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  • Writer's pictureFrancesca Ramsay, MA

A Brief History of the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona

What is the Fundació Joan Miró?

The Fundació Joan Miró is an outstanding collection of modern art opened to the public in 1975, and located in a light-filled modernist building.

Fundació Joan Miró

Canaan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Fundació Joan Miró History

This shimmering white structure, standing out amongst the greenery of Barcelona’s Montjuïc Hill, holds the greatest single collection of Joan Miró. He’s one of the most celebrated Spanish artists of the 20th century, famed for his use of bright colours and mysterious but engaging symbolism.

In the late 1960s, Miró (who was born in Barcelona in 1893) announced that he would donate four gifts to his home city. His airport mural greets visitors arriving by air into Barcelona, while the circular Pla de l’Os mosaic on La Rambla was designed to meet those strolling up from the port. His third gift, Sun, Moon and One Star, intended for the Parc de Cervantes, to greet those arriving by land, was never made. His final gift to the city was this building, the Fundació Joan Miró.

Miró wanted to create an accessible space not only to exhibit his enormous body of work, but also to provide a place in which young artists could meaningfully encounter contemporary art. The foundation opened to the public in 1975. With over 10,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and textiles, it has grown into a dynamic centre, demonstrating Miró’s ongoing influence on the cutting-edge contemporary art of today. In line with the artist’s original idea, the foundation continues to promote the work of experimental young artists, with an exhibition space dedicated to brand new contemporary art.

The collection gives a broad impression of Miró’s artistic development, from his very earliest work (made at just eight years old in 1901) right through to the ecstatic primary colours and shapes with which he is indelibly associated. As you wander around this light-filled space, you’ll discover Miró’s forays into Surrealism, his grotesquely disfigured antipintura (or literally ‘anti-painting’) works of the 1970s, and Tapís de la Fundació, a joyful figural embroidery in the artist’s trademark colours, designed specifically for the space.

You’ll also find iconic artworks by many of Miró’s contemporaries and successors. The foundation’s collection of 20th-century masterpieces includes work by Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Antoni Tàpies and Alexander Calder. Calder’s hypnotic (and quite literally toxic) Mercury Fountain, an abstract sculpture hanging above a flowing pool of liquid mercury, is displayed behind safety glass. The same artist’s bright red Four Wings, however, stands cheerfully and readily accessible on the grass lawn outside the foundation.

The simplistic structure that houses the foundation was designed by Josep Lluís Sert, a close friend of Miró, who had previously designed the artist’s studio in Mallorca. It’s now considered one of the world’s most outstanding museum buildings. Sert was a pupil of Modernist master architect Le Corbusier. His building certainly shares the austere and functional Modernist aesthetic. Spatial continuity is a key element here. The flowing and light-filled space compliments perfectly Miró’s bold work.

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