Barcelona: taking it outside!
Often referred to as “open sky museum”, Barcelona is a true gold mine when it comes to architecture, art and culture. Friendly, welcoming, but also vibrant and lively, every street corner is a source of marvel. SculptureNature prepared a tour for you, almost exclusively outdoors, starting on the heights of Montjuïc, through the Miró Foundation and ending facing the Mediterranean with Rebecca Horn’s L’estel ferit (The Wounded Shooting Star). Enjoy the walk!
The Miró Foundation, Jardin d’Escultures and Jardins de Laribal
The Miró Foundation is undoubtedly an architectural gem that requires to be visited. Built by architect and urbanist Josep Lluis Sert, Miró’s Catalan friend, the building is reminiscent of the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in France, which was built by Sert a few years earlier. Wide bright spaces and numerous openings on the exterior make this three-levels building easy to navigate. Miró’s work is displayed chronologically, starting on the ground floor and ending on the terrace. The use of materials such as white cement and red clay gives this Mediterranean architecture a particularly intimate and warm feel. The works, and in particular the sculptures, occupy the site as though they were born there. But it is once you step out onto the terrace where you are flooded by the light that you can truly enjoy altogether the splendor of the architectural work, the spectacular city views and the outdoor sculptures. While the sculptures like to play hide and seek because of their strategic placements within the space, visitors can take a rest, observe and dream, maybe. This is a place for contemplation, where architecture, sculpture and nature brilliantly come together.
Adjoining the foundation, the one-acre Jardin d’Escultures hosts a dozen contemporary sculptures under the care of the Foundation. There, you will exclusively find works by contemporary Catalan artists: Tom Carr, Pep Duran, Perejaume, Enric Pladevall, Jaume Plensa, Josep Maria Riera i Aragó, to name just a few.
Before you leave, one more surprise awaits: the Lariabal Gardens surrounding the foundation. Inspired by Arabic gardens, a long walk along these luxuriant terraces is an absolute must. They hide fountains, sculptures – mostly feminine nudes, flowerbeds suspended along the railings, and ceramics of all sizes, a true haven where one can recharge in the shade of palm trees, acacias and fruit trees.
Miró Park — Joan Miró, Dona i ocell, 1982
(The park is accessible but currently being restored. End of works scheduled for early 2018)
Miró’s last monumental work, Dona i ocell, was inaugurated a few months after his death and overlooks the Miró Park since 1983. This bright and proud seventy-two-feet high sculpture was commissioned by the city of Barcelona to Miró who decided to offer two other works on top of this one: two mosaics, one on the Rambla, and one on the exterior wall of El Prat airport Terminal B (Barcelona). Despite the restoration work, which makes the immediate perimeter of the sculpture inaccessible, we do recommend you circle around the sculpture to fully appreciate it and grasp the artist’s desire to combine masculine and feminine, to play with color and light, to cut out the sky and to let your imagination flow…
MACBA — Jorge Oteiza, La ola, 1998 and Eduardo Chillida, Mural G-333, 1998
An irregular banging noise will let you know that you are about to arrive at the MACBA, Barcelona’s contemporary art museum. For the past few years, the Plaça del Àngels, which faces the museum, has been taken over by skaters, at times making it even difficult for pedestrians to walk around. But what a pleasure to see so many people “out doors”! It is a constant flow of performances, choreographies, free movements, soaring into the air…
Stand facing the entrance and look to the left. On the wall that separates the museum’s grounds from the rest of the city, you will find Chillida’s first monumental mural. Although discreet, the location is key, because this particular wall was, according to the artist, an element of isolation rather than connection between the museum and the city. By choosing to place his mural at this strategic spot, he wanted to create an osmosis between the art center and the urban environment.
On your right, facing the museum, stands Jorge Oteiza’s La Ola. It almost looks like a maquette for a skate park if you follow the movement of its geometric forms! The Basque sculptor wanted to create a sculpture that would resonate with Richard Meier’s architecture. A play of shadows and lights, of concave and convex curves, of hollow and solid. I always liked how this place resonates, the way it subtly favors internalization while everything around is a show.
La Rambla — Joan Miró, mural Pla de l’os, 1976
o sap el que em va costar convèncer els operaris perquè posessin de manera irregular les peces…! (You have no idea how difficult it was to convince the masons to place the tiles irregularly!) That is what Miró would tell the passerby who would criticize the way the mosaic had been installed in 1976. Second homage to Barcelona, the site might seem uncommon for a work of art. Everyday, thousands of people step on the mosaic located in the middle of the Rambla, a long promenade that connects the Mediterranean to the heart of the city: a welcoming gift to the people who arrive to Barcelona through the sea.
Plaça del Rei — Eduardo Chillida, Topos V, 1985
In the heart of Barri Gótic, this work of art was purchased by the city of Barcelona in 1986 and then installed on Plaça del Rei according to the artist’s will. The medieval setting, the colors and the textures of the surrounding buildings (shades of brown, grey and black), and the window openings all contribute to a constant dialogue between the sculpture and its environment. Furthermore, the open shape of the sculpture allows people to sit and nest into it. An invitation to gaze elsewhere.,,
Moll de la Fusta – Mirador del Port Vell — Diego Delgado, Roy Lichtenstein, Cara de Barcelona (The Head), 1992
Installed around the Old Harbor while this urban area was redesigned, the Cara de Barcelona is a feminine face, a flame or maybe a paintbrush, depending on your perspective and on the light surrounding it. We met with it at sunset and the reflections of the nightlights on the tiles were stunning!
Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, Platja de Sant Miquel — Rebecca Horn, L’estel ferit, 1992
Appelée « els cubs » (« les cubes » en français) par les barcelonais, la sculpture de Rebecca Horn est devenue un point de rendez-vous pour les touristes et les locaux qui se promènent le long de la plage. Composée de quatre cubes d’acier vides, empilés d’une façon faussement approximative, la sculpture qui s’élève à 10 mètres de hauteur, est facilement repérable. Commandée dans le cadre de la réhabilitation du quartier de la Barceloneta pour les Jeux Olympiques de 1992, L’estel ferit veut rendre hommage au passé du quartier de pêcheurs, anciennement caractérisé par les baraques-restaurants (xiringuitos) installés sur la plage, qui rappellent les cubes de la sculpture. Barcelonans call it “els cubs” (“the cubes” in English). This sculpture by Rebecca Horn has become a meeting point for tourists and locals strolling along the beach. Composed of four hollow metal cubes that are deliberately oddly stacked, the 32-feet-high sculpture is easy to spot. Commissioned during the rehabilitation of the Barceloneta neighborhood for the 1992 Olympic Games, L’estel ferit is meant to honor this fishermen neighborhood’s past, which used to be characterized by beach restaurants (xiringuitos) set up on the beach, evoked by the cubes of the sculpture.
El Prat Airport, Terminal B — Joan Miró, Josep Llorenç Artigas, Mural a l’Aeroport, 1970
Before flying off to new destinations, take a look at the monumental mosaic on the wall of Terminal B. Created with Miró’s friend Josep Llorenç Artigas, the 160-feet long and 32-feet high mural is made of 4,865 sandstone tiles and weighs approximately 35 tons! Aeroport la benvinguda a la gent que arriba per l’aire**: the mosaic was installed here to greet air travellers, coming or leaving.
Now let us wish you a pleasant exploration of Barcelona. Send us your pictures of outdoor sculptures using #sculpturenatureBCN and we will post them on our Facebook / Twitter / Instagram accounts!
** Postcard from Joan Miró to Lluís Permanye