Internationally recognised Spanish contemporary artist Miquel Barceló is an inventive manipulator of materials and surfaces, whether working in painting, drawing, ceramics, or sculpture.
Born in Felanitx on the island of Mallorca, Barceló studied at the Arts and Trades School in Palma de Mallorca before moving to Barcelona in 1974. Dissatisfied with his experiences at the Sant Jordi School of Fine Arts there, he soon returned to Mallorca, where he joined the avantgarde group Taller Lunatic and the artists' newspaper Neón de Suro. Thereafter Barceló began to gain international recognition following his participation in the 16th Bienal de São Paulo in 1981 and documenta 7, Kassel, curated by Rudi Fuchs in 1982. Two years later, his work was included in the high-profile group presentation An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture curated by Kynaston McShine at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the early oil painting Venus bruta sentita (1982), which shows an amorphous seated figure against streams of blue, Barceló applies the energetic brushwork and impasto that would come to define his oeuvre.
In the 1980s, Barceló travelled extensively, establishing homes and studios in Paris and Ségou. His experiences abroad (especially in Africa) inspired him to experiment with different materials, textures, and techniques now characteristic of his practice. While crossing the Sahara in 1988, for example, the artist was so fascinated by the intensity of the light that he created white paintings such as Huîtres I (1988) and Locus (1989), in which the impressively textured surfaces recall the rugged landscapes of the desert.
Barceló's oeuvre is diverse. In his paintings of 1990, such as La Suerte de Matar, he captures the energy of bullfight scenes by rendering the rings of the arena in thick impasto. This makes the surfaces sculptural. Barceló's still lifes, on the other hand, often show fruit as flat, abstract, and monochrome, as seen in the etching Lanzarote (Serie Pornografica): four plates (2000), while the ocean—one of his most recurring themes—is portrayed as a calm horizon (La Mer avec Nuages, 2002), stormy (Hasta el punto más lejano, 2018), or referenced through sea creatures like the octopus (Temor i tremolor, 2018).
Barceló has been working in three dimensions since the late 1980s. His iconic sculptures include Gran Elefantdret (2008), an eight-metre-tall bronze elephant balancing itself on its trunk. Between 2001 and 2006, the artist worked on a large-scale project to adorn the interior of Saint Peter's Chapel at the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Palma, using ceramics to depict the story of the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude.
Miquel Barceló is nationally recognised. He was awarded the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award (now the Princess of Asturias Award) in 2003 and represented Spain at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. Selected solo international exhibitions include Miquel Barceló, International Museum of Ceramics, Faenza (2019); On the Sea, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg (2018); Sol y Sombra, Bibliothèque Nationale de France and Musée Picasso, Paris (2016); and Ardenti Germinat, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich (2015). In 2004, he became the youngest artist to show at the Louvre in Paris, presenting his watercolour illustrations of Dante's Divina Commedia.
Where should we start? Van der Weyden, for example. I am standing in front of The Descent from the Cross. I often come to look at this painting. One day, after lots of visits, I realized that its intense presence was due to something very concrete – the subjects are enclosed within a very narrow kind of frame. If you look at the corners of the...
Miquel Barceló hasn't eaten octopus or squid for four years. 'I would rather eat cat,' he declares. The Spanish artist has developed an affinity with the marine animals, meeting them in the Balearic Sea on his frequent dives ('I feed them a little,' he says with a twinkle) and bringing them into his artistic output. Here's one in an exuberant...