Miquel Barceló

Miquel Barceló is one of Spain's most famous contemporary abstract artists.
Miquel Barceló is a famous contemporary Spanish artist in constant evolution, both in technique and material, whose work includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, and cast irons. On one hand, he was greatly influenced by the avant-garde, Art Brut, and American Abstract Expressionism, while on the other he was particularly interested in the Baroque paintings of Diego Velázquez, Tintoretto, and Rembrandt. Barceló clearly had his own experimental attitude and found his personal way of expressionism while never abandoning the rules of conventional painting.

Miquel Barceló was born in Felanitx, Majorca, where he studied briefly in the Arts and Crafts School of Palma de Majorca (1972-1973) before enrolling at the Fine Arts School of Barcelona in 1974. After a year in Barcelona, he returned to Majorca to protest with Taller Lunátic, a conceptual avant-garde group, and participated in the publication of an artists´ newspaper called Neón de Suro (1975-1982). One year after returning to Majorca, Miquel Barceló had his first solo exhibition in the Palma Museum. The art exhibition was heavily influenced by Art Brut, a style that Barceló had discovered in 1970 in Paris before beginning his formal art studies.

In the ‘80s he traveled extensively throughout Europe, the United States, and West Africa and eventually set up studios in both Paris and Segou, Mali. Undoubtedly, the time Miquel Barceló spent in different countries affected his art by way of multifaceted landscapes and diverse cultural influences. His artwork represents an eternal exploration of new forms of expression in which he experiments with different techniques, materials, textures, light perspectives, and colors. A reoccurring theme in Miquel Barceló's art is the sea, approached from different angles, a motif that could suggest a strong relationship with the island of Majorca, his homeland.

In 1981 Miquel Barceló participated in the São Paulo Art Biennial and in 1982 the painter gained international acknowledgment in Documenta VII, one of the most important exhibitions of modern and contemporary art which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. From the mid-eighties on, Miquel Barceló has been considered one of the most influential Spanish artists and his work is included in the world's most prestigious international art galleries, such as Galerie Bruno Bischofberger and Leo Castelli, as well as other important museums and cultural sites. Barceló´s success was recognized in 1986 when he was granted the Spanish National Plastic Arts Award (Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas). In 1996, at the age of 39, Miquel Barceló´s last 10 years of artwork were exhibited at the National Gallery of Modern Art Pompidou Center in Paris.

As an homage to his homeland, in 2004 Miquel Barceló crafted a mural measuring approximately 3,300 ft² for a chapel in Majorca Catedral. Saint Peter’s Chapel is dedicated to the holy sacrament of the Last Supper, and to honor this theme, Barceló covered the walls of the chapel with terra-cotta and painted them with images related to the multiplication of bread and fish, a miracle from the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Saint John. Earlier in 2003, when he had begun work on the mural in Vietri, Naples, he learned that had been honored with the Prince of Asturias Award, the most prestigious art recognition in Spain. The same year that he finished the mural, the Louvre Museum in Paris featured Barceló's watercolor paintings of Dante's Divine Comedy, making the painter the youngest artist to ever have work shown in the museum.

What is perhaps Miquel Barcelós most famous work of art was officially revealed by the Spanish Government on November 18, 2008. This controversial piece of art is located on the domed ceilings of the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Chamber in the UN's Palace of Nations in Geneva and features multicolored stalactite forms dripping from the ceiling. Barceló explained that the dome represented “a sea and a cave, the absolute union of opposites” and the idea came to him “on a day of immense heat in the middle of the Sahel desert” in Africa in which he recalled “the mirage of an image of the world dripping towards the sky…. flowing drop by drop.” The massive 16,000 ft ² (1,500 m²) project took one year to produce and cost $23 million, used 100 tons of paint, and required the dedication of engineers and architects. It has been nicknamed “The UN’s Sistine Chapel” and “The Sistine Chapel of the 21st century.”

Today, Miquel Barceló's paintings, drawings, sculptures, and ceramics are on display in Bruno Bischofberger's Gallery in Zürich, and in 2010 an exhibition was inaugurated in Barcelona and Madrid paying homage to the last 25 years of the painter's life.
This Spanish contemporary painter still splits his time between Paris, Majorca, and Mali, suggesting a cultural diversity which will likely continue to influence his work. As Barceló was once quoted as saying, “This is my world, my land, and my sea, I have known it always. All of the fish and fruits I know by memory, they have formed part of my cultural landscape since I was a child.”