Praga, 1991

Prague, 1991
Painting, 199 x 140 x 2.3 cm

Guillermo Kuitca creates pictorial approximations of different forms of the physical and territorial space. While his early works include theatrical scenarios and apartment floor plans, since the late eighties he has been painting maps of cities from all over the world. Although they seem like abstract paintings at first, the names of well-known places such as Odessa, Prague or Zurich soon become distinguishable. Their appearance is nebulous, like a storm cloud lying on the pictorial surface. Eschewing strictly geographical or political motifs, Kuitca is interested in human obsessions and places with a pre-eminently human historical significance. Sometimes he maintains the toponyms, while at others he incorporates the names of streets from one city onto the plan of another, or makes maps where all the streets have the same name.

One of his first paintings of maps is Odessa, 1988, evoking the famous steps in Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 film Battleship Potemkin, while simultaneously retracing the artist’s family roots. This is not the only work that recalls the name of this city and one of the most iconic scenes in movie history, when the Cossack soldiers fired on the people for their support of the mutiny by the sailors of the battleship Potemkin against the officers of the Tsarist regime. More than a cinematographic reference, Kuitca evokes his parents’ journey to escape racial persecution and the pogroms at the beginning of the twentieth century, when they were forced to leave Kiev and embark at Odessa for Buenos Aires. ‘The little pram in Odessa is an image that I adopted as a leitmotif. It wasn’t a quotation from the movie, which I saw only long afterwards, but from a frame of that scene, which I took from a magazine. Francis Bacon, who was an important painter for me when I was twelve or thirteen, had worked with other frames from the movie. But there is also a family history. Even today, I don’t know much about my family, but I know that my grandparents were from Kiev, and I supposed that, like most of the Russian Jews who came to the Río de la Plata, they sailed from Odessa. […] Somehow, my family was travelling in that pram. That was the ship that was bringing my family from Odessa.’ (Guillermo Kuitca, Everything. Paintings and works on paper, 1980–2008, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum, Miami Art Museum, Scala ed. 2008, p.77).

Besides this reference taken from the family memory, Kuitca uses maps of cities and territories laden with history, such as Prague, 1991. This work, together with San Juan and Zurich, both from 1991, and the triptych 3 Maitresses, 1992, belong to the MACBA Collection. Kuitca applies paint to achieve reverberating surfaces, in a world of dislocated cartographies and illusionistic spaces alluding to an erratic subject that does not find its place in history. Pictorially reinventing cities, places and names, he maps areas of historical pain and turns the past into a place of experimentation.

Technical details

Original title:
Registration number:
Kuitca, Guillermo
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Acrylic on canvas
199 x 140 x 2.3 cm (height x width x depth)
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation. Long-term loan of Brondesbury Holdings Ltd.
© Guillermo Kuitca
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The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.

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