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  • Writer's pictureFrancesca Ramsay, MA

A Brief History of The European Museum of Modern Art (MEAM)

What is the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern?

The Museu Europeu d’Art Modern, or European Museum of Modern Art in English, is an intimate collection of figurative art housed in the spectacular Neoclassical Palau Gomis.


Alzinous, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Museu Europeu d’Art Modern History

The well-hidden Museu Europeu d’Art Modern (or MEAM for short), nestled down a narrow medieval street in Barcelona’s El Born neighbourhood, showcases an intimate collection of art. The museum occupies the beautifully restored Palau Gomis, a magnificent 18th-century palace surrounding a peaceful, shaded courtyard, where the Napoleonic general, Marshal Lecchi, once had his residence. The palace’s grand Neoclassical exterior is in striking contrast with the collection of bold modern and contemporary figurative art you’ll find within.

In 2006, the Palau Gomis became the headquarters of the Fundació de les Arts i Els Artistes, an arts foundation formed the previous year to promote figurative artists of the late 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Over the next five years a huge restoration and remodelling of the palace was undertaken by local architect Jordi Garcés. Garcés has certainly left his mark on the area, as he remodelled the Picasso Museum just around the corner. In June 2011, the palace opened as a museum of figurative art. As well as housing the foundation’s own permanent collection, the museum also has a special exhibition programme that runs throughout the year. For all music lovers, it also hosts weekly blues and classical musical events. These exclusive concerts are a wonderful opportunity to soak up the building’s special atmosphere and see the collection in a totally different light.

In its promotion of figurative art, the museum aims to highlight that contemporary art doesn’t have to be abstract or conceptual, but can still be progressive and daring. It supports both established figurative artists and new and undiscovered talent. So, while MEAM may not be the place to track down names already renowned, it’s certainly a museum in which you are sure to discover the most promising talent in figurative art and sculpture. On three intimate floors, visitors will discover a small but tightly coherent and consistent collection of painting and works on paper, as well as a broad array of sculpture.

Among the showcasing of today’s talent there’s also plenty of the past. MEAM holds a significant collection of elegant Art Deco figurines; European sculpture is also well represented, with a collection of just over a hundred pieces focusing on Catalan work. Materials vary from bronze, marble, and terracotta to cardboard and paper – look out for Abraham Nevado’s beautifully crafted Sinergia, two heads modelled from 4,289 intricately sliced sheets. Paintings range from traditional portraiture and unflinching nudes, to the mind-bogglingly precise Hyper- and Photorealism of Jesús María Sáez de Vicuña Ochoa and Iván Carlos Franco Fraga. You won’t be the first to have that strange feeling that many pairs of eyes are following you around the room…

The Museu Europeu d’Art Modern calls itself a ‘living museum’, and this seems true in more senses than one. Some works in the collection may be unsettling, perhaps slightly uncomfortable to look at, in their sometimes horrifying vivacity: Rigoberto Camacho’s hostile Identity, for example, or José Miguel Jiménez Scheroff’s Vanitas, a staring head stripped back of its muscle. But each work has been chosen deliberately to give visitors an absorbing visual experience. This is art that will stay with you long after you leave the museum; the eyes will continue to follow you around.

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