Rafa Macarrón - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Introduction


    Characterised by the host of surreal, whimsical characters that populate his work, Spanish artist Rafa Macarrón’s Sin título (Cosmos) exudes a stylistic flair that resembles artists such as Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso and Jean Dubuffet. Carrying a sense of tranquillity, tenderness and wonder, Macarrón’s fluid, dreamlike realms seem to be suspended in time, free from the restraints of literal interpretation.


    As his compositions unfurl in expansions of colour and fleeting lines, Macarrón presents an inventive futuristic cosmos inhabited by a cast of peculiar creatures, building bridges and houses across the Earth and sun. With his work, Macarrón seeks a freedom of expression through a variety of materials: ‘The spray gives modernity, dynamism, and colour. The pencils and the marker create the weft, the waxes, the acrylics and the gouaches, nuanced transparencies and the oil brings complexity.’ i

    ‘Fantastic, Surreal, Expressionist Figuration’


    In playing with deformity, Macarrón emphasises the idea that no two people are alike, and that each deserves to be celebrated for their uniqueness. The artist designs his characters with a consideration for their background stories, elevating everyday activities with mysticism and provocation. Amidst the dazzling detail in Sin título (Cosmos), Macarrón’s flawed, imperfect characters are living their ordinary lives: holding an umbrella to shield themselves from cosmic showers or smoking a cigarette off their balconies. Seemingly mundane activities are distorted with outlandish figures with eyes that pop out of their heads or legs that cannot hold up the weight of their bodies. Macarrón's colourful characters are reminiscent of childhood doodles, projecting a playful view of the world that is limitless and full of imagination.


    Left: Jean Dubuffet, Site aux paysannes (Site for peasant women), 1966
    © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

    Right: Detail of the present lot 


    Illustrating a similar child-like painterly aesthetic, Jean Dubuffet’s enigmatic, almost primitive works are defined by their vivid colours, rough brushwork and pronounced outlines, allowing the artist to achieve an unnerving impact with his work. Dubuffet began painting during WWII and coined the term Art Brut (raw art) to describe the raw, untrained qualities he was emulating in his paintings. Similar to Dubuffet, Macarrón’s works infuse creative aspects from children’s drawings and human anatomy.


    However, in contrast to Dubuffet, Macarrón’s approach is much more carefree in nature. Despite the deformity of his protagonists, Macarrón’s figures are rendered with tenderness and compassion. With a background in physiotherapy, Macarrón utilises his understanding of human anatomy in portraying his characters, showcasing his detailed observation of everyday life and existence. He found that depicting the imperfections of the human body is ‘like creating your own body characters, each with their own soul and personality’, providing him an enriching source of inspiration ii:

    “They are born from a fantastic, surreal, and expressionist figuration. I consider them hybrid characters that are closely related to my admiration for Dubuffet, Bonifacio, and Alfonso Fraile. My characters live in a transcended daily life, clean days, sunsets, and fresh air.”
    — Rafa Macarrón

    Cosmic Expanse


    Depicting a fancifully coloured, poetic galaxy, Macarrón’s Sin título (Cosmos) encapsulates the same lyrical and surreal qualities as works by fellow Spanish painter, Joan Miró. Featuring some of Miró’s first biomorphic forms, Carnival of Harlequin depicts a crowded scene at a festival, where abstract characters seem to be caught up in a celebration. Though a simple horizon line is employed, Miró’s characters seem to be floating in mid-air, with the depth of the space undiscernible to the viewer. Placed before a sleek background, the figuration of the characters is enhanced, giving their personality more prominence.



    Joan Miró, Carnaval d'Arlequin (Carnival of Harlequin), 1924-1925
    Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
    © Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


    Despite the suggestion of an expansive field through a comparison of scale between the sun and Earth, Macarrón also reduces the unfathomable depth of the galaxy into a shallow flat background in Sin título (Cosmos), yet the sense of an expansive field can still be felt by the viewer. Macarrón is able to achieve such an effect by creating backdrops before carefully placing the figures, juxtaposing the extremities of the figures, textures, or background elements with the flatness of the space, generating volume, texture, and a sense of perspective. In addition, depth is constructed through a unique, three-dimensional canvas with dynamic protrusions and depressions formed with geometric lines, transforming the work into a tactile landscape, enhanced as light and shadow reflect and refract from the surface. Colour also helps to construct the surrounding atmosphere, evident through Macarrón’s use of luminescent oranges and bright magenta ‘to generate warmth’ iii, as in the present lot. The dynamic ambience of his space metropolis is animated with a sense of motion and energy that transcends reality with an ethereal aura.


    Detail of the present lot (profile)

    Collector’s Digest


    Born 1981 in Madrid, Rafa Macarrón is a self taught artist who lives and works in Madrid. First gaining momentum internationally after winning the BMW Painting Award in 2010, Macarrón has since held his first institutional museum exhibition at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, 26 March - 6 June, 2021. Other solo exhibitions include his two part exhibition with Nino Mier Gallery in Los Angeles (2022) and Allouche Gallery (2019) in New York.


    Macarrón’s works are in the public collections of the Hudson Valley Centre for Contemporary Art, New York; Foundation BMW, Spain; Caja Campo, Valladolid, Spain; and Collection Mercadona, Spain, among others.


    The artist's debut solo exhibition in Asia, Afternoon Delight, had just closed at the CVG Foudation in Beijing, which lasted from 22 April - 19 May, 2022.


    i Rafa Macarrón, quoted in ‘Artist Interview: Rafa Macarrón’, Street Art News, 26 October 2021, online

    ii Rafa Macarrón, quoted in Melissa Mui, ‘Rafa Macarrón Explores Shape-Shifting Characters at La Nave’, Whitewall, 20 July 2021, online

    iii Gabrielle Leung, ‘Rafa Macarron’s Dream-Like Characters to Take Over NYC’s Allouche’, Hypebeast, 27 August 2019, online

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Madrid (acquired directly from the artist)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Sin título (Cosmos)

signed and dated 'RM 15' lower right
mixed media on aluminium and PVC
183 x 296 cm. (72 x 116 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

HK$700,000 - 1,000,000 

Sold for HK$1,386,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022