Jime Dine, from the heart

As a thank you to France, American all-rounder par excellence (painter, sculptor, photographer, printmaker, graphic designer, poet, performance art precursor...) Jim Dine has donated a body of work to the National Museum of Modern Art (MNAM), housed in the George-Pompidou centre in Paris, better known as "Beaubourg". Lucky them!

This self-selected collection, assembled in 2017 and 2018, is now the object of a solo show at the Centre Pompidou Málaga, the protean artist's first in Spain. Strong stuff! Lucky us!

Dine defines his selection as "a handmade version of myself", and the least that can be said is that he has taken matters into his own hands. "The entire gift resonates with the use of my hands," he declares in a sharply crafted introduction that walks us through his choices.

Don't even think about labelling Jim Dine as a pop eminence, also au fait of ready-mades à la Duchamp; the hip and happening 'grand-pop' of conceptualism, ranked among the top 1,000 on ArtFacts, would object. The bathrobes, which have made him a household name - or almost - are not an allusion to popular culture. They are wearer-less metaphors, "a kind of transition from body to object".

As for his hearts (closer to abstract expressionism than Milton Glaser's even more famous "I love" heart symbol featured on T-shirts, tote bags and mugs all over the planet), they are "archetypes". In the 1980s, Jim Dine was "in Jungian analysis (...) intensely accessing some archetypal unconscious imagery and thoughts".

Young Jim experienced a trauma. Born in Ohio, in 1935, to a loving Jewish family, he lost his mother at the age of 12. So, it's hardly surprising that wooden effigies of Pinocchio (a first present from his 'muter') and the Venus de Milo should loom large as Oedipal totems. More vital to the decoding process: Dine was raised by his grandmother and grandfather, an ironmonger.

Objects perceived as representations of "an inner landscape" - tools in particular - are the crux of this then and now self-portrait. His aim? To display his gratitude: "I wanted to include my latest painting to show the intensity of where I was in my 81st year as an artist and as a person. (...) This country has given me and my art so much."

Feeling blessed not to have missed this powerful self-curated auto-retrospective, it struck me that Malaga was the perfect place to hold it.

Jim Dine must have loved popping into its old-fashioned 'ferreterías', the hardware stores that are the heart and soul of every 'barrio', when he came over for the opening...