Carmen Calvo and Juan Luis Arsuaga

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Carmen Calvo Juan Luis Arsuaga

Carmen Calvo
Photograph by Amparo Garrido

Carmen Calvo

Carmen Calvo is a contemporary artist who has made significant contributions to international art. She uses a variety of formal, technical and theme resources. She represented Spain at the Venice Biennale in 1997. Calvo is the recipient of numerous leading prizes and awards. Among them we can mention the Spanish National Prize for Visual Arts in 2013 and, in 2014, she was elected Academic Member of the San Carlos Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Valencia. Her work has been shown in the most important museums in Spain and beyond, with places in the top public and private international collections, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid.

Carmen Calvo and Juan Luis Arsuaga
Excavations at the Valley of the Neanderthals archaeological site (Pinilla del Valle, Madrid) / Photograph by Amparo Garrido

Juan Luis Arsuaga
Photograph by Amparo Garrido

Juan Luis Arsuaga

Juan Luis Arsuaga is a Professor of Palaeontology at the Complutense University of Madrid. Since 1991, he has been one of the excavation directors at the archaeological site in Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, the site of fossils that have proved essential to understand the evolution of man. In addition, he is the Scientific Director of the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos. Arsuaga has published over 80 papers in the world’s most renowned journals. Moreover, he works with researchers and academic institutions from all over the world. An enthusiastic science populariser, Arsuaga has organised and participated in successful exhibitions and documentaries. He is the author of about 15 books on evolution, including The Neanderthal’s Necklace: In Search of the First Thinkers, The Chosen Species: The Long March of Evolution and Vida, la gran historia, published in 2019.

It blows my mind and touches my heart

I just love what Carmen Calvo does. I have done so for many years now.

CNIO Art 2020 gave me the opportunity to meet her and like her even more.

Being with Carmen and talking with her is just as delightful as looking at her works. It is a mysterious, amazing, unique, personal, free experience.

Carmen Calvo’s work is targeted at your mind, your soul, your being… all at once. I am fishing for the right words but cannot find them. This is exactly what I have always found exciting about it: it strikes and takes all the words away.


When I look at Carmen Calvo’s work, it takes me to the place I like over all other places in the world. It is the place where the mark is hit, the place for satori – the mind-dissolving experience of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism. Carmen has been to this place before me, and I feel I can share in her joy, her rebelliousness, her playfulness, her eroticism and her pain.

As an artist, it is an experience in humility – fishing for words for what cannot be put into words, that is maybe the realm of dreams, maybe the realm of the unconscious, a place we can barely talk about but where things make sense. The same place where objects and images, signifiers and signified become sounds, sounds gather into tunes and tunes make songs.

I can picture Carmen in her amazing studio, swarming with things that asked to be rescued and were listened to. Standing on her shelves, living with her, talking to her, listening to Radio Clásica with her, learning secrets about her that only they can tell.

Can an artist be in better company than surrounded by friendly objects talking to her, loving her and finding a new life for themselves in her work?

Carmen’s work is brimming with energy and tension. It is not easy or kind. Carmen does what she has to do. She has a world and a language of her own and uses a variety of techniques: painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, installation art…

Carmen is a multifaceted artist that eludes classification. She represented Spain at the Venice Biennale in 1997. When she turned 30, her work had been shown – and praised – in the leading art fairs and museums in Spain and the world’s most art-friendly capitals: New York, Paris, and so on.

Carmen Calvo’s work overpowers my senses, blows my mind and touches my heart. She is a woman, and she is so brave.

Amparo Garrido, Director and Curator of CNIO Art

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Gobierno de España
CNIO Stop Cancer
Banco Santander


Entrance Hall, Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO)
Exhibition opening: 20 February, 12 noon
Hours: Mon-Fri from 9am to 7pm*

* Visitors to the exhibition must show their IDs.