can be seen until March 25, 2010.

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Penedès, Vilanova,

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