Joan Miró - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 18, 2023 | Phillips
  • In 1954, thirty-one nations participated in one of the world’s largest and most important exhibitions dedicated to international contemporary art: the 27th Venice Biennale. Adorning the front cover of the accompanying catalogue was a work by the artist Joan Miró. Simplistic yet eye catching, the cover exemplifies several key traits central to Miró’s unique style: organic forms, flattened picture planes and calligraphic lines. Composition (Design for the cover of La Biennale di Venezia) is the unique collage and gouache design that the artist produced in 1953, to serve as a blueprint for the final design on the Biennale’s 1954 catalogue cover.


    Joan Miró in Venice. Image: © Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche / Bridgeman Images.
    Joan Miró in Venice. Image: © Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche / Bridgeman Images.

    Composition (Design for the cover of La Biennale di Venezia) reveals Miró’s tendency towards abstraction, although the artist never considered his work to be purely abstract. Instead, he viewed his compositions as extreme simplifications, frequently conjured from the depths of his imagination. Comprised of several pieces of torn paper, the organic shapes which form the catalogue cover were painted with gouache and transformed into colour fields. Each fragment was carefully assembled on the blue gouache background. The words ‘Texte’, written three times on the work, demonstrate the artist’s enduring concern for the composition’s final purpose, reserving space for the necessary information required to appear on the Biennale’s catalogue cover. The final elements of decoration are three hand-painted shapes. These shapes tether the work to figuration and demonstrate Miró’s interest in the natural world, particularly the sky; the rounded red shape could be interpreted as a sun, while the adjacent white shape resembles a star. Similar forms can be found in Miró’s Constellations series – a group of oil and gouache paintings the artist began in 1940, and reproduced as prints in 1959, confirming the artist’s longstanding fascination with the cosmos.

    “I always have my feet on the ground and my eyes on the stars. It represents a flight toward infinity, toward the sky, while remaining on earth”
    —Joan Miró

    The final object, hand-painted in the centre of Composition (Design for the cover of La Biennale di Venezia), appears to float or soar upwards. Produced in the early 1950s, when there was increasing public interest in what would later be called The Space Race, one could interpret this as a spaceship or rocket, depicted soaring towards the sun and stars. However, Miró’s interest in space was less rooted in scientific pursuits and more inspired by the endless possibilities that these never-ending galaxies represented. Depicted with two small circles resembling eyes, which seemingly infuse it with sentience, this little figure instead comes to represent a flight toward infinity. Created for the Venice Biennale’s catalogue cover, Miró’s fantastical character encompasses the avant-garde spirit of the biennial contemporary art exhibition, and the infinite creative possibilities presented to us through art.


    Joan Miró, La Biennale de Venezia catalogue cover, 1954. Artwork: Succession Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022
    Joan Miró, La Biennale di Venezia catalogue cover, 1954. Artwork: Succession Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022
    • Provenance

      Gifted from the artist to Elio Zorzi, 1953
      Gifted from the above to the present owner, circa 1953

    • Catalogue Essay

      Published historian Elio Zorzi was Head of the Press Office for the Venice Biennale from 1926, working closely with the general secretaries Vittorio Pica, Antonio Maraini and Rodolfo Pallucchini. In 1954 Zorzi led the rebuilding of the Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica, becoming director of the festival and promoting its resurgence in collaboration with the Cannes Film Festival. Director of the magazine Ateneo Venezio, Zorzi published a number of historical works, most specifically about Venice.

Property from a Private Venetian Collection


Composition (Design for the cover of La Biennale di Venezia)

Gouache in colours and paper collage with additions in pencil, on card.
38.6 x 27.8 cm (15 1/4 x 10 7/8 in.)
Signed lower right in black, with an accompanying Certificate of Authenticity signed by Jacques Dupin (author of the Joan Miró prints catalogue raisonné), the original design for the cover of the 1954 Venice Biennale catalogue, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 ‡♠

Sold for £126,000

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 18 - 19 January 2023