Majorcan painter Miquel Barceló (Felanitx, 1957) recently won the Premio Nacional de Arte Gráfico, Spain’s prestigious graphic art prize awarded by the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Mardid. Barceló, following in the footsteps of last year’s winner Jaume Plensa, can add yet another important award to his collection of acclaimed Spanish art prizes including the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas (1986) and the Príncipe de Asturias de las Artes (2003).
Barceló was introduced to art from a young age, as his mother used to paint and one of his grandparents regularly purchased art work for the family gallery, featuring pieces by renowned artists such as Anglada Camarasa. At 15, Barceló joined the School of Applied Arts in Palma, Majorca, moving two years later to Barcelona, where he would resume his art studies at the l’Escola Superior de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi. During these years and through several trips to Paris he came into contact with Art Brut and paintings by Paul Klee, Fontana and Rothko. Not long after he returned to Palma where he joined the group of conceptual artists and poets, the multidisciplinary Taller Lunàtic.
In 1977 he contacted the periodical ‘Neón de Suro’ which lead him to meet Valencian designer Javier Mariscal. He then went on to carry out exhibitions in Barcelona, California and Canada. This same year he made his first large-scale painting in the form of a mural for a hotel in Cala Millor. One year later he moved for good to Barcelona, where he was greatly influenced by painters such as De Kooning, Pollock and Twombly. After an expressionist and figurative phase, in 1981 Barceló achieved international fame through the São Paulo Art Biennial in Brazil. One year later he was the only Spanish artist included in the Documenta exhibition in Kassel, which also featured work by Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat and many more.
In 1983 he set up his studio in the Bastille district in Paris, which was visited by Javier Mariscal. Barceló travelled to New York the same year where he met and painted a portrait of Andy Warhol. In 1984 he attended the Venice Art Biennial and was included in an exhibition which brought together the most valued art pieces from across the globe in the MoMA, New York; Barceló was the youngest artist. During 1986 (year he received the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas) and 1987 he lived and worked between Majorca, New York and Paris.
In 1988, joined by Javier Mariscal, he took his first trip to Africa, a continent which would later greatly influence his work. In 1992, after presenting his first sculptures at the Arco exhibition in Madrid, he moved to Mali. One year later, director Jean-Marie Del Moral produced a documentary about the various creative phases of Barceló which was filmed in Majorca, Paris and Mali. In 1994 the London gallery Whitechapel displayed an important retrospective of his work, which was held the following year in the Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM). As a continuation to this retrospective, in 1998 an exhibition in Barcelona’s Museum of Contemporary Art was held which compiled all of Barceló’s art pieces spanning the previous 10 years.
In 2002 he began work on the restoration project for the Capilla de Santísimo, the chapel of Palma’s cathedral in Majorca, where he created a large ceramic mural. One year later he earned the Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Artes. In 2004 he set up the ceramic mural in Palma’s Cathedral which constituted the first of several works by Barceló this building would see, finally completed in 2006. The following year Barceló began another defining project: the decoration of the dome of Hall XX in the Chamber of Human Rights at the United Nations in Geneva.
In 2009 Barceló represented Spain in the 53rd Venice Art Biennial. Not long after he went on another trip, this time to the Himalayas. The following year the Caixa foundation, the Obra Social de La Caixa, organised a substantial retrospective spanning 25 years of Miquel Barceló’s artistic career, displayed in both Madrid and Barcelona. In 2010 the documentary ‘La cúpula de Barceló’, Barceló’s dome, directed by Agustí Torres was shown for the first time. The documentary focused on the creative process behind in Barcelo’s work in the United Nations building in Geneva. Further to this, in 2011 two films premiered featuring Barceló, both directed by Isaki Lacuesta, ‘El cuaderno de barro’ (The Clay Diaries) and ‘Los pasos dobles’ (The Double Steps), which was awarded the Golden Shell at the San Sebastian film festival.
As Miquel Barceló was awarded the prize, the panel highlighted his “dedication” and “long trajectory” in print and graphic art over the past 30 years, which was followed by a large retrospective of the Majorcan artist in the headquarters of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid.