Friday, 21 April 2023, 13:16
She strolls through each room, noting every small detail. She profiles the public as they enter, focusing on which artworks catch the children's eyes, or the painting that most interests the lady... And, if the opportunity arises, she strikes up a conversation with them. She brings a twist to this role: journalist by profession, analysing everything, while revealing her artistic passion for this project.
"I'm the kid with candy," she confessed, surrounded by works by Sorolla, Romero de Torres, Fortuny, Tàpies, Saura and Menchu Gal, among others. Lorena Codes, from Malaga, is artistic lead for the Mirador del Carmen exhibition centre, recently opened by Estepona town council - a blank canvas for the arts, attracting new audiences.
"All the strands are in place to get this place on the cultural map," she said. The Mirador del Carmen is the first installation along the Costa del Sol to offer top museum-standard space outside Malaga city. Such a concept "needs to be opened up to the province", argued Codes.
Live in Painting. Spanish Art in the Carmen Thyssen Collection is the first exhibition to occupy the gallery space on the first floor of the Mirador, with nearly fifty pieces on show from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
The space still smells new. No fewer than 5,000 people visited the exhibition in its first week, almost half from Estepona and nearly 30 per cent from overseas.
"They leave with a mixture of surprise and gratitude, excited that this is here. For residents in particular it is a great pleasure not to have to travel far to see art," said Codes, accompanied by José Luis García Gómez, charged with technical operations for the centre.
Best of all, art of this calibre. Visitors are greeted by a highly symbolic work: Beach at Estepona with a View of the Rock of Gibraltar, Fritz Bamberger (1855). The German painter probably captured this landscape from somewhere close to the Mirador, but 150 years have rendered the coastline unrecognisable. Further on, we find Sorolla's Breakwater, San Sebastián; Julio Romero de Torres' Cordoba Fair; Mariano Fortuny's North African Landscape; and El Baño (Sevilla) by Francisco Iturrino, a work standing two metres tall.
Landscapes and more traditional scenes give way to the abstract art of Saura and the pop art of Antonio de Felipe - two of the artists, according to Codes, proving popular with children.
The exhibition was curated by Lourdes Moreno, artistic director of the Carmen Thyssen Málaga Museum. "And the teamwork from her staff has been key to making this an easy launch," said Codes, who worked hand in hand with the museum's conservators on the displays. Moreover, the Thyssen advised on optimum conditions for the space regarding lighting, aircon and more.
According to Codes, this show is just for starters. Baroness Thyssen's artworks will be in Estepona until 25 September. Works from another important Spanish foundation are expected in October, soon to be announced. The project goes far beyond being just an exhibition gallery of 380 square metres - its design splits into three spaces, allowing multiple possibilities. When crossing the main hall, there's access to the upper part, a kind of double-height, open corridor from which visitors can see the entire ground floor. Currently pristine white and empty, this space can be filled with content and, above all, activities: from children's workshops to a concert or a theatrical performance. With direct access from the street, it lends itself to being 'occupied' in differently creative ways.
Venue Exhibition gallery on the first floor of the Mirador del Carmen on the seafront in Estepona.
Opening hours Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm.
Admission 6 euros general and 4 euros concessions. Free for registered Estepona residents.
Lorena's head right now is buzzing with ideas. With the guided tours already under way, Codes and García Gómez are working on the educational programme, a key priority.
"It's what I most want, as the experience of art with children is incredible. This makes sense because it is for them, it generates our future visitors and it changes lives. This is not just a beautiful building for taking selfies," Codes reflected.
This new job is a natural step for Codes, uniting her two professional loves. The journalist, with years of experience in the sector and a regular contributor to SUR, has also been a Literature teacher since 2018, a post that she has combined with other artistic and cultural undertakings (exhibition curator at the Alianza Francesa, the MUPAM, the Malaga University Rectorate and the Mingorance Rooms). Both facets, she assured us, complement each other: "Working in any classroom is very enriching, it gives me a lot of feedback."
Mirador del Carmen is also a facility that will soon be "filled with life and young people", said García Gómez.
Several floors of the 12-storey tower designed by well-known architect Salvador Moreno Peralta will be used as a digital library. Right by the main entrance is the conservatoire, a music school opening after summer with a fully equipped auditorium (148 seats) facing the sea. The synergies between art, music and creative thinking are inevitable.
"It's an exciting project," concluded Lorena Codes.
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