Rafa Macarrón - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, March 3, 2022 | Phillips
  • 'It is clear to me that I want to speak about life on the street, the everyday life, and my own existence. And I want to speak about these things with humour, more white than dark humour, more compassionate than cruel.'
    —Rafa Macarrón


    Hovering between dream and reality, Madrid-based Rafa Macarrón’s brightly coloured compositions play host to an assortment of compelling, cartoon-like figures distinguished by their elongated and exaggerated features. Smoking cigarettes, sitting under rain clouds, and looking out from absurdly sized glasses, 13 of these flattened figures are present here, stacked against the acid yellow and fluorescent orange ground. Executed on a large scale, the pictorial space of Balcones is vertiginously shallow, the characters pushed right up against the picture surface. Playfully acknowledging this tension between two and three-dimensional space, the mixed-media elements protrude out from the surface of the work, reproducing the curiously permeable quality of dreams as any formal distance between the strange world of the painting and our own is compromised. 


    Working in bursts of spontaneity, the self-taught artist dispenses with preparatory sketches as he paints directly onto a wide variety of surfaces and materials including iron, aluminium, and PVC, as in the present work. In this manner Balcones takes on the mutable appearance and dynamic atmosphere of the metropolis, the artist animating the whole composition with a sense of motion and energy that best describes contemporary urban life. 



    Street Life 
    'The characters come out of my everyday life and I take them out of context. They could be individuals living with us. When I create them, I always like to imagine where they come from, what they do, where they go, what life they have.' —Rafa Macarrón

    Immediately recognisable, Macarrón’s characters concentrate a highly developed sense of individual personality within remarkably simplified gestures. A physiotherapist by training, Macarrón has a carefully studied knowledge of human anatomy, which he relates directly to his characteristic distortion of the figure. As the artist explains: ‘To create my elongated figures requires knowledge and respect for anatomy. I know the structure of the body perfectly. Then, I begin to try out distortions and deformations, which I think works very well. I am able to create my own characters, each with their own soul and personality.’i 

    Influenced by comics and mid-century Spanish artists including those of the El Paso group, Macarrón’s work is rooted in a deep tradition of European figurative painting. In a recent interview the artist recalls a formative visit to the Musée Picasso in Paris when he was a child, ‘When I entered one of the rooms I asked for a notebook and colored pencils. I spent the whole morning trying to understand what was in front of me. At the age of seven I used to make drawings full of color, animals or people taken out from some unknown world.’ii In their economy and starkly graphic quality, these figures certainly recall Picasso’s confidently executed drawings, although in their flattened combinations of frontal and profile portraits and the exaggeration of eyes, hands, and distinguishing features, they also evoke his iconic depictions of the Surrealist photographer Dora Maar that have become so synonymous with his name. 



    Left: Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937, Musée Picasso, Paris. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Succession Picasso / DACS, London 2022
    Right: Detail of the present work  

    Alongside the urban themes of Manuel Hernández Mompó, the scenes of everyday Parisian life captured by French post-war painter Jean Dubuffet in his Paris Circus series have clearly left the mark on the young artist, and it is unsurprising that he cites Dubuffet as a direct influence. Teeming with all the life and energy of the city, Dubuffet’s Paris Circus works employ a similarly elevated perspective and flattened picture field used to such striking effect by Macarrón here. While certain visual comparisons could be drawn in terms of figuration and spatial arrangement, both Macarrón and Dubuffet also share a remarkable tenderness for their figures, the ‘adventures and greatness of ordinary life, elevating everyday activities with mysticism and provocation.’iii 



    Jean Dubuffet, Hôtel du Cantal, 1961, Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Image: © Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris / Jean Tholance / akg-images, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022


    It is this focus on the transcendental in the everyday that most vigorously informs Macarrón’s practice, something that the artist directly connects with certain mystical and religious aspects of his Spanish cultural heritage. Infusing this with a contemporary vocabulary inflected with nods to graffiti and street art, Macarrón continues a long artistic tradition focused on the complexities and contradictions of the human condition, and a celebration of contemporary life itself. Marking the artist’s evening sale debut, Balcones is a lively and compelling work from this promising
    Spanish artist.  



    Collector's Digest 

    •    Winner of the 2011 BMW Painting awards, Rafa Macarrón’s work is in demand internationally as his reputation as one of Spain’s most interesting emerging artists continues to grow. 


    •    Following the opening of his first institutional show in March 2021 at the Contemporary Art Centre of Malaga, Macarrón also presented a solo exhibition at La Nave Salinas Foundation in Ibiza. Following exhibitions of KAWS, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf, Macarrón is the first Spanish artist to be the focus of a solo show at the foundation.


    •    Already this year Macarrón has presented a two-part solo exhibition with Nino Mier Gallery in Los Angeles. The Girls and The Girl’s Dreams opened in January and were presented across two of their galleries. 



    i Rafa Macarrón, quoted in Melissa Mui, ‘Rafa Macarrón Explores Shape-Shifting Characters at La Nave’, Whitewall Art, 20 July, 2021, online.    
    ii Rafa Macarrón, ‘Artist Interview: Rafa Macarrón’, Street Art News, 26 October 2021, online.  
    iii Gabrielle Leung, ‘Rafa Macarron’s Dream-Like Characters to Take Over NYC’s Allouche’, Hypenbeast, 27 August 2019, online

    • Provenance

      Allouche Gallery, New York
      Private Collection, United States of America
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



mixed media on PVC
113 x 113 cm (44 1/2 x 44 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

£30,000 - 50,000 ‡♠

Sold for £126,000

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+ 44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 3 March 2022