España económica

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
    Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris
    Private Collection, London (acquired from the above in 1990)
    Christie's, London, 9 February 2005, lot 42
    Private Collection
    Christie's, London, 28 June 2011, lot 37
    Private Collection, Europe
    Phillips, London, 8 March 2017, lot 18
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    The textured, undulating surface of España económica emanates from the Spanish landscape of Miquel Barceló’s native country. Executed in 1990, it renders a meditation on the essence of the artist’s homeland; an organic and overtly physical work, España económica celebrates the materiality of painting. Working the composition, the artist himself even walked over and traversed the terrain of the canvas, ‘almost as if the painting was a living organism that grows, develops and takes form before his eyes’ (Rudy Chiappini, ‘Redeeming Everyday Life’, Miquel Barceló, exh. cat., Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, 2006, p. 15).

    Executed at the same time as his renowned bullfighting series, España económica draws upon the artist’s visual and physical experiences of his native country. The expansive work, which stretches over two metres high and nearly three metres in length, is a loosely cartographic representation of Spain, complete with abstract suggestions of the Pyrenees and Iberian Peninsula, and small motifs depicting landmarks and animals. Barceló draws inspiration from the landscape that surrounds him, and is fascinated by ‘the forms and textures implicit in all things, more in the manner of a reader than that of a conjurer, more of a mapmaker than an inventor’ (Alberto Manguel, ‘Miquel Barceló’, Miquel Barceló, exh. cat., Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, 2006, p. 40). The multifaceted surface of España económica is reminiscent of ridged peaks and plains, and the cyan blue paint encroaches on the canvas like waves on a shoreline. Indeed, ‘as an islander from the interior, earth and the sea are crucial in Barceló, but so too is the compression and expansion of space’ (Francisco Calvo Serraller, ‘Miquel Barceló’, exh. cat., Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, 2006, p. 62). The present work’s profound physicality raises a more experiential evocation of the essence of Spain, as opposed to a strictly proportionate rendering of the country’s topography.

    The cracked surface of España económica, rendered with its sun-bleached, baked tonal qualities, is reminiscent of the searing light and heat that permeates both the arid Saharan savannahs as well as the salt-encrusted freshness of the Mediterranean coastline. It seamlessly embodies and translates both of these visual aesthetics. As Barceló himself describes, ‘I trace maps of geographies that link all these worlds together’ (Miquel Barceló, quoted in Éric Mézil, ‘Terrae/Terrae: Miquel Barceló: Down To Earth', Terra Mare: Miquel Barceló, Palais des Papel, Avignon, Collection Lambert, 2010, p. 24). Barceló is inherently informed by both the Majorcan backdrop of his upbringing, with its rugged coastal landscape that brings together the contrasting light and textures of land and sea, and by his fascination with West Africa. Barceló was inspired by the parched, rocky landscapes, scorching sun and vibrant cultures of countries such as Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso, and has observed that 'Africa represents a kind of overall cleansing. The first reaction I always have when I arrive in Mali is to realise the uselessness of things. One paints out of pure necessity there' (Miquel Barceló, interview with M. F. Sánchez, La Esfera, no. 10, March 1992, Miquel Barceló: 1987-1997, exh. cat., Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 1998, p. 19).

    In the absence of a central focal point, the vast canvas instead immerses the viewer in a landscape that manipulates our perception of scale; the fissured surface is evocative of the earth, both close-up with all of its cracks and imperfections, and from a tectonic viewpoint, encompassing coastlines, ravines and mountain ranges. This reflects Barceló’s fascination with the physicality of the earth, as he himself admits: ‘someone once asked me if I was a geologist: I would have loved to say yes’ (Miquel Barceló, quoted in Courant Central, exh. cat., Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong, 2014, p. 44). This also concurs with the recollection of the pre-historic in Barceló’s work. Both southern Spain and West Africa are renowned for their evidence of some of the earliest human artistic activity; these remind us of the tangible connections that bind us to our ancestors, and the spiritual and vital dialogue between the earth, the sea and our own human identity. From ancient cave drawings and pottery, to the tradition of Spanish figurative painting, through to Abstract Expressionism, Barceló’s work is in dialogue with a multitude of art historical avenues.

    Exploring the possibilities of both figuration and abstraction, and with all of the physicality and vitality in its many strata, España económica is steeped in geological, geographical, and cultural history. ‘More than any other artist of our time, Miquel Barceló manages, with the simplicity and naturalness of great communicators, with the extraordinarily mysterious force of the few elect visionaries, to convey through his paintings deep, primitive feelings, that bear in themselves the stigmata of the layers of time and the existential malaise of the passing days’ (Rudy Chiappini, ‘Redeeming Everyday Life’, Miquel Barceló, exh. cat., Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, 2006, p. 15).

  • Artist Bio

    Miquel Barceló

    Spanish • 1957

    Drawing inspiration from work by Diego Velázquez and art-making practices of the Avant-garde, Miquel Barceló is perhaps most popular for his hybridization of traditional Spanish figurative aesthetics and thick, abstract brushstrokes. Barceló is inherently drawn to that which is multimedia, having received training in installation work, painting and ceramic. This ability to work across various mediums comes from the artist's hunger for travel and exploring new lands.

    Currently based between Mallorca, Mali and Paris, Barceló incorporates the visual aesthetics of his disparate countries seamlessly into his work. The artist's concern involves how to translate different modes of travel and culture into art-making. One recurring topic in his body of work is the ocean — the ultimate symbol of movement, displacement and the unknown.

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20

España económica

signed, titled, and dated 'Barceló IV. '90 "ESPAÑA ECONOMICA"' on the reverse
oil and mixed media on canvas
230 x 286.5 cm (90 1/2 x 112 3/4 in.)
Executed in 1990.

Estimate
£300,000 - 400,000 

sold for £393,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 hhighley@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2018