MACBA/BARCELONA MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (Catalan: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, abbreviated as MACBA) is situated in the Plaça dels Angels, in El Raval/ Ciutat Vella / Barcelona / Spain. The museum opened to the public on November 28/ 1995. Its current director is Bartomeu Marí (since 2008).
Photo: Rubén P. Bescós
HISTORI OF THE MUSEUM.
In 1959, art critic Alexandre Cirici Pellicer formed a group of contemporary artists showing work in a series of 23 exhibitions with the hopes of beginning a collection for a new contemporary art museum in Barcelona. It was not until 1986 that the Barcelona City Council recommended the American architect Richard Meier & Partners (1987–1995) to design the museum. Art critics Francesc Miralles and Rosa Queralt were hired to write the museum’s mission statement. In 1987, the MACBA Foundation was created. In the following year the MACBA Foundation, in conjunction with the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Barcelona City Council, founded the MACBA Consortium in order further the process of the museum. The Consortium commissioned Meier later that year to build the museum.
This was a controversial issue considering that the museum had no collection at the time of construction. Nevertheless, Meier embraced the difficult task of creating a building that would ultimately display a variety of contemporary artworks that were unknown to him at the time of design. The choice to build the museum in the Plaça dels Ángels is consistent with Meier’s vision to situate the building amongst some of Barcelona’s oldest streets and buildings, in addition to revamping the public space of the Raval. After the completion of the $35 million construction, local media referred to the museum as “the pearl” amongst the old architecture and narrow streets just a few blocks from Gothic center of Barcelona.
The building’s architectural style has strong references to Modernins. The large (120 by 35 meters) white building has much of its southern elevation glazed, providing the visitor with views across the plaza, and allowing for an abundance of natural light to illuminate the interior galleries.
MACBA / FOUNDATION AND COLLECTION.
The Foundation manages the permanent collection, which dates from the mid-20th century onward. There are three periods of modern art represented: the first one covers the forties to the sixties; the second spans the sixties and seventies; the third period is contemporary. The collections focus on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art, although some International artists are also represente.The permanent collection, as well as temporary exhibitions, seek to exemplify the Foundation’s mission, stated below:
“Through the Collection and the exhibition/activities calendar, the MACBA hopes to construct a critical memory of Art of the latter half of the 20th century, with two objectives: to oppose rhetoric and hegemonic forces which tend to mythologize the local-national while exploiting cultural institutions as active agents of tertiary economics in urban centres; and to present alternatives for the insufficiencies of the dominant museum model, which is generally based on the universalist myth of the original work presented as spectacle.
Working from the concept that there is no “public;” only “publics” consisting of specific and differentiated groups, the museum ceases to be a mere producer of exhibitions and becomes a purveyor of different services for different subjects. The exhibition is then an experience on a par with that of workshops, conferences, audiovisual activities, publications, etc. All of these experiences are defined by a series of discursive lines which lend thematic coherence” MACBA Website.
EDUCATION / PUBLICATIONS / EVENTS.
In December 2007, the museum opened its Study Center, enhancing the educational aspect which is integral to the museum’s mission. The Library Reading Room and Special Collections Room grant the public free access to the museum’s books, publications collection, and archives.
MACBA publishes mainly exhibition catalogues from the museum, although has published some monographic books and critical essays as well. Additionally, MACBA has three digital publications: “Quaderns portàtils,” “Quaderns d’Àudio,” and “Sèrie Capella MACBA.”
MACBA offers a variety of events including lectures, seminars, guided tours, video screenings etc. in order to broaden the educational opportunities available to the public.
Opposite the main museum, in the medieval Convent dels Àngels for which the square is named, a chapel has been converted into a separate exposition area known as the Capella del MACBA, with regular video art performances. Entrance to this part of the museum is free.
Another contemporary art museum, Centre de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona (CCCB), is adjacent to MACBA, and accessible both from the street and from the inner patio.. The surrounding square and architecture outside of the museum is among the most well-known and respected places for modern skateboarding. Together with surrounding places in Barcelona, it is a meeting ground in youth culture due to its reputation in the world of skateboarding photography and cinema.
The Collection starts with the materic abstraction of the fifties and follows the evolution of European pop, the avant-gardes of the sixties and seventies, the centrality of the word and poetic experience and the return of photographic figurative representation, and anti-minimalist sculpture in the eighties, before reaching today’s younger artists. It brings together works by Catalan, Spanish and international artists, particularly from South America and Eastern Europe, and has more recently started to include works by artists from North Africa, the Middle East and the Arab world.
The bulk of the works come from the institutions that comprise the MACBA Consortium, including Barcelona City Council and the Government of Catalonia, but also from donations, loans and deposit agreements from other entities such as the Diputació de Barcelona and individuals. One of the key elements is the Fundació MACBA, which was created in 1987 and has been a founding member of the Museum since 1995, and which has a specific mission to expand its collection. Since it was created in 2007, the MACBA Study Centre also carries out complementary aspects of the task of collecting.
While MACBA initially began with a collection based on these independent holdings with their own specific characteristics (Barcelona City Council, the Government of Catalonia and Fundació MACBA), the last few years have been crucial for endowing the MACBA Collection with a distinctive personality and identifying proposals and hypotheses for future growth. These hypotheses have drawn inspiration from the temporary exhibition programmes that have been held over the years. Some of these exhibitions have defined what has now become an authentic culture of art, and has in fact become established as a tradition.
We invite you to explore the holdings of the MACBA Collection through a series of search filters. You can use the ‘Advanced Search’ function to access recent acquisitions, artistic genres, works currently on display and works on loan.
In addition, art generates a twofold patrimony, in which interpretation also becomes a subject of exhibition. These new elements – which are often documents – coexist with and are displayed alongside traditional artistic objects. In order to adequately manage the archives that are produced as a result of research, knowledge and writings relating to works of art, the Museum opened the MACBA Study Centre in 2007, which also houses a library specialising in contemporary art. The Study Centre holdings are regularly exhibited to the public and are available to researchers on request.
HIDDEN STORIES FROM THE 80S
04 Nov. 2016 to 19 Mar. 2017
On 22 August 1979, the editorial in the newspaper El Pais entitled ‘Reform, break up and symbols’ reflected on the years following the dictatorship and the ‘peaceful and gradual’ transition to a parliamentary monarchy led by ‘politicians and professionals from the previous regime, who had acquired their skills and capabilities by being pragmatic and serving a power that had systematically denied, in theory and in practice, the rights and freedoms of constitutional democracy’. We have paid a high ‘moral and monetary’ price for this process, since the institutional framework on which it was built can still be felt today, and it is still difficult, not to say annoying in some circles, to reclaim the right to the historic memory or to talk about the problems and the cost to the country of this transition.
The official account of the eighties advocated installing a democracy that prioritised necessity over reason and looked toward the future to the detriment of analysing the recent past. The official construction of the country rejected all critical considerations on any affiliation to the Franco regime, and was based on the principles of forgetting. Political parties used culture as a form of mediation of great potential. Culture was seen as celebratory and festive, as exemplified by the movida in Madrid and Galicia, and was orchestrated as such to project the image of a country with an active, dynamic and fashion-conscious youth; a country that had overcome its grey past and looked to the future with creative ideas and an apparent drive for renewal. This official narrative resembled a media circus. A country that had in the past suffered a dearth of cultural institutions promoting art and contemporary creation was now hell-bent on filling the gap with grants for artists, spaces for emergent art, mammoth institutions such as the MNCARS, the ARCO art fair and all types of events. In Barcelona a huge urban transformation got underway with the proclamation of the 1992 Olympic Games, and the idea of creating a contemporary art museum took flight thanks to a Consortium formed by the Ajuntament (City Council), the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalan government) and the MACBA Foundation.
Focusing on the period 1977–1992, the exhibition reflects on a series of historical events of a socio-political nature. It features the work of groups, cultural activists and artists who went against the grain by embodying attitudes that, ten years earlier, had been symbols of refutation, irony and political dissent. While in the seventies underground art was shrouded in secrecy and thwarted by censorship, in the eighties it argued for a critical reformulation of cultural practices. Through publications, magazines, comics and anti-artistic exercises, they added a sour note to the democratic regeneration of the country by questioning the political parties’ desire to ‘turn a new page’ and forget the years of dictatorship, without a due process of political accountability and an analysis of the social consequences.
Curator: Teresa Grandas
22 Oct. 2016 to 09 Apr. 2017
Among the most representative works are Breadline (1977), a monumental line of bread presented at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Wheat & Steak (1981), a food parade along the streets of Kansas City, an exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum and a special event at the Board of Trade of this city; El Internacional Tapas Bar & Restaurant (1984–86), a social and artistic experiment made with the restauranteur Montse Guillén in New York’s TriBeCa; and Honeymoon Project (1986–92), a symbolic wedding between the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Columbus Monument in Barcelona, performed in several locations. The exhibition will also include the large installation belonging to the MACBA Collection, Santa Comida (Holy Food), 1984–89, based on the legacy of Afro-Caribbean culture in America today.
Every Friday and Saturday evening during the exhibition, you can try a cocktail and tapa from El Internacional. The work recreates the original El Internacional Tapas Bar & Restaurant from New York. A contribution of 3 euros will be charged, with the takings going to the activation of the work.
ACTIVATION HOURS OF THE EL INTERNACIONAL
Friday 21, during the opening, from 7.30 to 10 pm.
Every Friday and Saturday, from 5 pm to the closing of the museum (except public holidays: 24/12, 31/12 AND 6/01).
With a career spanning five decades, Antoni Miralda (Terrassa, Spain, 1942) has turned something as universal as food into a creative universe. Having moved to Paris in 1962, Miralda pioneered a type of artistic practice that centred on the collective rituals that celebrate the ceremonial act of eating by using colour and its symbolism. The critic Pierre Restany valued his individual work, as well as his collaborations with artists such as Daniel Spoerri, Joan Rabascall, Dorothée Selz and Jaume Xifra. In 1972 Miralda moved to New York where he initiated a series of participative projects based on the fusion of cultures and their popular manifestations. As Umberto Eco wrote in 1985: ‘Miralda wanders the world recreating the old ritual of celebration.’
Miralda has developed a method based on participation and on the ritual and ceremony related to gastronomy. Employing a non-conformist language, baroque and full of humour, that celebrates the senses and brings art close to life; he undertakes an ethnological exploration of human behaviour in his work.
Curator: Vicent Todolí
With the collaboration of: Alteza, Casa Bonay, EGM, Escola del Gremi de Flequers de Barcelona, FoodCultura, Panes creativos, Perelló 1898, Soon in Tokyo, Sr. and Sra. Cake, World Class.
MACBA COLLECTION 31
From 17 Jun. 2016 to Jun. 2017
The works in the exhibition question the various forms of conflict in today’s world, while reflecting on the relation of art with itself and its potential for interrogating reality. Moreover, they reclaim sensory experimentation, corporeality and the experience of time as fundamental conditions for artistic practice.
The exhibition includes 85 works by 50 artists of various generations from around the world, representing a chronological period of over five decades, from 1959 to 2014.
EXPLORE THE EXHIBITION AT HOME
For all those unable to visit MACBA to see the exhibition MACBA Collection 31, we
present our first VIRTUAL 360º VISIT.
From your own screen you can access Cildo Meireles’ multisensory installation, stroll around the 101 photographs of Hans-Peter Feldman’s piece, move through Andreas Siekmann’s montage or ponder the social paradoxes of Adrian Melis. While nothing compares to the experience of being there, in this tour we offer you a rich repertoire of digital content (videos, audios and texts) designed to ensure your virtual visit is as complete and attractive as possible.
We recommend that you use the white arrows that appear on the different screens or navigate via the menu that you will find in the upper left corner. And pay attention to the information points associated with the different works.
Curators: Ferran Barenblit and Antònia Maria Perelló
AGAINST PHOTOGRAPHY. AN ANNOTATED HISTORY OF THE ARAB IMAGE FOUNDATION
07 Apr. to 24 Sep. 2017
Beyond showcasing a wide spectrum of visual representations of the Arab world, artists who constituted or used AIF’s collection addressed radical questions about photographic documents and their function in our times. Projects engaged the writing of histories concerning the practice of ordinary people, small events and a society in general, resulting in new discourses related to the medium.
Far from presenting a historical account of the AIF, this exhibition presents an artist’s perspective, which is critical for understanding the organisation’s practice. Through Akram Zaatari, one of AIF’s founding members who played a key role in its development, the exhibition reflects on AIF’s 20-year history and the multiple statuses of the photograph, as descriptive document, as object, as material value, as aesthetics and as memory. Zaatari’s expansive work on photography and the practice of collecting, takes an archaeological approach to the medium, digging into the past, resurfacing with new narratives and resituating them in the contemporary.
The exhibition will look at the dual status of the AIF itself, as an archive of photographic and collecting practices and as an artist-led initiative that left a visible mark on the artistic landscape of its times, signalling significant moments in its history and the critical debates generated throughout its evolution. Past projects and new artist productions related to the collection will be presented.
An illustrated catalogue with texts by Mark Westmoreland, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie and Akram Zaatari will be published for the occasion.
Curators: Hiuwai Chu and Bartomeu Marí
TOWARDS AN INVESTIGATIVE AESTHETICS
28 Apr. to 15 Oct. 2017
21 SEP. 2017 – FEB 2018
MACBA presents a comprehensive survey of the work of this pioneering artist, from his early books to his latest visual investigations, and including his work in the theatre, cinema, music and artistic actions.
Joan Brossa (Barcelona, 1919-1998) was first and foremost a poet, but we believe it is necessary to see this in relation to his way of working, his poiesis. This exhibition establishes a dialogue and confronts Brossa’s work with the poetry of artists such as Marcel Marien, Nicanor Parra and Ian Hamilton-Finlay, as well as the poets of Lettrism, visual, concrete, experimental and expanded poetry, and Fluxus. Brossa was a poet, but his works stood at a crossroad of languages. Frequently collaborating with other artists, musicians, filmmakers, dancers, comedians and even magicians, his work constantly went against the grain and beyond the limits between disciplines.
Brossa developed his artistic practice in the 1940s in a social-political context marked by Franco’s dictatorship and in a cultural milieu characterised by the absence of avant-garde and innovative proposals. From the beginning, Brossa’s work was one of aesthetic renewal, based on literary and artistic research. Up until his death, his extensive production never ceased to develop new forms of expression and ways of experimenting with different media.
In 2011, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona was made the depository of the Fonds of the Fundació Joan Brossa, which contains the legacy of the artist. The Fonds consists of manuscripts, documents, correspondence and his personal library, among other materials. It is a unique tool for understanding Brossa’s extremely interesting work.
The exhibition that MACBA is preparing for 2017 approaches Brossa’s work by reappraising his influence and interrelationship with the practice of other artists. The project brings to the fore the constellations of artists around Brossa, his interrelationship with works he may have been unaware of, but which allow us to establish parallels and seek dialogues and tensions. It also aims to emphasise the performative aspects of Brossa’s poetic practice, his poiesis.
Accompanying the exhibition there will be a publication exploring these aspects, realised in collaboration with Roger Bernat, Isabel de Naverán and Maria Salgado.
To secularise this great poet is not an easy task and this is the challenge facing this project, half way between Marx and Mallarmé: to give Brossa back his simple and popular voice, the voice of the people, whether they wear a hat or not; the voice of a light bulb, a train ticket, a playing card, a set of handcuffs or confetti. People speak Brossa.
SELECTION PERMANENT COLLECTION
The Cheat Sheet
Valcárcel Medina, Isidoro
Ink on paper
96,5 x 5 cm
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
More interested in the process than the end result, the conceptual proposals of Isidoro Valcárcel Medina delve into the poetry of the everyday. A contraption as basic and universal as crib notes for cheating in school exams becomes a device of reflection on the creative act. If in childhood and adolescence, the intimate gesture of elaborating this secret object required a capacity for synthesis and compilation of information, Valcárcel Medina uses it to condense and verbalise his radical approach to artistic practice, a practice that he does not conceive isolated from life. ‘As if it were a moral issue, and God knows that it is!, an artwork must be so faithful to its moment in time as to become the moment itself.’ The idea of art as a vital practice, of the creative act as an experience of the here and now, and of the artist as an ordinary citizen, who becomes a voice in the manner of an exam-cheat’s crib notes.
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation. Gift of Fundación Repsol
Rinzen – a Japanese word meaning a ‘sudden awakening’ – is one of Antoni Tàpies’ most significant works. It was conceived for the Spanish Pavilion at the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993, where it was awarded the Golden Lion. Six years later, in 1998, Tàpies installed the work permanently at MACBA. Hampered by space restrictions, the artist was unable to exhibit all the elements of the work at the Biennale, something that was redressed when it was installed at MACBA.
Located at the entry to the Museum, on a monumental wall, the work unites the different floors like a structure. Tàpies himself adapted it to MACBA’s spatial conditions. It is an installation that combines humble and poor objects with pictorial and sculptural elements. In the foyer of the Museum and at the level of the first floor, a large white metal hospital bed is fixed to the wall in a vertical position. Five spring bed bases made with found wood, woollen blankets and pillows hang precariously from the bed. Painted on the wall are the numbers 1, 2 and 3. And on the building’s glass façade, crosses and the title of the work are painted with large characters. A series of elements establish a dialogue with a painting placed directly in front: Dissabte (Saturday). This is a matter quadriptych, of an almost monochrome, earthy colour, with crosses at the edges and the words dissabte and sàbat (Sabbath) blurred at the bottom. The rest of the work consists of a group of ten iron chairs painted in white and situated in a row on the outdoor terrace of the Museum. They are linked by a black metal structure and have several crosses, one of the symbols most frequently used by the artist. Completing the work, a lonely chair situated in front of a drawing suggesting a pair of spectacles, a symbol of vision and contemplation.
The symbology of the work is complex. When it was presented in Venice in 1993, the neighbouring country of Bosnia was at war. Symbolising instability and fragility, the presence of a hospital bed and spring bases were a clear reminder of the war. But the work is also influenced by a childhood memory that deeply affected the artist. In 1929, in a fairground stall, a woman lying on a bed would be thrown off every time someone hit the target with an airgun. The work’s message is not only against the brutality of war, ‘it has other intentions, such as seeking concentration to arrive at a deeper understanding of reality’. Rinzen is a complex work that invites us to meditation and inner vision.
INCIDENT: NOW THEY ARE. ELEGANT
Art & Language
MACBA Collection .MACBA Consortium . Deposit: Philippe Méaille
This work is one of a set of three sculptures produced in 1993, called Incidents: Now They Are. These sculptures are, in turn, linked to Index (Now They Are) (1992-1993), a series of 22 paintings in which Gustave Courbet’s painting L’Origine du monde (1866) is depicted behind pink translucent glass.
The series Incidents: Now They Are is a reinterpretation of Courbet’s paintings. It consists of three structures shaped like square boxes, each made up of seven canvases stretched on frames and covered with a painted sheet of glass. Six of these paintings are arranged in the shape of a cube, with the sides left slightly gaping. Some of them face outwards, while others point inwards and the seventh serves as a dividing wall.
The seven paintings that make up Incident, Now They Are, Look Out are based on Courbet’s La Source de la Loue (1964), a still life (the entrance to a grotto) that evokes female genitals. The paintings that comprise Incident, Now They Are, Elegant and those that form Incident, Now They Are, Next, respectively reinterpret Landscape (1864) and the painting L’Origine du monde (1866), both also by Courbet. The series reflects on the dialectics between visibility and concealment in the history of painting, while also reflecting on the role of the museum as a mechanism that contributes to this dynamic.
Gelatine silver print
34 x 44 cm
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Manolo Laguillo (Madrid, 1953) has made the photographic representation of Barcelona his main theme, concentrating especially on the 1992 Olympic Games, a vital moment in the urban and architectonic renovation of the city.
Laguillo’s first works in Barcelona date back to 1978. Since then, he has captured areas of in the midst of transformation, such as the Montjuïc stadium, Avinguda Diagonal, the port, the major Olympics public works at Vall d’Hebron and the construction of a series of infrastructures at Collserola. While his works are to be read in the context of documentary photography, Laguillo’s poetic subjectivity makes them unique. They are images of spaces without people (most of the photographs are taken on Sunday mornings), in black and white, with a wide angle perspective, showing areas that are seldom represented.
Laguillo’s images focus on the new peripheral areas of the city, including the industrial estates around the Besós, the industrial areas of Poblenou and the intersection between rural and urban environments in the delta of the Llobregat river. As the architect and theorist Ignasi de Solà-Morales has pointed out, Loguillo’s photographs are a good reflection of the notion of terrain vague: territorial signs of the strangeness that stems from contemporary social life. At the same time, while architectural photography tends to focus on buildings and ignores the whole, Laguillo’s images show the fabric of the city (which depends on the community) and reflect the idea of a living being.
Laguillo’s importance in the eighties stemmed from the fact that his body of work moved away from the new “Barcelona model”; he was ground breaking in giving a visual form to the suburban spaces that are not part of the tourist circuit. He is also recognised as an essential figure in the broader Spanish context of the so-called “new topography” movement, which renewed documentary photography by modernising the topographic tradition of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and developing an urban landscape genre in which large-format photographs are used to represent (and denounce) the transformation of the new cities.
Watercolour on paper
23,3 x 20,8 cm
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation. Long-term loan of Peter Friedl
Since the early nineties, Peter Friedl (Oberneukirchen, Austria, 1960) has been producing a heterogeneous body of work that explores abuses of justice and the configurations of power in the contemporary world. His interest in the concept of subalternity – in the broadest sense – has led him to focus some of his work on black communities in Miami, South Africa, Haiti and other postcolonial contexts. He has also delved into other, more subtle situations of exclusion, such as childhood. Some of Friedl’s works explicitly draw on the theory of justice developed by the American theorist John Rawls in an attempt to revise Rousseau’s social contract for his own period. Friedl is interested in exploring little-known abuses from the past and in civil disobedience, and he shows how conflict arises when there is a lack of consensus. His work entails social and political critique and an in-depth study of the codes, cannons and genres of artistic modernity. His series of drawings encapsulate the interests of the artist.
This work forms part of a series of drawings on paper in a range of media, which the artist worked on for four decades. It is a substantial selection that had been part of the artist’s private collection for many years, and has rarely been exhibited. The drawings are visibly fragile and provisional (some have been made with pen or marker on paper), and in another context they would have been considered tests or preparatory drawings, rather than canonical works. The artist’s desire to exhibit the works in a museum are linked to his commitment to turning the aesthetic act of the gaze into a political gesture. At the same time, Friedl classifies his drawings – which are all entitled Untitled – in strict chronological order, in order to avoid the usual narratives based on style or subject matter. The first drawing dates from September 1964, when Friedl was four years old, and the last is from 22 August 2005. The chronological reading (like the alphabetical order that Friedl has used in some of his works) has more to do with the sphere of documents than artworks, and this ties in to the rethinking of institutional logic and of the conventions that have traditionally governed museums and exhibition centres.
These drawings display the formal elements and the iconography that has gradually shaped Friedl’s universe over the years. The handwritten text, the use of colours, the recurring motifs, signs and symbols, and the historical references in the drawings are also present in many other works by the artist. This extensive archive clearly draws on autobiographical and historical references, although it is not the only time that that the artist has used children’s drawings in his work. Some of his own childhood drawings became the basis for later works, and he has also used drawings by his own children, and footage of groups of children.
Friedl is a critical observer of contemporaneity and recent modernity, and his work draws attention to and contradicts the genres that underlie artistic production. By exhibiting his archive of drawings in a museum, using chronological criteria and unusual techniques, Friedl questions the aesthetic and political implications of the modern movement and its legacy in today’s world. In other works, Friedl turns to supposedly minor genres such as documents or tableaux vivants in order to challenge the accepted logic of representation. In the exhibition catalogue for MACBA’s 2006 retrospective on Friedl, Roger M. Buergel asked: ‘Is Peter Friedl a modern artist? Yes, he is. But not because he belongs to modernity as a period in time, but because the destiny of modernity has become, for him, a formal artistic problem.
Brass on wood
1,7 x 22,2 x 7,9 cm
MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium. Joan Brossa Fund. Long-term loan of Fundació Joan Brossa
Art & Language
MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium. Deposit : Philippe Méaille.
The mirror as an object has been a recurring element in the Western artistic tradition, and has been used by artists such as Jan Van Eyck, Parmigianino, Velázquez, Manet and Magritte, to name a few. But mirrors did not really take on a central role in artistic practices until the twentieth century. In the twenties, avant-garde experiments such as kinetic art, photographic cubism and the metaphysics of Dadaism and Surrealism began to use mirrors as a way of looking at the world ‘through different eyes’. But it was after the Second World War that mirrors started to generate a type of reflection that questioned representational capacity itself. The Minimalism of Robert Morris, the Arte Povera of Michelangelo Pistoletto and Robert Smithson, and the Conceptualism of Art & Language are a few examples of this trend. While one of the main interests of this group was their reflection around the subject of painting, artists such as Michael Baldwin and Ian Burn imbue a pictorial quality into an object that does not have a pictorial structure in itself. Interested in the problems of concealment, secrets, enigma and opacity, their work with mirrors invites an epistemological reflection on the act of seeing and looking.
Art & Language formed as a group in 1968, but Michael Baldwin had been working with mirrors since 1965, and had already used them to construct several works. One of these is Mirror Piece (1965), an installation consisting of a series of different-sized mirrors arranged on a wall, accompanied by a series of typewritten sheets of paper that offer a kind of meta-reflection on the work. The first sheet of paper says: ‘The first thing is that they are ‘historically’ paintings. One characteristic is that they are infinitely spatial (look at the notes).’The notes that it refers to are the rest of the typewritten sheets, which specify the dimensions of the mirrors.
In this joint reflection on painting, Baldwin replaces the painting with a mirror, suggesting that it is a surface apt for ‘the end of painting.’ This is because mirrors in general – for instance a mirror hanging on a lounge room wall – do not invite reflection on themselves, they simply reflect the person who looks at them, or his surroundings: the person who looks at a mirror sees himself or his context. But this same object, placed in a context linked to art, activates a whole other kind of reflection. ‘Consider the following individuations: a) an ordinary mirror hanging in a room. The spectator identifies it as a mirror through his immediate recognition of its normal function; b) the same mirror hanging in a gallery. The spectator still recognizes it as a mirror but assumes that the intention of the mirror is as art. The mirror then can be classified by either its normal function or its intentional function as art. However, although the art context frames the intentional function, the spectator is given no indication of any underlying concept to support such a function. c) The same mirror hanging in a room or a gallery, displayed with notes and diagrams. This concept becomes a framework for the mirror as art and aims at getting the spectator’s ‘seeing’ to cohere against a particular background or inferred knowledge.’ (Meyer, Ursula: Conceptual Art, New York: Hutton, 1972, p. 92-93)
Michael Baldwin has also made other works using mirrors, including Untitled Painting(1965), in which he created two works by mounting mirrors on canvas, and the Drawing (Typed Mirrors) series (1966-1967), in which he strains the spectator’s desire for meaning by using Tipp-ex to delete text written on a mirror. Ian Burn is another member of Art & Language who also worked with mirrors. In 1967-1968 he created his own Mirror Piece, consisting of a mirror and 13 typewritten sheets of paper with theoretical information about the object.
Formiguera, Pere / Fontcuberta, Joan
Organic elements, photography, paper, glass and audiovisual material
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
The basic purpose of our Fauna display is to deal with these problems, as an aesthetic experiment in an unmistakably playful vocation. How were we to take apart the gnosiological negatives of the cultural media and establishment. Or, in a broader sense, how were we to dismantle the processes through which “knowledge” is produced and transmitted? In the end, we discover that truth is mere speculations; that, rather than an absolute truth, there are fantasies that come more or less close to the truth, and that all these fantasies, even those that are apparently most innocent and harmless, conceal as ulterior motive.
From the very beginning, the creation of an artistic activity with scientific material enabled us to pass a comb through the immediate ideological connotations that influence the communications media and the myths and clichés that they produce: in short, the source or repeated reference paint of a great deal of art in the eighties. Science – in this particular case, zoology – offered paths that were relatively unexplored, no doubt because scientific institutions, for from the servility of the media, have been capable of preserving a certain moral authority.
Fauna arose from an initial photographic-literary collaboration between the two of us in 1985. On that occasions, the purpose was to reveal the frailness of the photographic document’s persuasive power by using a catalogue of nonexistent plants and ridiculing the popular: “it-exists-because-it’s-been-photographed” line of argument. It is significant that Borges, what was a great source of inspiration in our work, is said to he the author of the maxim, “to be is to be photographed”. Thus we set out on the journey to the hazy borderline between reality and fictions, nature and the imaginary.
[…] Besides these scientific elements, Fauna is also aspired on other areas, such as mythology and the medieval bestiaries. The morphology of some of our creatures has been modeled on classic mythological figures as extraordinary chimeras – the siren, Hydra, basilisk, etc. –, which were referred to as real animals by naturalists before La Renaissance. On other occasions we have borne in mind the symbolic value that has been attributed to many animals: some, such as the snake or dragons, embody the forces of evil in a large number of countries around the world.
[…] To sum up, we would like to propose o reflection not only on realism and the credibility of the photographic image but also as the scientific discourse and the artifice that underlies every knowledge producing mechanism, while engaging upon a variety of facets that affect different creative fields.
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, 1989
Laser print on paper
42 x 29,7 cm
MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium. Gift of the artist
León Ferrari began his artistic career in 1955 with a series of sculptures in various materials such as ceramic, wire and wood. In the sixties his works were characterised by an illegible writing in which the written word organised the visual space – writings that are primarily drawings rather than texts.
It was also during this time that his works acquired a strong political component, such as his montage The Western and Christian Civilisation of 1965 (during the first American bombings in Vietnam). In this work a figure of Christ, suspended vertically, is crucified on an American bomber. Using multiple techniques and media, yet favouring photomontage, he explores the relationship between violence and religion. The literalness of this work (at times he even uses clippings of L’Obsservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican) has often provoked scandals with political repercussions, including its condemnation by Catholic movements.
In 1976 he started to cut out newspaper articles reporting on bodies that had begun to appear, following the military coup d’état, in different areas of Buenos Aires and along the coast of the La Plata River. Collected in a book, these testimonies challenge the attitude ‘We didn’t know’, a claim by which many sought to justify their indifference toward the violence with which the military Junta governed the country from 1976 to 1983. Ferrari continued organising these newspaper clippings in more or less chronological order until forced to abandon the country for political reasons. He settled in São Paulo, Brazil, where he resumed working on sculpture and experimented with new techniques such as photocopies, heliographic prints and microfiche.
Between 1980 and 1982 Ferrari devoted himself to a series of works on polyester reproduced in heliographic prints – often humorous and full of irony, he refers to them as ‘an architecture of madness’. In these plans, he uses architectural images taken from Letraset, distorting their basic rules and creating contradictory and absurd spatial organisations and connections. Elsewhere, he substitutes the tiny figures by cars in impressive vistas of elevated highways and impossible intersections. With these works Ferrari explores the forms of control in contemporary society, possibly inspired by the speed and masses of São Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world.
‘It is not anti-religious art, but rather art against repression and torture, whether it is of religious character or not,’ clariﬁed the artist. ‘I treated the religious aspect in illustrations that I made for an edition of “Nunca Más”, especially against Videla, but I was talking about power in the same way that I talk about anti-Semitism, or against the criminalisation of abortion. It is not a problem with religion but rather a problem with intolerance and violence.’ Cited in Luis Felipe Noé, ‘Una visita con León Ferrari’, in Leon Ferrari: Retrospectiva Obras 1954–2004. Andrea Giunta (ed.). Centro Cultural Recoleta, Pinacoteca, São Paolo.
TODOS JUNTOS PODEMOS PARAR EL SIDA
We Can All Together Stop AIDS
1989 (1996) (1998) (2014)
Plastic paint on wall
235 x 3400 cm
MACBA Collection. Barcelona City Council Fund
Keith Haring made his first public mural in 1982 at Houston Street, New York. Since then to the moment of his death, seven years later, he produced murals in various cities such as Berlin, Paris, Pisa and Barcelona. In a figurative style characterised by wide black lines to highlight the figures, his murals contain all his iconography: children, life, sex, death, and in the last years, his fight against AIDS.
Haring’s mural in Barcelona was created in an almost fortuitous manner. On 22 February 1989, on his way back from Madrid, Haring met his friend Montse Guillén, owner of the restaurant El Internacional in New York. When Guillén suggested the possibility of making an intervention in Barcelona. Haring accepted on condition that he could choose the site. The Town Hall promptly gave all the permissions, and Haring selected a square in the Raval, then a seedy area known as the Barrio Chino. Haring chose a wall littered with syringes at Plaça Salvador Seguí, between Carrer Robadors and Carrer Sant Pau. He said it reminded him of the marginal neighbourhoods in New York where he began to paint. Although Haring said in his Journals that he painted the mural on 24 February, press reports from the time and a video documenting the action indicate that it was 27 February. Two days later he left the city.
Although he was a highly-valued artist, Haring painted the Raval mural for free. He painted it on a buttress against the wall of a dilapidated building and his Journals claim he began working at midday, finishing five hours later. ‘I spent five hours doing it, as I had planned. The wall had a strange inclination that made it difficult to paint, but one of the things I like about this work is the (physical) adaptability it requires. I found a posture that allowed me to paint in a homogenous, balanced way. Some of the best photos of this mural reflect the body language and postures I adopt when painting it.’ In the mural, a syringe is being strangled by a large snake with a name on it: AIDS. A couple forming a pair of scissors cut up the animal and someone puts a condom on its tail. It is painted in one colour, red, the colour of blood. Haring ends the mural with an inscription in Spanish: Todos juntos podemos parar el SIDA (Together We Can Stop AIDS).
The fate of Haring’s public murals is varied. Some have been preserved, others not. Given the state of the wall, the Raval mural was conceived as an ephemeral work. After a while, it was ruined by environmental degradation and human interventions such as additional graffiti. Moreover, the building was affected by the Special Plan for Interior Reform in the Raval: it was going to be demolished. Shortly before the implementation of the plan, the City Hall reached an agreement with the artist’s heirs and MACBA whereby the surface was transferred to a new support, preserving the original paint. A restoration team hired by the Ajuntament de Barcelona began the process of transferring the mural in September 1992. The transfer was later deposited at MACBA.
A proposition to move the entire wall stone by stone was discarded due to its state of disrepair, and because the option was seen as having an archaeological character that went against the spirit of Haring’s original work.
Since then, MACBA has reproduced the work twice: in November 1996 and two years later in 1998. On both occasions, the copy of the original graffiti was reproduced for a few months on a concrete wall outside the Museum: the wall that links Carrer de Ferlandina to Plaça Joan Coromines. In February 2014, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the creation of the mural by Haring, the work was reproduced on the same exterior wall with the approval of the Keith Haring Foundation, the Ajuntament de Barcelona and MACBA.
Diverse materials and audiovisual recordings
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
TRAVEL HISTORY OF THIS WORK /14 DEC. 2011 – 25 MAR. 2012
Fundació La Caixa, CaixaForum, Madrid
M.I.T. Project was presented for the first time in 1990, shortly after the artist createdComputer Project, in which, through the help of a computer, he created a complex dimensional map of an imaginary city. M.I.T. Project is, however, three dimensional, allowing the viewer to move around its interior. The space, divided in five interconnected compartments, is composed of ideograms, formally organised but indeterminate in their significance. In this uninhabited world the different levels of perception, from tangible to intangible, are represented through colours. The green zone is equivalent to the realm of material elements. The blue zone represents the everyday, the city, the daily order of people and actions. The yellow rectangle in the middle, represents the arts and sciences. The black space represents language. A semicircle with red walls, represents the subjective realm, pure meaning. Open in its nature, the work is both sign and invention, real and imaginary, logic and utopia.
In the mid-seventies Mullican began to explore the influence of signs on the transmission of information by creating a series of drawings in which a stick figure, which he named Glen, was reduced to its minimum form of representation. Also during this time, he began to give performances under hypnosis, an element that would have an essential role in his artistic production and with which he investigates the nature of human behaviour, identity and, through the drawings made in this state, the relationship between unconsciousness and creativity. His cosmologies, however, are metaphoric constructions or models through which he represents the world according to a subjective point of view, and tries to give it order and structure. In these works the artist uses a unique language in which objects are also ideas and signs are instruments through which he constructs new meanings, thus questioning the relationships between image, meaning and reality.