art facing the sea

Enrique Grau

“Cartagena de Indias breathes like an enormous fish, like a mural made of rocks in front of the ocean, like a yellow-eyed bird or an almond-eyed great-tailed grackle, with a smile that reveals the playful soul of an ancient city that reinvents itself, from the illuminated shadow of its own memory. Enrique Grau (1920 – 2004), maker of forms and volumes, with colors and portraits that forever capture the soul of the city. There is not a single one of his paintings, a sculpture or ensemble, that does not remind us of a corner of Cartagena de Indias. Grau painted and sculpted, dreamed and lived, with vocation of eternity. He took the city with himself, like a snail of unusual rainbows.

He interpreted it with its duels and carnivals, its secrets and submerged miracles, and perpetuated each of its events, riddles, masquerades, in the wooden faces of its women and the iridescent wings of its great-tailed grackle, guardian birds of its waters and the clouds. There is also no place in Cartagena de Indias that does not evoke its artist. Within the walled heart, you will find the footprints of the artist sculpted in Pedro Claver’s pupil, on the dome of the Adolfo Mejia Theatre (former Heredia Theatre), in its nine muses of the arts and sciences, and the hands that always offer a bouquet, adorned with Caribbean flowers, facing the immense light, water and stone canvas that depicts the city, reflected on the stage curtain.

His soul also resonates in the old warehouse of the colonial port, at the Cartagena Museum of Modern Art, thirty years of tangible existence and more than three hundred works. Shortly before leaving in 2004, his dream was to found a great cultural center that would house all his esthetic miracles.

Everything in his work is gestures, expression, movement, feeling, an ability to decipher the void and the gaze that appears. Beauty of the tangible and the intangible, like malice, thirst and lust, the sophistication, the elegance and the dance sequence of the “El Vals” sculpture, the disturbing mystery of “La Adivina”, that seems to realize love’s destiny in a card. Grau is everywhere, and now this suite that bears his name, with a discreet balcony that looks out into infinity, and the flapping of wings of a giant grackle, which keeps some of its images and deepest memories, in the same enchanted cloister of the Poor Clares, transformed into a five-star hotel and where in 2000 it was embroiled in light, forging a retrospective in that same ancient stage, beautiful and timeless.

The suite chosen for Grau at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara is a tribute to one of Cartagena de Indias’ and Colombia’s greatest artists. Its environment, forged with the delicateness of its soul under the rigorous care of the Grau Foundation, takes us back to the balm of its intimate greatness and its insatiable capacity to invent a reality that always competes with that of every day. Its artistic work is a living wonder that transcends in time. In a blink, the colors of its flowers wake up, and its grackles flap their wings again, and the symphony of its waves resonates incessantly.