The Fundació Joan Miró presents Miró-ADLAN. An Archive of Modernity (1932-1936)

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The Fundació Joan Miró presents Miró-ADLAN. An Archive of Modernity (1932-1936)
Miró-ADLAN, installation view. Image: Davide Camesasca, Fundació Joan Miró.

BARCELONA.- In November 1932, the association known as ADLAN (Amics de l’Art Nou [Friends of New Art]) was born in Barcelona, gathering members of the Catalan petite bourgeoisie who championed a new cultural modernity. From then until June 1936, right before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, ADLAN organized over fifty events in an intense, heterogeneous program committed to all creative disciplines: painting, architecture, literature, chamber music, jazz, circus, film, dance, photography, etc. Their gatherings were private and held in alternative spaces, yet achieved a high public profile, partly due to their impact on the press of that time. Artists of the stature of Alexander Calder, Man Ray, Hans Arp, Remedios Varo, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí showed their work under the auspices of ADLAN. Linked by ties of friendship with its promoters and an honorary member since 1933, Joan Miró became the beacon and the standardbearer for the group, showing his most recent work on five occasions and collaborating actively in all the projects that were carried out over those years in which creative freedom was a primary objective.

Miró-ADLAN. An Archive of Modernity (1932-1936) follows the mark left by this group of artists and intellectuals on the history of modern European art. The exhibition highlights the leading role of their venture in introducing cultural modernity to Barcelona in the 1930s, with activities that spread to other parts of Spain. Whereas after the First World War avant-garde movements in major European cities had support from critics and collectors, here modernity needed the impulse of a group of visionaries who viewed culture as a space for global freedom and set out to break from the legacy of noucentisme and regenerate the Catalan scene.

Curators Muriel Gómez Pradas, Jordana Mendelson and Joan M. Minguet examine ADLAN’s uniqueness with an in-depth review of the archives which gather all the documentation generated over the association’s three-plus years of activity, particularly from the holdings of the Fundació Joan Miró and the historical archive at the COAC. The latter collection includes a detailed compilation of ephemera invitations, press releases, newspaper clippings, photographs, and posters – and administrative documents collected by Adelita Lobo, the group’s secretary who also acted as a cultural organizer, documentalist, treasurer, and active member. In her Gran Bazar París album, on display in the first section of the exhibition titled ADLAN: Archives for Reconstructing Modernity, Lobo kept track of the everyday pulse of the association, providing highly relevant subject matter for tracing and interpreting the group’s history.

Joan Miró engaged fully in this quest to offset the approach of the official cultural circles that were entrenched in tradition. In the section ADLAN and Miró: Friends and Colleagues, the exhibition follows the ties of friendship and social class that bound ADLAN’s leaders and members together through photographs, numerous documents, and pieces such as the collage-drawing the artist produced in 1934 as a tribute to Joan Prats, one of the group’s founding members. A long list of personalities with a shared sensitivity to new art gathered around Miró, Prats and Josep Lluís Sert; included among them were Magí A. Cassanyes, Ángel Ferrant, J. V. Foix, Sebastià Gasch, Robert Gerhard, Lluís Montanyà, Mercè Ros, Carles Sindreu, and Josep Torres Clavé. A full list is on display in the exhibition. J.V. Foix, one of the group’s staunch supporters in the press, described them as follows: “Passionately drawn to all new expressions of art and literature, they follow a program that is truly bold, but also elegantly understated.”

For them and with them, between 1931 and 1935, Miró held five exhibitions of his work at different locations in Barcelona: Sert’s home, his own, and the Syra and Catalònia art galleries. The shows only lasted a few hours, in which visitors – ADLAN members only – were the first to see the artist’s most recent paintings and sculptural objects. A few days later, the pieces travelled to shows in some of the leading centres of international modern art, such as Paris, New York, or Zurich. “Without ADLAN, these works would never have been seen here,” wrote Sebastià Gasch in 1934. For the artist, ADLAN was the testing ground for his most experimental explorations. Accordingly, the curatorial approach highlights that between Miró’s earliest exhibitions at Galeries Dalmau in 1918 and the major show held in the Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu fifty years later, the artist’s work was presented in Barcelona on five occasions thanks to the unique context generated by ADLAN. In the section titled ADLAN Geography: Joan Miró Exhibitions in Barcelona, the show gathers a selection of the works that were either on display in those exhibitions or contemporary to them, such as the paintings Seated woman (1931) and Flame in space and nude woman (1932) and the untitled collage-drawing from 1933. A large wall map shows the locations of these five Miró exhibitions in Barcelona.

Miró also played a decisive role in one of the group’s main projects: the special issue of D’Ací i d’Allà magazine in the winter of 1934. The artist participated in its preparation, with contributions for the cover and the contents, such as pochoir Figures in front of the sea (1934). The publication merged the spirit of modernity of the Republic with avant-garde art movements, immediately becoming a point of reference with a lasting influence. Miró sensed this early on, as he mentioned in a letter he sent to Prats from Mont-roig during the summer of that same year: “I believe the mock-up you have been working on is very good, and that it will become something very important, to be seen in perspective; this period will be able to play a role of historic judgment like none, I believe, has ever done before.” Miró also played an active role in the project for Síntesi, a magazine conceived as ADLAN’s official journal; although it was supposed to appear in 1936, it never came to fruition due to the historic circumstances. All these materials are placed in context in the section D’Ací i d’Allà and Síntesi: Magazines as Statements of Modernity.

The special issue of D’Ací i d’Allà bears witness to ADLAN’s affinity and close link with GATCPAC (Grup d'Arquitectes i Tècnics Catalans per al Progrés de l'Arquitectura Contemporània [Group of Catalan Architects and Technicians for the Progress of Contemporary Architecture]). The two associations shared prominent members, public and private projects, and even their headquarters on Passeig de Gràcia, 99, until 1935. The collaboration between the two groups continued until the time when the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exposition was built in 1937, which revalidated their shared commitment to the ideals of the Republican cause and to its artistic and social networks, as is reflected in the selection of architects (Sert) and artists (Miró, Picasso, and Calder, among others). The exhibition recreates and interprets these bonds in the section GATCPAC and ADLAN: A Project for Modernity.

Curators Gómez Pradas, Mendelson and Minguet underscore ADLAN’s lasting impact up until the present: its influence spread among artists, architects, writers, and musicians in Barcelona, especially in the post-war years and in the 1970s. Its close connection with GATCPAC led to an understanding of modernity linked to Rationalism in architecture and Surrealism in visual arts. Its personal networks and its values are at the very origin of the Fundació Joan Miró.

The preservation of the documents in the show has been key for recreating the places, events, and individuals who brought about this regeneration of the concept of modern culture. The curators’ approach highlights the documentation work of Adelita Lobo, who, by creating the ADLAN archive, showed the same skill and vision with which Joan Miró compiled the materials that now constitute the holdings of the Fundació’s archive, an international landmark for research on his work, overseen by the museum’s Collections Department.

Therefore, the ADLAN archive, an important collection for understanding the origins of the Fundació Joan Miró, will be shown in its entirety in the space that Sert and Miró conceived precisely for housing the museum’s archive as part of the tower of knowledge, which begins with the auditorium at its base and culminates with the library. The Fundació is focusing on revising and updating its spaces to diversify their uses and make them more available to visitors, allowing these premises to house the important holdings of works on paper and archival materials that the artist donated to the Fundació; along with his personal library, they will offer new experiences to visitors and foster research. As a part of this project, these unique holdings – essential for understanding Miró’s work – will be integrated into the presentation of the collection.

Alongside the exhibition, we will be offering public and educational programming in both face-to-face and online formats aimed at different audiences. In addition, a scholarly publication will gather the underlying research for the project, with four essays signed jointly by the three curators and valuable contributions from, among others, art historian Dolors Rodríguez Roig, who assisted the curators in their research, and Andreu Carrascal, the archivist for the historical archive at the COAC.

Miró-ADLAN. An Archive of Modernity (1932-1936), organized with support from the Banco Sabadell Foundation, is part of the Miró Documents series. This program of exhibitions, publications, and symposia examines new approaches to the artist’s work based on the holdings of the Fundació Joan Miró Archive. The project, open to the public until 4 July in the Fundació’s octagonal space, has been possible thanks to the joint efforts of New York University, the Architects’ Association of Catalonia and the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, as well as the generous and ongoing support of the Fundació Vila Casas for the conservation of the collection and its presentation at the Fundació Joan Miró.

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