"Malaga represents an admirable paradox: that of being one of the oldest cities in Europe while at the same time one of the most modern." These were the words of King Felipe, barely three sentences into his speech during the presentation of Gold Medals for Achievements in Fine Art, which recognised the work of a score of creators and cultural institutions at a ceremony held in the city's Centre Pompidou gallery on Tuesday.
It underlined not only the monarch's admiration for the city which he described as “cherished” by himself and Queen Letizia (who was also in attendance), but also the progress it has made to become “a benchmark on Spain's cultural scene” - in the words of actor José Coronado, who spoke on behalf of the award winners.
Felipe VI also took the opportunity to give his backing to the Centre Pompidou's link to the city. He welcomed the news that the French cultural centre, whose president Serge Lasvignes was seated in the front row, had recently renewed its commitment to the city until 2020 but hoped that it wouldn't just be a “modern utopia”, as the new permanent exhibition is called, but rather a “a reality for many more years to come”.
The prizes for 2016 were dished out to a broad spectrum of artists, performers and institutions. The list included fashion designer Lorenzo Caprile; actors José Coronado and Ricardo Darín; singer Gloria Estefan; guitarist José Fernández 'Tomatito'; the Fundación Duques de Soria de Ciencia y Cultura Hispánica; dancer Rafael Amargo; chef Pedro Subijana; singer José Iranzo Bielsa 'Pastor de Andorra' (posthumous); bullfighter Julián López 'El Juli'; actress Magüi Mira; the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philippe de Montebello; the Orfeón Pamplonés choir; the director of the Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico, Helena Pimenta; tpianist María Martha Argerich; editor Manuel Borrás; harpist María Rosa Calvo; the director of the San Sebastián Jazz Festival Miguel Martín; industrial designer Miquel Milà i Sagnier; poet Julia Uceda; and the editor and cultural promoter Leopoldo Mugaza.
Gloria Estefan, Ricardo Darín and Philippe de Montebello were unable to attend the ceremony because of various professional and personal reasons.
A better society
“We are fortunate doing what we are doing,” said Coronado, who stressed that what they all had in common was “the values of humility, solidarity, responsibility, respect and love for the job”. He insisted that these were necessary for “a better, fairer, healthier, more united and more cultured society”.
This was a sentiment echoed by the minister for Education, Culture and Sport, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, who said: “Culture is the soul of the Spanish nation. The life.
“We have experienced how its force, its innovation, its history, its art, its music, its cinema, its books... make up Spain's identity.”
The Centre Pompidou was closed on Monday as preparations were made for the ceremony. As an introduction the night before, the award winners attended a special dinner at the Aduana palace, hosted by the minister.
Tuesday's event began at 11.30am with the arrival of the king and queen, who were accompanied by the city's mayor, Francisco de la Torre; Méndez de Vigo; and the president of the Andalusian government, Susana Díaz.
Díaz highlighted the three Andalusians among the medal winners: poet Julia Uceda, guitarist Tomatito and dancer Rafael Amargo.
She said: “Spain is a country rich in talent, and Andalucía a land filled with creativity, genius and skill.”
De la Torre used the painting of Peter Doig, '100 years ago' (2001), which presided over the ceremony, as a metaphor for the city:
“Peter Doig is a painter of freedom and surprise. These are the two features which can sum up the city of today which welcomes you.”