Rafa Macarrón - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 14, 2022 | Phillips
  • "My characters live in a transcended daily life, clean days, sunsets, and fresh air."
    —Rafa Macarrón
    One of Spain’s most internationally renowned contemporary artists, Rafa Macarrón’s large scale multimedia paintings explore the infinite variety and casual intimacy of everyday life. Instantly recognisable for their elongated limbs, bulbous eyes, and exaggerated - often three-dimensional – features, his strange figures occupy an imaginary but familiar world. Recalling the great cycle of interlinked novels by 19th century French writer Honoré de Balzac, Macarrón explores the social ties that bind us together as much as the variety of human types that make up this rich panoply, his tender, sprawling portraits of the social networks that we situate ourselves within contributing to a kind of Comédie humaine for the 21st century.


    Life’s a Beach


    Strikingly democratic as a public space, the beach is a place where people come together across generational and class divides, locals and holidaymakers staking out a place on the sand from which to relax and enjoy the warm weather, reading alone or playing in the surf with their children. Such a scene seems particularly well-suited to Macarrón’s artistic project to capture the everyday, the loose arrangement of his signature figures in Un Día en la Playa evoking all of the relaxed atmosphere of a day at the beach while the intense hues of saturated orange and azure blue seem particularly charged with the heat of the Mediterranean sun.


    Édouard Manet, On the Beach, Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1868, Private Collection. Image: Bridgeman Images
    Édouard Manet, On the Beach, Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1868, Private Collection. Image: Bridgeman Images

    A recurring setting in Macarrón’s painting, the beach is an entirely modern concept, ‘the classical period knew nothing of the attraction of seaside beaches, the emotion of a bather plunging into the waves, or the pleasures of a stay at the seaside.’i Newly accessible by rail and promoting a very modern mode of leisure, areas of the European coastline were reinvented over the course of the 19th century from working seascapes to specially designated holiday destinations industry that especially captured the imaginations of artists interested in the shifting coastal light and fleeting impressions of modernity concentrated there.


    While French painters Eugéne Boudin and Édouard Manet established the beach as a site of artistic interest that was enthusiastically developed by Impressionist masters, the intensity of the light and colour found in these coastal spots proved indispensable in the development of Fauvism’s richly saturated palette. Like these early 20th century works by the likes of Henri Matisse and André Derain, Macarrón is highly attuned to the emotive power of colour, and confidently uses it to create certain moods in his works. As he has explained ‘I create the background and then I place the figure. I use the extremities of the figures, textures, or background elements to break with the flatness and generate volumes, textures, and a sense of perspective. Colours also help me create atmospheres, like when I use magentas to create warmth.’ii Here the vibrant shades of tangerine generate a wonderful warmth, while the artist’s experimental approach to form recalls the volumetric forms of Pablo Picasso’s 1930s beach scenes.


    Pablo Picasso, Bather with a Beach Ball, 1932, Museum of Modern Art, New York  CAPTION: Detail of the present work
    Left: Pablo Picasso, Bather with a Beach Ball, 1932, Museum of Modern Art, New York 
    Right: Detail of the present work

    Macarrón acknowledges the influence of his fellow Spaniard on the development of his own practice. Recalling a formative visit to the Musée Picasso in Paris when he was a child, Macarrón has recently explained ‘When I entered one of the rooms I asked for a notebook and coloured 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.’iii Such a description could well serve for Un Día en la Playa, the confidence, economy, and variety demonstrated in its elongated figures ‘born from a fantastic, surreal, and expressionist figuration’ that recalls Picasso’s own.iv


    Drawing on his training as a physiotherapist alongside a broad range of art historical and pop culture references, Macarrón’s experimental approach to figuration is complimented by a deep ‘knowledge and respect for anatomy’ that allows him to ‘try out distortions and deformations […] to create my own characters, each with their own soul and personality.’v Highly typical of Macarrón’s work, here the artist offers us a vibrant vision of community and sociability, the beach being a democratic space where class boundaries fall away as everyone is free to enjoy at leisuire.Tellingly, bathers and beaches formed the central focus of Macarrón’s first solo exhibition El bañista (The Bather) at Fundación La Nave Salinas in Ibiza in 2021, and more recently the City Council of Estepona, Malaga has recently unveiled Macarrón’s large sculptural figure Perro I on its seafront. 


    Collector’s Digest


    • Born in Madrid in 1981, self-taught artist Rafa Macarrón first came to prominence after winning the BMW Painting Award in 2010.


    • Alongside solo exhibitions with Allouche Gallery in New York and Nino Mier Gallery in Los Angeles, Macarrón held his first institutional solo show at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga in 2021 with scenes of bathers and beaches providing the central thematic focus. Earlier this year the artist mounted his debut solo exhibition in Asia, held at the CVG Foudation in Beijing.


    • 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.


    i Alain Corbin, The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World 1750-1840, Berkley, p. 1.

    ii Rafa Macarrón, Street Art News, 26 October 2021, online.

    iii Rafa Macarrón, ‘Artist Interview: Rafa Macarrón’, Street Art News, 26 October 2021, online.

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

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

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner


Un Día en la Playa

signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated ‘RM 13 UN DIA EN LA PLAYA’ lower right
acrylic, ink, crayon and paper collage on canvas, in artist’s acrylic box
135.5 x 259 cm (53 3/8 x 101 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 ‡♠

Sold for £138,600

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 14 October 2022