Francis Prieto is a man of many talents: a writer and poet, a flamenco aficionado, a curator, an editor, the list goes on!
His most recent project El Cuartito– a gallery space on the ground floor of his tiny Gaucín home – celebrates five years this December and he is planning something special for this milestone. The gallery began with a couple of casual, friendly exhibitions, but visitors wanted to buy the work on display and so the project grew until now Francis has local artists working on site-specific pieces that he plans to show in the autumn. Over the last five years, the space has attracted some big local names such as Joseba Sanchez Zabaleta and Jim Rattenbury.
“El Cuartito is small but the space has a special, intimate quality” Francis says, adding that he is “privileged to work with the exhibiting artists.”
El Cuartito only shows the work of local artists, does not have a website and there are very few images of it available online. A strange way to go to market you might think, but it works and in a digital age the project’s simplicity is in many ways part of its appeal, giving it an almost exclusive edge. His one concession is an El Cuartito Facebook page to announce new exhibitions. Francis’s new editorial company (formed with his partner Isabel) has recently begun publishing the show catalogues and once again given Francis’s ethos, this is done using traditional methods.
The youngest of 12 children, his family have lived in Gaucín for generations, although he begrudges the fact that he was born in a hospital in Algeciras, Cadiz province whilst his siblings are all recorded as being born in the village. For a few years he lived in Malaga but always yearned for his mountain home and once returned has no plan to leave any time soon.
Francis was one of the founding members of the Festival Flamenco de Corcho del Genal eighteen years ago and is a complete aficionado. The annual event takes place the last weekend of July.
“Flamenco is very important to Gaucín,” Francis explains as he talks about the growth of the festival and its synergy with Art Gaucín, the group of local artists who each year take it in turns to design the festival cartel.
His book El Fandango y La Serrana de Gaucín discusses two forms of flamenco unique to Gaucín that he discovered through conversations with some of the older villagers. Francis has also published books of poetry and further books on flamenco including a delightful collaboration with local artist Paddy Robinson with a single beautifully illustrated stanza on each page.
One thing is for sure; Francis Prieto is a Renaissance Man, dedicating his time to celebrating and documenting Gaucín’s cultural identity. This does not make him a rich or powerful man but nevertheless he is vital part of the village’s cultural footprint life and his life is enriched as a consequence.
All images © Pip Art