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  • Writer's pictureFrancesca Ramsay, MA

A Brief History of the Mosaic del Pla de l’Os in Barcelona

What is the Mosaic del Pla de l’Os?

The Mosaic del Pla de l’Os is a Pavement mosaic in Las Ramblas, Barcelona that was designed by 20th-century Barcelonan artist Joan Miró.

Mosaic del Pla de l’Os

Mosaic del Pla de l’Os History

Joan Miró was a sculptor, painter, designer, and one of the leading proponents of Abstract Surrealism. Most of all, he was a lover of Barcelona, his birthplace. His works are widespread around the city, gifts from the artist himself. In 1968, the city council commissioned him to create a mural for the façade of Terminal 2 at Barcelona Airport. Instead, Miró promised to give the city not one but four gifts: the ceramic airport mural, inaugurated in 1970, that welcomed people by air; this vibrant mosaic, created in 1976, that received those who docked in the port; a sculpture (that was never made), which was intended for the Parc de Cervantes, to greet those arriving by land; and the Fundació Joan Miró, a centre for modern and contemporary art.

Miró chose this location, formerly known as the Pla de l'Os, for both historical and personal reasons. This has long been a place of special significance. It was once the main entry point in the western part of medieval Barcelona’s city walls, where visitors would meet, jugglers would perform, and the bodies of executed criminals hung as a warning to any newcomers contemplating a crime. The Pla de l'Os is also near the Passatge del Crèdit, where Miró was born at the turn of the 20th century. As always, his art stemmed from the inextricable link between the history of Barcelona and his own.

Mosaic las ramblas

eric, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The circular form of the mosaic alludes to the cosmos. Its elementary colours, yellow, blue, and red, and simple shapes are central to Miró's artistic language. Having experienced the horror of the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, he created art that spoke about the complexities he encountered with a purity of vision recovered from childhood. The mosaic comprises thousands of tiles made from white cement mixed with crushed coloured glass. The ceramic pieces were made by the artist Joan Gardy-Artigas, son of Josep Llorèns Artigas, a regular collaborator with Miró.

Miró didn’t see the work until a month after its completion. On the 14th of January 1977, he sat by the mosaic for several hours to watch how people reacted to his design. When a passerby commented that they found the tiles poorly laid, Miró replied: ‘You don't know how hard it was for me to convince the workers to lay the tiles irregularly!’

At the express wish of the artist, the pavement is not protected in any way. In fact, it’s walked on every day by thousands of locals and tourists. Worn tiles are regularly restored. The Pla de l'Os mosaic is not only art, but Miro's priceless gift to Barcelona’s citizens and visitors. Though it may go unnoticed by some, it reflects the enduring spirit of La Rambla.

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