A Spanish pre-teen prodigy has made a surprise breakthrough in the world of contemporary art, selling his works of “love and peace” in galleries for up to 20,000 EUR for a painting.
Metropolitan Press caught up with 10-year old Juanito Cortes and his father as they prepare to embark on a tour around the world to exhibit Juanito’s works at art fairs and in art galleries in New York, Paris, Rome, Dubai and Barcelona.
A successful artist career was not exactly written in the stars for Juanito Cortes. The son of parents from Spain’s Roma minority, Juanito was born and grew up in the humble and multi-ethnic Catalan town of Sant Roc de Badalona in north-eastern Spain.
But ever since he picked up a paintbrush for the first time at the age of six, Juanito has demonstrated a keen eye and sure hands for abstract, expressionist art.
“We are still surprised at home,” said the boy’s father, Juan Cortes, 44. Two years ago, he uploaded some of his son’s paintings to Facebook and Instagram, and shortly after the Santana Art Gallery in Madrid responded.
“They called thinking that the artist was me,” said Mr Cortes said.
The gallery offered him a solo exhibition, but when Mr Cortes told them that the artist was his son and merely eight years old, they did not believe him.
Father and son subsequently travelled to Madrid, and the boy not only exhibited his paintings, but also painted live in the gallery, causing a small sensation among the gallery’s owners and guests.
After that, Juanito’s career started taking off. “The first painting he sold brought in 800 EUR ,” said Mr Cortes. Since then, prices have soared to about 3,000 EUR , and in some cases more than six times that, Mr Cortez said.
Although extraordinary, Juanito Carlos’ interest in art started quite naturally at home.
Mr Cortes explained: “It all started with my grandfather.
“He owned an antiques shop and was a great lover of art. Thanks to him, I had a lot of art magazines and books about art at home that I loved to look at with Juanito. When he was four or five years old, he would sit on my lap and we would browse through them together”.
Juanito Cortes himself said: “I really liked it, especially when the paintings were abstract. I loved those paintings.”
The experience, he said, awoke in him the urge to try to convey himself the feelings that he got from looking at the artworks of world-renowned artists.
Juanito Cortes said: “I thought: ‘If I like to look at it so much, why not do it myself?’ So I said to my father: ‘Dad, bring me canvas and paint, please’, and that’s how I started painting. I made my first painting when I was six years old.”
He said inspiration can come to him from any source and at any moment, adding: “I’m calm on the sofa and suddenly inspiration comes to me and I have to paint. So I go up to my room, my study, and put on my painting clothes, flip-flops and start to work.”
Though instinct plays a big part, Juanito Cortes has also spent a good deal of time studying the greats of yesteryear, learning from painters such as Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Gustav Klimt and Joan Miro.
Juanito said: “The one I like the most is Miro. I really like the way he shapes his lines, his colours, his drawings, and his abstraction in general. I love it.”
Each of his paintings takes between two hours and several days to complete, “depending on the individual painting”.
And what excites him the most about selling his paintings for thousands of euros? That they are seen and appreciated by many people, he said.
Juanito said: “The first time my father told me that he had sold one of my paintings, I was so happy because it meant that the painting was hanging inside a person’s house. That caused me great happiness. I want all of my works to hang in museums, galleries and houses so that everyone can appreciate them. I want to be the most famous painter in the world.”
But what is it then that the young painter wishes to convey with his work?
He said: “I want my works to always express joy, happiness and everything good. I never want them to convey anything bad.”
This very ambition was what made The Excellence Art Gallery by the artist Massimo Cedrini in Marbella, Spain, decide to take a chance on the young artist. Giuseppe Carnevale, artistic director of the gallery, said: “Juanito has a painting style so loose and so free, and above all he has a message of love and peace that seduced us from the first moment.”
He added: “We believe that the children of this time are born with a genetic code prepared for a great change in the planet and this is noticeable when we see that a child who is only 10 years old speak to us of love.”
In the coming months, the international art audience will have the chance to get an up-close look at Juanito’s art when he goes on his first large trip outside of Spain.
He said, excitedly: “I really want to travel and to leave Spain, to see other places in the world.”