Barcelona is one of the top destinations in Europe for homos and heteros alike. In 2010, the city drew 6.5 million tourists, make it among the five most-visited European cities of the year. If you haven't been yet, Barcelona is probably already on your shortlist of "Places to Go Next."
Its reputation as a gay destination alone – they have hotels known as "hetero-friendly," need I say more? – is enough to draw the horniest and party-hungriest among us to the city's Mediterranean beaches. But in fact, Barcelona and surrounding Catalonia have one of the richest cultural heritages in all Europe.
Chances are you're familiar with the work of architect Antoni Gaudí, the mastermind behind the Sagrada Familia Cathedral that's been going up the past few decades in Barcelona. And that's fair enough – his work is amazing and he's an important figure in Catalan history.
If you don't know who Joan Miró is, though, you missing a key example of the pivotal role art plays in the struggle for rights, a struggle to which we gays relate all too well. Without a doubt, taking in Miró's work will enrich your mind and lift your spirit. And who knows? Maybe it will even inspire you to promote social justice through your own brand of creativity.
Miró Center of Mont-roig
Politically, Catalonia has long considered itself separate from Spain, with Catalonian nationalists pushing for at least autonomy and ideally, complete independence from Spain. Around the middle of last century, two catastrophes – the Spanish Civil War and the onset of the Franco dictatorship – threw an additional wrench into the mix, threatening the very existence of Catalan culture for good.
These days, the rest of Catalonia seems just about as separate from cosmopolitan Barcelona as it's supposed to be from the whole of Spain. Fittingly, it is around 90 minutes southwest of the capital where the story of Joan Miró's art begins.
Although Miro was born in Barcelona, he spent a great deal of time on his parents' farm in bucolic Mont-roig del Camp. A trained accountant, he decided to devote his life to art following a nervous breakdown in his early 20s. It was in Mont-roig del Camp that he started work on many of the paintings he would later finish in Paris, such as 1922's "The Farm," which depicts a sleepy cross-section of, well, a farm in a dramatic and surrealistic way.
What you immediately begin to notice when you enter into the Centre Miró de Mont-roig is that this is, largely, how Miró operated creatively: He made the smallest details of his own existence universal to emphasize the inherent solidarity of all people during times of crisis.
Perhaps Miró's most potent – and oddly, most simple – technique was his reliance on five colors in his work: red; blue; green; yellow; and black.
"Red," Miró said, "is the colour of the Hermitage of the Rock, and that which gives Mont-roig its name," while "Blue is the sky above it. Green is the green of the carob trees that grow in Mont-roig and Yellow is the joy of Mont-roig, its tiny flowers and little plants." Finally, Miró asserts that “Black has the opposite meaning to red," so he "uses it for balance.”
At the Centre, staff can facilitate a tour of Miró's so-called nine "points," the Circuit Miró. The Circuit takes you to nine places in and around Mont-roig which served as inspiration for several of Miro's most famous early works, "The Farm" included.
To inquire about visiting Mont-Roig and the Centre Miró, visit the center's website
or call 977 837 337.
Miró Walking Tour
As I mentioned earlier, Miró was actually born in Barcelona, so it's fitting that the new Miró Walking Tour takes visitors along a trail of places in Barcelona related to Miró, from a bar where he once drink that now serves a cocktail bearing his name to the mosaic built-in to the busiest part of the tourist street Las Ramblas.
Your Miró Walking Tour guide provides you not only with detailed information about how each stop on the journey relates to Miró, but also with essential tidbits of city history that help piece together the greater story of Barcelona and Catalunya. Since the tour begins and ends at Plaça Cataluyna, the dead center of Barcelona, it's easy to jump in for a couples and jump back out into your holiday a couple hours later.
To inquire about available walking tours for when you plan to be in Barcelona, call Anna Moncusí, business development manager of the Barcelona Guide Bureau at +34 932 682 422, or visit the BGB website by clicking this link.
The Museum of the History of Catalonia and "Posters from a Time and from a Country"
If your plans take you to Barcelona between now and the middle of next March, considering making a stop at the Museum of the History of Catalonia.
Appropriately titled "Miró: Posters from a Time and from a Country," this new exhibit showcases the impact of Miró's lithographs on the re-acceptance on Catalan culture in the wake of Spanish Civil War and the subsequent Franco dictatorship. After taking in more than a dozen of Miró's most famous lithographs, which include ones made on behalf of UNESCO and for print publications.
The museum is located just steps from the seaside neighborhood of Barceloneta and the city's most popular gay beach, which makes spending a couple hours there – and enjoying pre-dinner cocktails on the museum's terrace, which overlooks the whole city – after an afternoon at the coast simple.
The museum is located at Plaça Pau Vila 3 and in Barceloneta. It opens at 10 a.m. everyday except Monday, closing at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 8 p.m. on Wednesday and 2:30 P.M. on Sunday. Tickets cost €4 for adults and €3 for children between 7-18, the retired and the unemployed. For more information, visit the museum's website
The Joan Miró Foundation and "The Scale of Evasion"
The centerpiece of the Miró foundation in Barcelona is the Fundació Juan Miro, located in Montjuic Park adjacent to the remnants of the 1992 Olympic games. Here, you're always guaranteed to find a mix or Miró paraphernalia contemporary and timeless alike.
This year "Joan Miro: The Scale of Evasion" shows from October 16 until next March 18, to coincide with the Miró exhibit at the Catalonian History Museum. A career-spanning collection that showcases work Miró did through all of his many artistic phases, The Scale of Evasion allows you to explore Miró's work initially in its finest detail and in the end, macroscopically in terms of its impact on Catalan history.
To complement the quality and variety of its content, the center's located perched over a hillside provides a fantastic view of central Barcelona, most notably the Plaça Espanya area, which is home to the official Joan Miró Park and the iconic "Woman and Bird" sculpture.
The Bottom Line
I'm going to be honest: Before my most recent visit to Barcelona, I hadn't ever heard of Miró, which is largely due to the fact that I'm not terribly into visual art from Miró's time period. Even if you only have a few days in Barcelona, make it a point to check out at least one Miró exhibit – I guarantee you'll be moved, at the very least.
If you're not yet planning a trip to Barcelona, then why the hell not? If the beach and the boys are not enough to satisfy you, go for the amount of cocktail party banter you can mine partaking in Miró tourism.