Catalan athletics has just
celebrated its one hundredth birthday. It has grown up under Barcelonas protective
wing, from its remote origins, the first successes of Pere Prat, the mythical amateur
long-distance runner, to todays rather more professional athletes, exemplified by
the middle-distance runner Reyes Estévez. Athletics in Barcelona reached its peak during
the 1992 Olympic Games. There then followed a period of uncertainty. In its centenary
year, Barcelona will have to find new objectives to avoid running out of steam.
Legend has it that the first Olympic champion from Barcelona was Minicius Natalis, a Roman
born in Barcino, who won the chariot race at Olympia in AD 60. But an eternity elapsed
between Miniciuss success and the first gold medal won by a Barcelona-based athlete
in the modern Olympic Games. (...)
It was Jaume Vila, then a teacher at the Tolosa Club in Carrer Duc de la Victòria, who
had the curiosity to find out exactly what benefits were derived from the gymnastics
classes he had been giving for several years. Vila summoned three of his pupils, Julián
García, Ismael Alegre and Eusebio Gracia, together with the fencing instructor Eduard
Alessodi. Vila himself also took part in the race. In the early morning of 9 December
1898, the after the Immaculate Conception holiday, an unpleasant cold wind was blowing.
This gave the race, from Carrer Duc de la Victòria to Sarrià Square and back, over 14
kilometres of paving stones, cobblestones and the rails of tram route 14, an even more
epic character, but they covered the course in 55 minutes. By the time they crossed the
finishing line, it was not yet dawn, so they had breakfast in an atmosphere of camaraderie
and even found the energy to go for a short bicycle ride.
Footraces, from the very first, have generally been associated with the more humble social
classes. Unlike golfers, tennis players or rowers, runners did not have to invest a single
penny to practise their sport. All they needed was some reasonably adequate footwear - in
fact, some even ran barefoot - and open space: streets, woods or fields. The English
always said that cross country was the sport which brought man into closest contact with
nature. Joan Gamper was of the same opinion. That is why, a year after that first race, he
arranged another over 800 metres round the Hotel Casanovas, in which the founder of
Barcelona FC came in second behind Francesc Cruzate. (...)
Indeed, the Catalan Football Federation organised a number of athletic events, such as the
Volta de Barcelona in June 1907, with 67 runners taking part.
The earliest sports publications of the time, La Velocipedia, Los Deportes,
the weekly Stadium, El Sport, La Gaceta Deportiva and El Mundo
Deportivo, were already recounting the feats of the first star of Catalan athletics:
Pere Prat. Prats popularity soared as the reporters wrote of the challenges he took
up, from one-lap (1,420 m) head-to-head races round Ciutadella Park to contests in
bullrings for wagers. Barcelona Swimming Club also appreciated the possibilities offered
by the flatness and visibility of Ciutadella Park and put on races there every Sunday.
Athletes soon became a familiar sight for the inhabitants of Barcelona and they turned up
in large numbers to see such events and admire the feats of Pere Prat who, in 1916, held
seven Spanish middle distance records. Born in 1881 and a milkman by trade, he would do
his rounds with the milk churns on his back and then use his free time to jog through the
same streets as part of his training. Pere Prats elegant style and efficient stride
made him an invincible unbeatable champion between 1911 and 1917, when he had to retire
from several events. He also took part in the odd motorbike race and in the first
triathlon to be held in Catalonia. This consisted of a running race starting in Passeig de
Gràcia, a cycling event and a nautical contest (not swimming, but rowing a certain
distance in a boat crewed by three oarsmen). Pere Prat later moved to England and then the
United States where he eventually ended up managing a fleet of taxis.
(© Josep M. Có de Triola - AF CEC)
At around the same time, a
sizeable group of amateurs decided to set up the Catalan Athletics Federation (FAC) to
record and verify the results of different competitions. The driving force behind this
move was a number of leading sports journalists, such as Narcís Masferrer and Josep Elias
i Juncosa, founders of the first Sports Journalists Union. This latter organisation served
as a launching pad for the expansion of the so-called Olympic sports which had hitherto
been overshadowed by the elitist sports of the bourgeoisie. Founded in 1915, the FAC
concentrated on promoting athletics, popularising certain training methods and staging the
Catalonia Championships. The first of these was a cross-country race held on 9 January
1916 in Vallvidrera, a brilliant showcase for Pere Prat, who completely dominated the
contest, and the second, the track and field events Championships of Catalonia held over
three days of heats, semi-finals and finals in the summer of the same year in the sports
fields belonging to Societat Sportiva Pompeia and RCD Español.
(...) 1920 marked a decisive turning point. Within the space of a single year, four
Catalan athletes took part in the Antwerp Olympic Games, the Jean Bouin classic was first
run and the idea of constructing the Olympic Stadium on Montjuïc was put forward,
prompted by the dream of making a formal application for Barcelona to stage the 1924
Olympic Games. The proposal enjoyed full press backing, but failed to prosper as those
Games were awarded to Paris at the express wish of Baron de Coubertin.
The Civil War put an end to all sports activity. The youth were called to arms and the
fans took refuge in their air-raid shelters. Mercè Varela tells the story of Pratmarsó,
one of the unluckiest careers she can recall. "He was naturally talented. Holder of
the Spanish 1500-metre and mile records, he never managed to become an Olympic athlete.
The Civil War stopped everything, the competitions and training. Pratmarsó was unable to
travel to Berlin in 1936 and later on he concentrated on studying engineering. He was also
a great football player and was good enough to be taken on by Barça as a successor to
Escolà. But then he broke his ankle in training and dropped out of everything. Only
hockey was able to tempt him back and he even made it into the Spanish hockey team for the
1948 London Olympics.
After the Civil War it was back to square one. Barcelona had to wait until the 1955
Mediterranean Games to return to the international scene. It took the people of Barcelona
a long time to make their way back to the athletics fields. It is true that the FAC soon
got its activities onto a normal footing again, but it had to operate in extremely
precarious conditions. Atletismo Español, the magazine published by the Spanish
Athletics Federation since 1951, advised Catalans to bring themselves up to date. Trainers
should teach their athletes to use starting blocks, as Catalan sprinters digging holes in
the cinder tracks to help them get a good start was a ridiculous sight. They lagged years
behind the other Spanish athletes.
(© Manuel Ortega)
The emergence of Tomàs Barris,
another extraordinary middle-distance runner, gave a new lease of life to Barcelona
athletics. Barris, who is said to have been 30 years ahead of his time on account of his
excellent performances, captured a good deal of the interest in the Mediterranean Games.
In fact, he drew the attention of foreign experts such as Olli Virho, from Finland, who
became his trainer, took him to Freiburg in Germany for a years thorough preparation
and then entered him for the great Scandinavian athletics meetings. "Juan Antonio
Samaranch, then a Barcelona councillor in charge of sports, arranged grants for me to be
able to travel abroad," says Barris. "I was a State athlete. I was even awarded
the Civil Merit Medal as the result of a very odd incident. I was due to run in
Laaperanta, in Finland, but they had not flown the Spanish flag in the stadium. I said I
wouldnt run unless they did. They had to run one up."
The number of members fluctuated from one year to the next and the clubs barely managed to
get by. Barça had no trouble as its income from football was enough to plug all the gaps.
Barcelona Swimming Club also did well, but not Español, a barren wasteland that threw in
the towel in 1972 for lack of athletes. At that time Barcelona was striving to increase
its contacts abroad. The International Athletics Federation was implanting the use of
electric tiemkeeping and tartan surfaces were becoming common.
(© AHC - AF Antonio Lajusticia)
Sport gained such importance
that it became synonymous with political and institutional prestige. During its final
years, the Franco government turned its attention towards sportsmen and women, who began
to receive special treatment. The metropolis attracted athletes from all over the country
by offering substantial grants while the various residences for athletes welcomed them
with open arms. Thus it was that runners such as Vicente Egido from Salamanca, Domingo
Catalán from Aragon and José Manuel Abascal from Cantabria arrived in Barcelona and the
Centres for Technical Excellence were born. Caught up in this sporting spirit, the people
of Barcelona also started to put on their trainers and set off to run through the streets.
It was by now quite common to come across groups of runners in the early hours of the
morning or in the evening making their way briskly through the city. During the late
seventies, which coincided with the first years of democracy after the Franco régime,
developments in athletics mirrored the underlying ferment in the city. The groups of
amateur athletes who gathered to train at Montjuïc Castle, in Passeig de la Zona Franca,
in Ciutadella Park and Carretera de les Aigües, were the same as those behind the
Barcelona Marathon, first run in1978, and the traditional El Corte Inglés and Mercè
races which both started in 1979. The jogging craze, brought over from New York, took hold
of Barcelona just as it was immersed in a phase of modernisation which would come to
fruition, a few years later, in the 1992 Olympic Games, the most brilliant moment in the
citys sporting history.
Athletics became an increasingly popular sport. Some years the El Corte Inglés race,
already the most numerous urban race in the world, attracted over 60,000 entrants.
Athletics facilities spread everywhere, like the one at Mar Bella, a clay track which
popped up out of nowhere at the bottom of Poblenou, while new training techniques were
taking root on the international scene. Jordi Llopart won the silver medal in the
50-kilometre walk at the 1980 Moscow Games and José Manuel Abascal picked up bronze in
the 1500 metres at Los Angeles in 1984. Barcelona wanted to reach for the sky and
presented its candidature for the 1992 Games. Juan Antonio Samaranch, chairman of the IOC,
announced its bid had been successful in Lausanne in 1986.
(© AF de la Secretaría General del Deporte,
Generalitat de Catalunya)
And then fever hit the city.
The High Performance Centre was opened in Sant Cugat to turn out future stars, work in
preparation for the Olympics was speeded up and Barcelona got ready to live its great
dream. The athletes dreamt of running in the refurbished Montjuïc Stadium, tested and
found wanting during the 1989 Athletics World Cup when a heavy downpour showed up its
inadequacies. Then came the last minute rush, the rough-and-ready calculations. The work
was completed just a few months before the Games were opened. They were qualified as a
huge success, but were followed by the post-Games letdown.
CLUBS AND CATALAN ATHLETICS
by J.M. Baget i Herms
Clubs have been the
bedrock of athletics all over the world. So too in Catalonia, although the situation has
changed over the years, particularly in recent times. Sports equipment firms (makers of
tracksuits, trainers, athletics materials, etc.) have burst onto the scene in a big way,
especially in connection with middle- and long-distance races. In the case of marathons,
professionalism began as far back as the seventies with the huge success of the New York
marathon, which was even used as the setting for the film Marathon Man. And then
there are the mass-entry urban races, such as the Corte Inglés-sponsored race in
Barcelona, as well as jogging.
A large number of clubs specifically dedicated to these events have sprung up recently,
while the traditional multidisciplinary teams covering the full range of track and field
events are suffering the effects of these structural changes. They cannot compete with
multinationals such as Reebok, Adidas, Nike, New Balance or the several times European
clubs champion, Larios. The latter is part of the Unipublic group, organisers of the
Vuelta Ciclista a España, and entirely funded by this alcoholic drinks manufacturer.
The case of Reyes Estévez, the runner from Barcelona, bronze medallist at the 1997 world
championships and 1,500-metres winner at the European championships this year, is quite
representative. He received his sporting education at Barcelona Football Club under the
trainer Gregorio Rojo, a legendary figure from the postwar years. As soon as he became an
athlete of international standing, however, Estévez was signed up by the Adidas group,
although he still trains with Rojo. Fermín Cacho, on the other hand, belongs to Reebok,
while Isaac Viciosa, Manuel Pancorbo and Alberto García are with Larios.
One hundred years of racing
This year is the one
hundredth anniversary of the first athletics race to be run in Catalonia, although the
Catalan Athletics Federation was not in fact set up until 1915. This organisation was the
first of its kind in Spain, the Madrid-based Spanish Royal Athletics Federation, with
Gabriel María de Laffitte as chairman, not being founded until 1920. Nevertheless,
competitions put on by amateur clubs and groups flourished in the early part of the
century. It is worth recalling that the first Olympic Games of the modern era were held in
Athens in 1896, with athletics as the major sport, and ever since then the finest pages in
the annals of the Olympic movement have been closely bound up with athletics. In 1914,
still under the impact of the high standards of the Stockholm Games which had taken place
two years beforehand, the first competitions in Spain under the regulations of the
International Amateur Athletics Federation were organised in Barcelona, Madrid and San
Sebastian with excessive pretensions to grandeur. The so-called "Concurso
Olímpico" (Olympic Competition), apparently designed as a fund-raising exercise for
the Barcelona Union of Sports Journalists, coincided with the Madrid Olympic Games and the
Jolastokieta Olympiad in Jaizkibel and together they produced the first records in the
history of Spanish athletics.
By the time the Catalan Federation was founded, a large number of sports societies already
had their own athletics sections. Barcelona Swimming Club and Barcelona Football Club have
been the leading clubs in the city throughout their history and the clashes between them
at championships of all categories have been one of the keys to progress in Catalan
athletics. The great pioneer was Nemesi Ponsati, owner of a chemists in Avinguda Pau
Claris and a founder member of Barcelona Swimming Club (CNB) who for many years played a
vital role in developing its athletics section. He worked on several different fronts,
from training to organising competitions, but always taking a special interest in the
childrens and youth categories.
His immense dedication lasted into the seventies, when he could still be seen day after
day in the old Montjuïc stadium, by then almost in ruins, teaching children and teenagers
how to become athletes. For all devotees of this sport, the patriarchal figure of mister
Ponsati was linked to athletics events of all kinds and he helped to create sizeable
numbers of athletes and fans. His spirit impregnated a large part of the CNBs
sporting philosophy. Its main aim was integral education and training of sportspeople and
the Club did not depart from its strictly amateur approach even when professionalism began
to gain a foothold and its best athletes often went off to other clubs such as Barça
(Barcelona Football Club).
There was an important incident involving Martí Perarnau, later to become a prestigious
journalist and a director of sports programmes on TVE, the Spanish state television
company. Perarnau received his early training at the CNB and in 1972, at the age of 17, he
established the Spanish all-comers record and second best all-time record for his age.
Shortly afterwards, however, he was signed up by Barcelona Football Club where he remained
almost until the end of his sporting career, which was considerably interrupted by
Ever since it was founded in 1899, Barcelona Football Club has had an athletics section
which has gone through a number of quite different stages. In December 1900 a festival to
inaugurate the football ground was held outside the Hotel Casanovas. According to reports
at the time, Miguel Valdés ran the 100 metres in 12 seconds flat, possibly the first
record in Catalonia of which evidence still exists. This track also saw the first running,
jumping and throwing events that make up the athletics programme.
section is the only one linked to the world of football which has remained in the top
flight throughout its history. R.C.D. Español, for instance, had an excellent athletics
section in the 40s and 50s which was particularly strong in the middle- and long-distance
events. Constantí Miranda and Josep Coll, together with Barças Gregorio Rojo,
symbolised this whole period. In 1942, Rojo set a 5,000-metre record of 14 min.53.6 sec.
which was only broken nine years later when the Español runner, Josep Coll, brought it
down to 14 min.45.4 sec. In the 10,000 metres, Rojo and Miranda engaged in a spectacular
duel in the spring of 1947. On 15 April, Rojo clocked 31 min.32.6 sec., only for Miranda
to snatch the record away from him on 17 May with a time of 31 min.02.6 sec. Contests
between these two in both track and cross-country events generated a huge amount of
expectation and interest among fans.
Another episode in the intense rivalry between Barça and Español concerns Tomás Barris,
undoubtedly the best Spanish athlete ever up to that time. Between 1955 and 1958 he cut 12
seconds off the 1,500-metre record, bringing it down from 3 min.54.6 sec. to 3 min. 41.7
sec., thereby establishing himself among the twenty best athletes of all time. Barris, who
had always belong to the Español club, was adopted by Juan Antonio Samaranch
following the 1955 Mediterranean Games held in Barcelona. He was put into the hands of a
highly prestigious Finnish trainer, Olli Virho, who gave him the chance to compete in
Scandinavia, then world middle-distance leaders, where he achieved his best results.
Later, however, Españols almost chronic financial difficulties led it to disband
its athletics section. Since then, despite occasional renewed interest, there have been no
signs that the club has any plans to revive this section which had brought it so many
satisfactions in the past.
Barcelona Swimming Club in Catalonia, and Real Madrid in the rest of Spain, were the main
opposition Barça had to face. But the Madrid clubs athletics section never received
continuous backing and eventually disappeared in the seventies. In 1986, the successes of
José Luis González, a middle-distance runner from Toledo, gave rise to an unusual
development: he was signed up by Real Madrid, even though the club did not have an
athletics section. However, the project never got beyond the stage of being a rather
outlandish idea. Atlético de Madrid has hardly ever shown an interest in athletics
either, especially since Mr. Gil has been chairman. This means that the long-standing
rivalry between Barça and the Madrid clubs when it comes to football has not generally
spilled over into athletics. In fact, this is even less likely since the emergence of
Larios, a club officially based in Madrid but, thanks to the generous injection of money
by its sponsors, is actually made up of athletes from all over Spain. Catalan athletes
such as Carles Sala, Gaietà Cornet, Gustau Adolf Becquer, Albert Ruiz, Daniel Martí and
others who had started their careers with Catalan teams, especially Barcelona Swimming
Club, were lured away by the money offered them by the yellow-uniformed team from the
CNB and Barça remain the leading Catalan athletics teams, although there have been
several attempts to set up clubs dedicated specifically to athletics. Lack of economic
resources has scuppered most of these projects, although it is worth remembering how the
appearance on the scene of Club Atlètic Stadium with a powerful team in the sixties broke
the CNB-Barça stranglehold, even if it too succumbed for want of money a few years later.
Nonetheless, the athletics section of the Centre Gimnàstic Barcelonès, based in the
popular Gràcia district of Barcelona, achieved some remarkable results, especially in the
womens events (we are thinking, for instance, of the Tatjer twins). In fact it is
still one of the leading teams, in spite of the breakup of so many sports clubs as a
result of the emergence of groups sponsored by multinational sports equipment companies.
The athletics movement, however, is still alive in all the towns around Barcelona and all
the regions of Catalonia, a phenomenon that has to do with the fact that setting up
associations is part of the Catalan character. In LHospitalet, Badalona, Cornellà
and other places, new clubs have been founded to provide youth with a stimulus and a
chance to strive for self-improvement. At the same time, legendary clubs such as GETEG in
Girona, Club Natació Reus Ploms, Club Atlètic Manresa, Unió Esportiva Vic, Joventut
Atlètica Sabadell and a host of others continue their activities and the job of bringing
on young athletes, together with the race walking sections (an event currently dominated
by Catalans) and the mass-participation races which have become common all over the
country. There is no holding back the athletics movement, still the king of sports
This exhibition has been considered to be one of the most important Picabia ever
organized, and was held to be so important that in 1995 and 1996 it was reconstructed in
the form of an itinerant exhibition at the IVAM (Valencian Institute of Modern Art), the
Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Fundació Tàpies (Tàpies Foundation) in Barcelona. But
let's not deceive ourselves; it had very little impact, much less than the show of cubist
The works by Picabia included, 47 in total, were mainly watercolour drawings dominated by
geometric shapes, mainly circles, often suggesting impossible machines and sometimes
turning into compositions that were closer to geometric abstraction.
Furthermore, the show caused André Breton to come to Barcelona. The artist who would
later become a leading figure in the Surrealist movement came to give a talk at the
inauguration of the exhibition called "Caractères de l'evolution moderne et ce qui
The second International Exposition to be held in Barcelona, in 1929, was also a platform
linking Barcelona to the history of 20th century art. This was because of the German
pavilion at the show, designed by Mies van der Rohe, and its furniture, including the
famous "Barcelona chair", also designed by Mies.
Thanks to its reconstruction in 1986 (a well-deserved homage), we can feel just how much
the pavilion stood out from its context, and how much it contrasted with the exposition's
official architecture, which was full of historical references. (...)
The denial and acceptance of Picasso
The figure of Picasso has
become so important that anything he was connected to becomes directly or indirectly
larger than life. This is why all Picasso's shows and activities in Barcelona are of such
It is worth recalling that Picasso's first individual exhibition was held in 1900 at the
Quatre Gats restaurant, the legendary centre of Art Nouveau, but I would prefer to deal in
more detail with a later show, when Picasso was already an internationally respected
This show was organized in early 1936 at the Esteva Gallery. It was promoted by ADLAN (the
Associació d' Amics de l'Art Nou - the Association of Fiends of New Art), which carried
out an intense and fruitful activity diffusing and promoting the avant-garde, and which
later promoted some other remarkable shows, such as the "Logicophobic" show and
the exhibition "Tres escultors" (Three Sculptors) (Ramon Marinel_lo, Jaume Sans
and Eudald Serra).
In keeping with their aims, the organizers excluded from their selection all the works
that might be thought to represent a "classic" Picasso (the Rose Period, the
Blue Period, the neo-classical compositions) and chose instead to show the works by
Picasso that were furthest removed from conventional representational art. (...) This
exhibition was a major event. (...)
Only a few months later, the Spanish Civil war broke out.
Recovery after the Civil War was slow and hard. The dramatic consequences of the Civil
War, the overturning of the system of values, the new cultural setting and the grinding
poverty of the post-war years all meant that innovative experiments were out of the
1948 was a key year.
It was the year that the Dau al Set group appeared, the most important of the proposals
for a new start. The October Show started in the same year, finding space for artists
interested in discovering what lay beyond impressionism and the Catalan movement
The first October Show was held in the Laietana Gallery "organized by a totally
independent group of Barcelona painters and sculptors" as the publicity said. The
artists shown included Jordi Mercadè, Fornells-Pla, López Obrero, Josep Maria de Sucre,
Josep Hurtuna, Emili Alba and Albert Ràfols Casamada.
Ten Autumn Shows were held, the last in 1957, and every who saw them recalls that the
first October Shows were like a breath of fresh air in a stuffy room. It was in fact sign
of a generational change in Catalan art, with the arrival of new artists like Cuixart,
Curós, Guinovart, Planasdurà, Ponç, Subirachs, Tàpies, Tharrats and many more.
Anyway, the October Shows should not be held up as an ideal, nor should we think it was a
demonstration of avant-garde radicalism. Nothing could be further from the truth, because
of its collective character and despite a few individual contributions, the general
attitude was mostly biased towards fauvism and Picasso's style. (...)
This is why the contribution by the Dau al Set group was so important. This group revolved
around the magazine "Dau al Set", which dealt with things in depth, such as
experimentation, radical ideas and avant-garde transgressions. The group consisted of
three painters, Ponç, Tàpies and Cuixart, together with Tharrats, who was also active in
both graphic arts and painting, and the poet Joan Brossa and the rather philosophical
Arnau Puig. (...)
Dau al Set was above all a magazine not just an artistic group. Thus they did not organize
exhibitions, but worked on the basis of the confrontation of the texts and images that we
can find in the pages of the magazines. The group's only joint exhibition was held in 1951
at the Caralt Gallery and marked the beginning of the breakup of the group.
The third noteworthy exhibition in the years after the war was the Biennal
Hispanoamericana d'Art (The Hispano-American Art Biennial), which was held in Barcelona in
1955. It was the third of these biennials, the two previous ones having been held in
Madrid and Havana (Cuba). By this time, the painters in the Dau al Set group had already
started moving towards informalism, with Tàpies leading the way. Tàpies had just had a
show in New York and had won a prize at the São Paulo Biennial.
Taking stock of the Hispano-American Biennial of 1955, it was polarized around a
controversial confrontation that seems almost incomprehensible from our perspective,
between those following Josep de Togores and those who believed in the renovation that was
being led by Antoni Tàpies.
This major controversy shook Barcelona's artistic circles, but at the end of it all
Togores was a spent force and Tàpies and what he represented were the rising tide. This
was so clear that, despite the controversy, this Biennial confirmed the dominance of
Rehabilitating the old masters
The hand over to the new
generation that crystallized around these three landmarks (the October Show, the Dau al
Set group and the Hispano-American Biennial) cannot be separated from the rehabilitation
of the masters of the historic avant-garde, mainly Miró and Picasso.
Joan Miró had had to return to Barcelona when France was occupied, and he kept quiet and
inactive while his work started to win international recognition. He had held a major
retrospective exhibition at the New York MOMA, and had finished what is probably one of
his most remarkable creations, the "Constellations Series". In 1944, he released
the "Barcelona Series", while he continued to hold shows in the United States.
He did this all very discretely, staying in his flat in the Passatge del Crèdit, where he
was visited by young artists fulfilling a sort of initiatory ritual.
It was these sectors who came up with the idea of holding a show in homage to Miró, and
it was held in the Laietana Galleries in April and May 1949, organized by Rafael Santos
Toroella and sponsored by Cobalt 49. The works shown were provided by friends of the young
Miró and with very praiseworthy aims, because Miró had not had a personal show in
Barcelona for 31 years, since his presentation in 1918 at the Dalmau Galleries. However,
it had a most undesirable effect, as most of the works were bought by Pierre Matisse and
Picasso, who was hated by Franco's supporters, kept away from Barcelona even though he
kept up his friendships and links to the city. One of the results of these links, and the
decisive step towards his rehabilitation in Spain, was the cycle of exhibitions of
Picasso's work that was held at regular intervals at the Gaspar Gallery, something that
was totally unheard of on the international exhibition circuit. (...)
Of this memorable set of exhibitions, the one that had most impact on the people of
Barcelona was the one held in 1960, which even caused long queues to form at the door of
These two initiatives were important for two reasons, for what they were and for what they
represented, making the Franco administration in Barcelona more sensitive. Thanks to this
increased sensitivity, it became possible for the council to assume responsibility for the
creation and consolidation of two of the basic institutions of contemporary culture in
Barcelona, the Picasso Museum and the Fundació Miró ( Miró Foundation).
The Picasso Museum was created in 1960 and opened to the public three years later. The
Fundació Joan Miró was formed in 1972. Fours years before this, the City Council had
held an important retrospective exhibition of Miró's work at the Antic Hospital de Santa
Creu (the Former Holy Cross Hospital), and in 1969 another equally important exhibition
was dedicated to Miró at the Architects' Association ("Miró otro") (Another
Miró), and in 1970 the large mural by Miró and Llorens Artigas was inaugurated at
Of all the major figures of the historic avant-garde, Salvador Dalí was the last to
receive a homage. In 1974, the Dalí Theatre-Museum was inaugurated in Figueres, but no
major institutional exhibition was held until 1983 and even so the results were negative
in terms of keeping his works in Catalonia. (...)
In the 1990s, after the creation of the Fundació Tàpies, the Museu d'Art Contemporani de
Barcelona (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art - Macba) and the Centre de Cultura
Contemporània (Barcelona Centre of Contemporary Culture - CCCB), there was a clear change
in orientation in the ideas underlying the exhibitions, so that historical approaches were
contrasted against proposals reflecting on the nature of the contemporary and the meaning
of the present. (...)