Out & About in Mallorca – The story of Miró


Living in Palma, it is impossible not to notice the heritage Joan Miró left behind – from an avenue bearing his name and sculptures dotted around Palma and Jardines de Marivent (gardens surrounding the Spanish Royal family’s summer home on the outskirts of Palma) to the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró, a museum and an educational centre set up in his former home, up in the hills above Cala Mayor.

Joan Miró i Ferrà, born in Barcelona in 1893, was a painter, a sculptor and a ceramicist. He came to Palma for love; his wife Pilar was a Malloquina.  Anyone who knows anything about art must be familiar with Miró’s work, typically described as Surrealist, but with elements of Fauvism and Expressionism. His unique style, using bright primary colours and black lines, is recognised the world over.

Through a mutual friend I got connected with Joan Punyet Miró – Miró’s grandson, son of his only daughter Maria Dolores. I asked to interview him and he invited me to the Foundation, to show me around and chat about his grandfather. I could not believe my luck!

Miro Sculpture

As I was preparing for the interview, this image of a formal, impeccably suited and booted man in his 40s or 50s kept coming up in the searches. Imagine my surprise when someone called my name and I was faced with a charming long-haired man in white linen shirt and pants, with espadrilles on his feet. His broad smile and warm embrace melted my nerves away and we started chatting as if we had known each other forever.

Joan Jr. showed me around the museum first, starting with sculptures. He tells me that Miró was “an artist of humble things”. He was able to pick bits and pieces from all over the place and create art. To illustrate his point, Joan shows me a sculpture composed of a chunk of a palm tree, an old loaf of bread, a discarded paint can, a hammer and an interestingly shaped pumpkin. The final product of this eclectic choice of is an impressive and pretty sexual bronze sculpture. A lot of Miró’s work is quite sexual, often featuring penises and vaginas, but it is never vulgar or aggressive.

Miro Sculpture

We walk past some of Miró’s drawings and paintings, ending up in a huge hall full of tapestries. If you have only ever associated tapestry with being a housewives’ hobby, I invite you to visit this space and have your mind blown away! Each tapestry started its life as a drawing and his grandfather then had up to twenty women working on each tapestry at the time, making sure every piece of thread and every knot were exactly as they should be.

From here, we go into Miró’s studio, preserved over the years exactly as it was left at the time of his death in 1983. There are finished and half-finished drawings, pens, coals and materials all over the place. If there was ever a “pinch me” moment in my writing life, this right here was it: stepping behind the visitors’ rope and joining Miró’s grandson in the middle of this chaotic room filled with the spirit of a genius! Before I get a chance for any moment of contemplation of the privilege I just enjoyed, Joan invites me to the next house, with a series of rooms whose walls are filled with Miró’s sketches and writings, almost all of it in French. We come out and stand in the courtyard, looking out towards the sea. Even with all the “horrendous new buildings”, it is easy to imagine how, decades ago, this view served as an inspiration for some of the most famous artworks in the word.

Miro Sculpture

As we walked back to the main building for the more formal part of the interview, it suddenly occurred to me that there was nothing I could ask Joan about his grandfather’s work that had not been asked already. At that moment I decided to tell a different story. I ask Joan who Miró was in his eyes. How does he remember him? What does he want people to know that has not been told?

“Joan Miró was a very humble and simple man that was not giving importance to himself. He did not have a big ego. He loved being in Mallorca, in silence, picking seashells on the beach and rocks and stones from the mountains – to later use them in his sculptures… He liked to paint in his studio in silence… But he was also a very cheerful, lovely old man. He was a family man who really cared about his wife, his daughter, and his grandchildren… At home, he always found time to spend with his grandchildren… He took us with him to his studio. Also, he lived at a very interesting time for Spain. In a post Franco era, he was a very generous man to his country, giving away his paintings, his collections… Before that, this place was like an intellectual cemetery, there was no life, no art. He was a leftist Republican, and had to go into exile, as he collaborated with Picasso and other Spanish Republicans in 1937. Coming back to Mallorca meant putting his life at risk.” I remark that Miró was kind of a political asylum seeker of his time and we joke about my own sense of “unbelonging”, of being a perpetual foreigner.

Miro Sculpture

As Hitler advanced through Europe, Miró decided to choose a lesser of two evils and return to Mallorca, where he became known as Pilar´s husband, laying low and hiding his true identity. When WWll finished, he finally started travelling around the world again, holding exhibitions and enjoying some great success at his advanced age.

I ask Joan to pick just three things out of his grandfather’s immense heritage which he would show to the world. He chooses tapestries as an example of Miró’s innovative, ground-breaking nature, the bronze sculptures inspired by recycled objects (one of which I mentioned earlier) and the large scale paintings with all the splashes, anger and violence, contrasted by bright colours.

Reading up on the family, I learnt that Joan was an artist in his own right. When I ask him about it, his response is humble and sobering: “First of all I am not an artist. You cannot be Joan Miró’s grandson and be an artist. You are vampirized and stigmatized and the expectations are huge.” So, he refers to himself as “an anomaly in the system”, saying: “I like art and I am not an artist. I make music and I am not a musician. I write poetry and I am not a poet”.

Miro Art Gallery Palma

What Joan definitely is – is someone concerned about the world we live in, our environment, the “burning” of Spain and the destruction of our planet. These days he uses his influence to raise awareness of these issues. The question is what an artist can do today to change this. Can we make art sustainable? Joan sees a solution in platforms such as Instagram and in the digital world. We finish our chat by talking about Mallorca specifically, about the problems of mass tourism, hotel upon hotel chipping away at this gorgeous green island and we come up with some interesting – albeit unprintable – solutions to this.

As we say our goodbyes, and I walk down the road to the avenue bearing Joan Miró’s name, I keep thinking how much more there is to Miró’s story, to Joan’s story… I realise that I have only just begun peeling complex layers that make up a man, an artist, an activist, an inherently good, humble human being…

Get a peek into Miró’s world by visiting:

Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca
Carrer de Saridakis 29, Palma 




By Mia Naprta
E-mail: mia.naprta@gmail.com
Instagram: @mianaprta






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