Tossa de Mar - paradis bleu
-Marc Chagall, 1934
Where the pyrenees meet the mediterranean
La Babel de les Arts
-Raphael Benet, 1934
In 1934, Barcelona based ART magazine published a special issue on the artist colony of Tossa with Marc Chagall, André Masson, Georges Bataille, Oscar Zügel, Otho Lloyd and Dora Maar. A number of them were exiles from Nazism who sought refuge in Tossa. The safe haven was a joyous one, creativity overflowing. It was Chagall himself who tagged Tossa de Mar with the words “Blue Paradise”. It was an art community that was anchored in the world of letters by the Scottish journalist Archie Johnstone and his wife Nancy, a writer who published two books chronicling their experiences there before and during the Spanish Civil War in her books “Hotel in Spain” and “Hotel in Flight”, the latter being the subject of a movie to be shot in Tossa in 2019. George Orwell was contentiously in communication with their circle. Catalan journalist Josep Pla said at that time that “for every sardine that swims past, there are 200 painters that stay in Tossa.”
The Spanish Civil War and the ensuing Franco era had cut short the bloom of arts. After Franco, tourism drove the economy of the nation and especially in Tossa. Even though the kismet of that art scene was curtailed, echoes resound to this day. In the 50’s, “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman”, starring Ava Gardner and James Mason, was shot on location in Tossa, the first Hollywood production set in Spain. Remarkably, Man Ray moonlighted as the film’s artist. These moments of joy, a Doppler slipping to the horizon. But there’s no reason not to ring the bell again, Tossa de mar is a yet a remarkably tuned vessel. It is up to us to ring it again. It is the ambition of AIR.CAT is to re-energize a vibrant art world in Tossa, a natural inspirational refuge for artists.
Tossa de Mar is located equidistant between Barcelona and Dalí’s Port Ligat by about an hour and fifteen minutes drive. With a population that varies between 6,000 in winter to +35,000 in summer, tourism is the main economy for a pueblo that once was a rustic fishing village and before that for hundreds of years, a producer of grapes and cork. Its history stretches back to Neolithic times, succeeded by settlements Iberian to Roman to the full flowering of Catalonia, present today.
Situated in the southernmost portion of the Costa Brava, the craggy coast where the Pyrenees dives into the Mediterranean forming the characteristic coves -calas in Catalan- that we are all too familiar with in the dreamscapes of Dali. Tossa possesses a unique topological terrain in relation to the sea. The promontory of Cap Tossa juts into the sea, its' height surmounted by a lighthouse. A large beach, the Platja Gran, curls from the promontory protectively cupping the sea leading to a smaller utility beach called Mar Menuda where sail boats, kayaks and paddle boards are rented and divers deploy into the depths. Tucked behind the Medieval walled fortification of the Villa Vella is a small cove sheltering the cozy beach called Codolar. Surrounded by hills and mountains that had discouraged the easy access of mass-tourism, many trails offer hiking adventures into thick forests in three cardinal directions.