Reina Sofía museum benefactors donate photo trove documenting 1950s Spain

The collection of 600 pictures is the work of Afal, a famous art collective from Almería

‘Living in Madrid,’ a 1964 photo by Afal member Francisco Ontañón.
‘Living in Madrid,’ a 1964 photo by Afal member Francisco Ontañón.MUSEO REINA SOFÍA

Adolfo Autric and Charo Tamayo’s home in the suburbs of Madrid is all but an exhibition center. Dedicated to photography and industrial design, its three floors are strewn with dozens of objects bearing the signatures of Mariscal, Frank Gehry and Bauhaus.

But an essential component of Autric and Tamayo’s treasure trove are 600 photos by Afal, a collective of innovative Spanish photographers based in Almeria who, in the late 1950s, revolutionized the manner in which Spanish lives were portrayed by challenging censorship and the propaganda-style photography typical of the era.

The collection is part of my children’s inheritance, so it was a sacrifice for us all

Adolfo Autric

Valued at €1.5 million, these historic shots are being donated to the Reina Sofia art museum, where they will have their own permanent space. Before that, on June 12, the collection will be included in an Afal Group exhibition at the popular art center.

Autric and Tamayo, who are both lawyers, have a history of art patronage, and their most recent donation will turn the museum into a reference point for anyone interested in the Afal collective’s work. “We have always had a good relationship with [museum director] Manuel Borja-Villel,” Autric explains. “For instance, we bought one of the two chairs that formed part of the pavilion of the Spanish Republic in Paris for them.”

The Afal donation was, in fact, Borja-Villel’s idea. “Laura Terré, daughter of the photographer Ricard Terré, played a mediating role in the arrangements,” says the museum director. “We already had a lot of work by the Afal group, but there were gaps that we had to fill, and that is what we have done. All the material is vintage, with copies made by the photographers themselves, and they are all there: Joan Colom, Gabriel Cualladó, Francisco Gómez, Gonzalo Juanes, Ramón Masats, Oriol Maspons, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón, Carlos Pérez Siquier (who founded Afal magazine with José María Artero), Alberto Schommer, Ricard Terré, Leopoldo Pomés and Julio Ubiña.

The collectors: Adolfo Autric and Charo Tamayo at home in Madrid. 
The collectors: Adolfo Autric and Charo Tamayo at home in Madrid. Jaime Villanueva

In the absence of any legislation on patronage, Autric complains that there is not agreement that would facilitate donations of this kind. The benefactor, he explains – in this case himself – enjoys tax benefits of up to 30% of the value of the donation, with a limit of 10% of taxable income. “This changes depending on whether you are an individual or a company, but I think they should make this kind of thing simpler, because what exists right now is tricky,” he says.

For a person earning €90,000 a year, for example, the deduction is applied to €9,000 (representing 10% of taxable income). As the deduction itself is 30% of this amount, what can in reality be deducted is €2,700. This is the case no matter what the amount of the donation itself, even if it is worth €100,000. In the case of a retired donor earning the maximum pension of €36,000 a year, the most that could be deducted is €1,080. In short, what an individual may deduct from his or her tax bill that year is 3% of that year’s earnings, regardless of the value of the donation.

We already had a lot of work by the Afal group, but there were gaps that we had to fill, and that is what we have done

Manuel Borja-Villel, museum director

Companies, meanwhile, can make deductions over the 10 years following the donation and even write off the donated value as expenses, provided there is a written agreement with the beneficiary. Existing legislation discriminates between individual and corporate donors, but Autric hopes that sooner rather than later the government will address the issue by dusting off the patronage bill that has been so often set aside.

“Personally, I donate for patriotic reasons, because I love my country and I enjoy doing it. But it fills you with envy when you see the facilities offered to patrons in America, the UK and France. Patrons are not here to relieve the state of its own obligations to museums, but we can be a big help.”

Collecting is not about hoarding

All the photos have been taken out of the frames they have hung in for years, and stored in boxes that will shortly be taken to the Reina Sofia. “The whole family is sad to lose them,” says Autric. “We don’t buy art to store it away, but to enjoy each piece. Due to their delicate nature, the photos can’t be on show continually, but Colom’s women in El Raval, the tourist scenes by Miserachs and the Sanfermines by Masats have all been part of our lives. Masats, Pomés and Pérez Siquier have been inside our home many times.”

Autric adds that the decision to donate was made by the entire family. “The collection is part of my children’s inheritance, so it was a sacrifice for us all,” he says. “To begin with, just my daughter Cristina and I were in favor, while my wife and son Rodrigo had reservations. But we agreed in the end. The idea that we had to do it out of patriotism triumphed – that we had a duty to complete an important part of the Spanish heritage that was not otherwise well explained.”

English edition by Heather Galloway.

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