Speech by the President of the Government of Spain at the presentation of the International Competition for the Restoration of the Royal Academy of Spain in Rome

2021.10.29

Rome (Italy)

Good evening, ambassador, superintendent, director general, creative artists, ladies and gentlemen.

Less than a year ago, at the Spain-Italy Forum meeting that we also had here in Rome, I already mentioned the importance of the Spanish Academy.

This institution, which welcomes us today, has played a great role in the relations between Spain and Italy, and also in the training of great artists who have received scholarships to spend their time here.

Shortly after that forum we expressed the firm will of the Government of Spain to implement - excuse me, director, also - to implement the necessary actions for the conservation of the monumental complex of San Pietro in Montorio.

For all these reasons, and you can imagine my satisfaction this afternoon, in which we can take another step forwards and materialise one of the actions that will mean a substantial transformation of the Academy, as the Director General of the Urban Agenda and Architecture has already told us.

So, taking advantage of this framework in which we find ourselves today, I would like to highlight the Government of Spain's commitment to promoting, disseminating and also protecting architecture as an asset of general interest, as the Director General has said with the Law on Architectural Quality, which passed through the Council of Ministers last Tuesday at first reading.

I believe that the quality of architecture is a key element, a key element in improving people's quality of life, especially in the urban environment, because it favours self-esteem and because it therefore increases the possibilities of social cohesion and territorial cohesion, which is one of the main tasks ahead of us.

This incredible portrait room that I had the chance to contemplate for the first time, because this is the first time I have had the chance to visit it, which was once the studio of José Benlliure, has witnessed talks, artists, concerts, has hosted the signing of agreements, meetings of thinkers and so many activities of various kinds that I am sure, if I may be so bold, many of you will also have witnessed and taken part in. Painting, music, sculpture, engraving, architecture, have been present since the founding of this Academy, in correspondence with the sections of the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, with which it has always been linked.

Today we have several architects in the room who some years ago also had a scholarship to this academy and they all recognise the mark that Rome left on them. They all say, as the scholar Antonio Portela wrote in 2005 in his book Roman Citizen, that Rome is a city that changes you forever.

Emilio Castelar, promoter of the creation of the Academy, wrote in the decree of its foundation that the institution was born to promote the national genius, also making a passionate defence of the need to cultivate the arts, that the State, the public authorities, should support artists, and that young people should be able to train properly, highlighting the intangible values of art, as well as its importance for the progress of the nation.

I believe that Castelar's words were also endorsed by the then President of the Spanish Republic, Nicolás Salmerón, who signed the decree in August 1873 with the same conviction that I have today as President of the Government of Spain almost 150 years later.

In short, I believe that supporting our creators, researchers and culture is an investment in the present and the future. This is why this Academy continues to be a point of reference not only for Spain's external action, which it undoubtedly is, but also as a centre of cultural production at an international level, which is in good health, and this is attested to by the works on display in the exhibition, which you will all be able to see later.

An academy which, as the director general of Architecture has rightly commented, is established in a monumental complex, I would say exceptional if we could describe it in any way, which is nourished by the hundreds of scholarship holders in its history, by the golden sap of this hill where Italy and Spain, as the ambassador said earlier, unite or unite to speak with the same language, of this mons aureo of culture, if I may say so, of universal culture. With all the accents, nuances and flavours.

At this very moment President Macron, the President of the French Republic, on the other side of the city, is also at the Académie de France supporting French culture, as we are doing here today with Spanish culture. This is also the basis of the Europe that we all want, which has the strength of its cultural diversity as one of its main assets.

Today we are all in Rome, a city we all marvel at and which has inspired us all, or rather which has inspired us all at some time and, if not, look at these magnificent windows. It is true that it is night now, but, undoubtedly, it inspires us all.

It would seem impossible not to be inspired by this place which frankly I think has the best views in the whole city.

That is why we are here today. To continue moving forwards, improving the conditions of the creators, of the creators, of the researchers who develop their projects in this house with great enthusiasm, with great hope, of the facilities that will allow us all to participate and enjoy the best cultural manifestations from all corners of the globe.

Because we cannot forget that today's needs have changed and that as a citizen, we are becoming more and more demanding and therefore we have more expectations and our cultural rights are and must be even more recognised.

That is why I am grateful for the tireless work of the team of this Academy, always willing, always generous. Director, please pass on this recognition to everyone, to all the staff, and also, especially today, to the efforts being made by the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, because they understand that the cultural heritage of the San Pietro in Montorio complex and, specifically, the needs of the Spanish Academy, must be attended to and form part of the priority projects, and also of the Government of Spain.

Let me confess that after so many years of getting to know this Academy through images, through conversations with friends who have experienced it, this is the first time that I have entered, as I said before, these emblematic spaces such as this wonderful portrait room, and I do so with a very special reason, which is to ratify the commitment of the Government of Spain to this investment, the first of a series of actions that will have continuity.

Now it is the turn of the Directorate General for the Urban Agenda and Architecture, and very shortly of the Directorate General for Fine Arts, which has already confirmed its decision to help in the restoration of the Church of the San Pietro in Montorio Complex, starting with its roofs.

And finally, please allow me not to forget the commitment of the Government of Spain, and I believe that of the Spanish nation, to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of this institution in 2023, as the ambassador rightly reminded us, which is as unique as it is valuable, and to the creators and researchers for whom and with whom we want to find practical solutions so that in the short, medium and long term they can improve their living conditions, their work and their visibility. The visibility of the work they do during their time in this beautiful environment.

I am deeply proud of the work of all the generations of researchers and creators who have made this institution what it is today, and especially of those I know are here today.

I suggest you follow them in their journeys, just as you will continue to follow the timely and precise information on the rehabilitation tender of this academy that starts today.

So thank you very much director, ambassadors, superintendent, director general and above all to the real protagonists, who are the creators, the researchers who give not only soul, but also body and presence to the important contribution to the culture and history of Italy, or rather, Spain and vice versa.

Thank you very much for your presence and thank you also for your attention.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Original speech in Spanish

Non official translation