Home Magazine Miquel Barceló at Osaka National Museum of Art

The extraordinary life and career of Miquel Barceló, a Spanish artist with an international spirit. 

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Born in Felanitx, in Majorca island, in January 1957, Barceló began painting and creating art at a very young age thanks to the vivid cultural background of his family. His grandfather was a collector, and his mother a painter. In 1974 Barceló opened his first solo show in Majorca: he was 17. He moved to Barcelona where he attended the Academy of Fine Arts, and he became particularly committed to certain groups of artists and intellectuals as the group of the “Taller Llunàtic” or “Tierra y Libertad”. Moreover, he started following the magazine “Néon de Suro” thanks to which he will later exhibit his works both in Canada and California. 

1980 was a crucial year: Barceló met Miró by hanging out with other great Spanish artists and he created his first figurative artworks revealing his first expressionist attitudes and inclination to the creation of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures that will become fundamental and recurring for Barceló recognizable style and work. 

In October 1981 he was invited to the 14th São Paulo Art Biennial. One year later, Miquel Barceló is invited to Documenta as the unique Spanish artist. Here in Kassel he met Jean Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, Georg Dokoupil, Keith Haring and Joseph Beuys. In 1983 ,the Italian gallerist Lucio Amelio, from Naples, acquired all Barcelo artworks showed at Arco Madrid Art Fair and he brought the artist to Italy for five months. In the same year Barceló went to New York and decided to move there for a while, and he met Andy Warhol. 

In 1986, two years after his first presence at the Venice Biennale, Barceló realized the “Big Spanish dinner” piece for the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. After traveling to Africa in 1988, Barceló created a studio in Mali, and made annual visits. 


Miquel Barcelo', Downstaires It's Hot, 2019, collection of the artist, courtesy ADAGP Paris & Jaspar, Tokyo, 2021, ph. by Augustì Torres.


Since the 90s Barcelo has moved back to Majorca but he has never quit his international sprit and artistic practice. In 2008 Miquel Barceló created an astonishing, vivid and sublime matric painting for the United Nation: he painted with thousands of different colors and pigments the ceiling of The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, located in the Palace of Nations in Geneva. 


The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, Miquel Barceló ceiling, Palace of Nations, Geneva.


More recently, in March 2021, Barcelo opened a large scale solo exhibition at the The National Museum of Art in Osaka, the first retrospective of the Spanish artist in Japan. This museum path focuses on the dialogue that Barcelo had for all entire life and career with nature. Art and nature, paint and nature, humanity and nature … to him the preciousness of the sea abyss had an important role into his works. 


Miquel Barcelo', Fear and Trembling, 2018, collection of the artist, courtesy ADAGP Paris & Jaspar, Tokyo, 2021, ph. by Galerie Bruno Bischofberger.


Miquel Barcelo', la suerte de matar, 1990, collection of the artist, courtesy ADAGP Paris & Jaspar, Tokyo, 2021, ph. by André Morin.


As the Osaka Museum states, “as a youth, Barceló went diving in the sea around his native Mallorca, catching fish and octopuses with his bare hands, and experiencing nature firsthand. Even today, his rapport with the natural world continues to be a source of inspiration for his work”. As the artist himself said, “It is the material that evokes an image.” The ideas that emerge from Barceló’s materials resonate with his interest in the physical world. His work is guided and created by matter. “Whether it is the sea around his hometown, an African desert, an Italian volcano, or the Himalayan mountains, which he recently visited, Barceló remains endlessly curious about the nature that rises up from the depths of his body. Underlying his work is a sympathy for the material world, which he experiences with his entire being. From water, the fire of the kiln, and the earth to fish, animals, fruits and vegetables, and human beings, Barceló has a deep interest in every form of matter that makes up the world”. 

The exhibition in Osaka is going to last until the end of May 2021 and it is curated by Enrique Juncosa, who has referred to the exhibition as “on the waters of a mirror.” “He has also called Barceló’s attempts to interpret the world unique methods of “reconstructing the constellations at will.” As reported in the essay of the National Museum, “the imaginative creations of this artist with the ability to dive deep below the water are quietly projected on its surface, prompting a sensory response. Equipped with you own mirror, you are invited to savor the protean interpretations of the world that emerge from an alchemy between Barceló’s subjects and the materials that stoke his passion. As the organizers of this exhibition, it is a great honor for us to expose you to this rare artist’s passionate energy”. 


Miquel Barcelo', Fear and Trembling, 2018, collection of the artist, courtesy ADAGP Paris & Jaspar, Tokyo, 2021, ph. by Galerie Bruno Bischofberger.


Cover image: Miquel Barcelo, poster of Osaka exhibition, courtesy the National Museum of Art, Osaka.

Written by Rossella Farinotti

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