Barceló is known for his experimental approach to painting and sculpture. “I love inventing materials”, he explains. “I think a part of my profession is all about inventing new techniques - the right technique”. Barceló’s neo-expressionist style explores decomposition, light and natural landscapes, through the use of bleach, organic matter or even living insects. He was born on the 8th January 1957 in Felanitx, Spain and studied for a brief period at the Decorative Arts School of Palma de Majorca and then at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona during the 1970s. Barceló’s work takes inspiration from Lucio Fontana and his paintings, ceramics and installations are both abstract and conceptual. Barceló lives between Paris, Mali and Majorca and in 2004, he became the youngest artist to have his work exhibited at the Louvre Museum.
Just like Cervantès, Barceló loves to travel, speaks several languages, is a joker, influenced by Arabia, obsessed by the body and its wounds, is both epic and intimate and plays with death in all shapes and sizes, with extreme seriousness. His work is vast, a blend of tacit expression and tactile discoveries, and can be summarised in two paintings: Gran Animal Europeu (1991) and Memorial Soup (1987). The first piece is an African buffalo or Sevillian bull whose tortured and torn skin reveals a furious disarray of mixed colours. The second is a painting with silhouettes that almost resemble cave art, allowing the texture of the materials, the instability of the elements to blossom, in an uncertain light.
“Barceló is one of the most well-known artists on the international scene. Highly sought-after by museums and art collectors, his works - rock paintings, seabeds, still life representations of skulls and exotic fruit, deserted landscapes - remind us of the origin of mankind and the futility of human existence. Unmoved by current trends, he continues his path, obsessed by the concept of reinventing his own art. His Parisian studio is hidden at the far end of a courtyard and resembles the entrance to an ogre’s den. Some huge artworks are displayed over three storeys, in a jumble of plaster, pots of paint and canvases that are yet to be completed. There are also some surprising tools - a machete and a hammer - and an abundance of books, about Mantegna, Degas and Depardon, among others. The most surprising place is a sort of curiosity cabinet. Much like treasures, donkey and horse skulls are displayed on the shelves, as well as dried swordfish, moray eels and octopus, all caught by Barceló himself: ‘His models’”. L’EXPRESS, Annick Colonna-Césari, 2010.
The original piece that the artist will be creating for Chaumont-sur-Loire in one of the groves in the Historic Grounds will be a colourful ceramic shell, a poetic piece that interacts with the plant life in the Grounds.
Miquel Barceló was born on the island of Majorca in 1957 and is a protean artist whose ability and passion resembles that of Pablo Picasso. He is above all a painter, but is also an illustrator, engraver, sculptor and ceramicist. He is behind the decorations in the Sant Pere chapel at Palma de Mallorca cathedral, that he created between 2001 and 2006 (300 m2 including the furniture and the stained-glass windows) and he painted the dome of the Palace of Nations in Geneva’s conference hall XX between 2007 and 2008. This monumental project covering a surface area of 900 m2 was carried out at the request of Spain in 2005, who wanted to offer it as a gift to the UN. The project had already been entrusted to Marc Chagall in the 1970s, but was then declined due to the artist’s ailing health. In this room that houses the Human Rights Council, Miquel Barceló used more than 30 tonnes of paint to create the coloured stalactites.
After numerous fruitful stays in Mali between 1992 and 2012, he now shares his time between Paris, Majorca and some Asian countries.
His father was a farmer and his mother a painter, he graduated from the School of Decorative Arts in Palma de Majorca in 1973 and had his first solo exhibition in 1974. In 1975, he joined Barcelona’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts but then quickly distanced himself from academia, and got involved in the conceptual group Taller Llunatic, who were opposed to Franco’s government. From 1977, he began to introduce organic matter into his paintings, a technique that he would then pursue throughout his career. In 1980, his encounter with Miró took him back to a more classical style of figurative painting. His work was exhibited in France in 1982, and he was invited to Documenta VII in Kassel, where he worked alongside Basquiat. In 1983, the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris purchased one of his paintings. He met Andy Warhol and spent time in the presence of Cy Twombly. In 1985, the Queen Sofia National Museum Art Centre in Madrid chose to add his work to their collections.
At the age of 30, in 1987, he was awarded the Spanish National Award for Plastic Arts. The following year, he made his first important trip to Africa. In 1991, Miquel Barceló built a floating studio on a traditional boat and sailed up the river Niger, covering 1,400 km in two weeks. Four years later, while he was experimenting with ceramics on the African continent, he was chosen to represent Spain at the Venice Biennale. Two simultaneous exhibitions were held in his name at the Jeu de Paume arts centre and at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 1996: “Impressions d’Afrique”. In 1998, the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art held a large retrospective exhibition of his paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics. His works on paper were put on display in 1999 at the Queen Sofia National Museum Art Centre and his ceramics were displayed at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris in 2000. He received the prestigious Prince of Asturias award for the Arts in 2003. In 2004, he displayed more than 300 drawings at the Louvre, of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
This international recognition also earned him a place in the performing arts, from creating theatre sets to performing himself, alongside choreographer and visual artist Josef Nadj, in Paso Doble, at the Festival of Avignon in 2006.
As a member of the scientific committee in charge of restoring the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc caves, the birthplace of prehistoric art in the Ardèche, he is one of the lucky few to have seen the original cave paintings. He was fascinated by the artworks on these rocks and they inspired him greatly, especially for his exhibition, ‘Miquel Barceló. Sol y sombra’ at the National Library of France (BnF) in 2016, where he covered a 200m-long and 6m-high pane of glass with liquid clay. He also referred back to this inspiration for the group exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in 2019, entitled ‘Préhistoire, une énigme moderne’ (Prehistory, a modern enigma), in which a wall painting on glass created by the artist was exhibited.