Joan Miró, the city’s best-known 20th-century artistic progeny, bequeathed this art foundation to his hometown in 1971. Its light-filled buildings, designed by close friend and architect Josep Lluís Sert (who also built Miró’s Mallorca studios), are crammed with seminal works, from Miró’s earliest timid sketches to paintings from his last years.
Sert's shimmering white temple to the art of one of the stars of the 20th-century Spanish firmament is considered one of the world's most outstanding museum buildings; the architect designed it after spending much of Franco's dictatorship years in the USA, as the head of the School of Design at Harvard University. The foundation rests amid the greenery of the mountain and holds the greatest single collection of the artist’s work, comprising around 220 of his paintings, 180 sculptures, some textiles and more than 8000 drawings spanning his entire life. Only a small portion is ever on display.
The exhibits give a broad impression of Miró’s artistic development. The first couple of rooms (11 and 12) hold various works, including a giant tapestry in his trademark primary colours. Along the way, you'll pass Mercury Fountain by Alexander Calder, a rebuilt work that was originally built for the 1937 Paris Fair and represented Spain at the Spanish Republic's Pavilion. Room 13, a basement space called Espai 13, leads you downstairs to a small room for temporary exhibitions.
After visiting Room 13, climb back up the stairs and descend to two other basement rooms 14 and 15. Together labelled Homenatge a Joan Miró (Homage to Joan Miró), this space is dedicated to photos of the artist, a 15-minute video on his life and a series of works from some of his contemporaries, like Henry Moore, Antoni Tàpies, Eduardo Chillida, Yves Tanguy, Fernand Léger and others.
Returning to the main level, you'll find Room 16, the Sala Joan Prats, with works spanning the early years until 1919. Here, you can see how the young Miró moved away, under surrealist influence, from his relative realism (for instance his 1917 painting Ermita de Sant Joan d’Horta, with obvious Fauvist influences) towards his own unique style that uses primary colours and morphed shapes symbolising the moon, the female form and birds.
This theme is continued upstairs in Room 17, the Sala Pilar Juncosa (named after his wife), which covers the years 1932 to 1955, his surrealist years. Rooms 18 and 19 contain masterworks of the years 1956 to 1983, and Room 20 a series of paintings done on paper. Room 21 hosts a selection of the private Katsuta collection of Miró works from 1914 to 1974. Room 22 rounds off the permanent exhibition with some major paintings and bronzes from the 1960s and 1970s.
The museum library contains Miró’s personal book collection.
Outside on the eastern flank of the museum is the Jardí de les Escultures, a small garden with various pieces of modern sculpture. The green areas surrounding the museum, together with the garden, are perfect for a picnic in the shade, after a hard day's sightseeing.