Jaume Plensa

Barcelona, 1955

Jaume Plensa was born in Barcelona in 1955. He is a Spanish sculptor, painter and engraver who is one of the most outstanding in the current panorama of plastic art.

He was trained at the Fine Arts School of his city of birth. In 1980, having given his first exhibition, he began to become known. Since then, he has lived and worked in countries such as Germany, Belgium England or France. He has been a teacher in the National Fine Arts School of Paris, and regularly gives classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he has an Honoris Causa Doctorate. Parallel with his sculpture projects, he has developed works on paper, as well as drawings and engravings.

Plensa has the National Prize for Plastic Arts (Madrid 2021) and among other prizes, both national and international, he has received the Medaille des Chevaliers des Arts et Lettres from the Ministery of Culture (France 1993). Likewise, the Premi Nacional de Cultura d’Arts Plàstiques of the Generalitat of Catalunia (Barcelona 1997) and the National Prize for Graphic Art in 2013.

His exhibition TOGETHER at the Biennale in Venice in 2015 obtained the Global Fine Art Award for being the best public open exterior installation.

One of his most brilliant exhibitions took place in 2011 in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the United Kingdom, without doubt the most complete exhibition of his works to date. In 2018, he exhibited in INVISIBLE at the Crystal Palace in Madrid, and at the same time at the MACBA in Barcelona.

An important part of his trajectory has been dedicated to open air sculptures, to such an extent that his work can be found in Spain, France, Japan, England, South Korea, Germany, Canada and the United States.

Some of his most brilliant creations have been “The Crown Fountain” in the Millennium Park of Chicago, or the projected called “Breathing” for the BBC in London. Between 1996 and 2006 he has collaborated in several projects for both theatre and opera, in particular for the company La Fura del Baus.

He exhibits regularly in the Gallery Lelong of Paris, the Galerie Lelong in New York, and in the Richard Gray gallery in Chicago and New York.

Exhibited Works

  • “ Sin título”, mixed technique on paper, 1989.

From the beginning of the twentieth century, both primitive and tribal art have been sources of inspiration for artists. Picasso, Marx Ernst, Victor Brauner and others all based themselves on concrete objects – African masks, Romanic statuettes, anthropological pieces – in order to elaborate paintings and sculptures. The following generation of abstract expressionists has a more general and synthetic vision of what is primitive , arriving at such abstraction in their works that the similarity is not so evident.

In the 60s, Joseph Beuys leans more on the spirit of the myth and the magic of the rituals rather than on specific forms, which will give way to performance art.

The mystery which surrounds the first cave paintings or the monuments like Stonehenge still continues an impulse towards artistic creation. An exhibition held at the MOMA of New York in 1985 gathered together this influence under the evocative title of “Primitivism in the XX century. Affinities with the tribal.”

The affinity between modern and primitive art still remains current in this monumental drawing of Plensa, whose style reminds us of the prehistoric drawings in charcoal on rock. The black line, which could suggest a first sighting of elementary art nonetheless contains a grand wealth of nuances in the modeling of the body, which sends us to the work of the artist as a sculptor. The interior shapes are amassed with layers of pictorical material forming waters and contributing relief to the drawing. As if from one great cave art work, the enigmatic animal seemingly has escaped from the fertile imagination of a hypothetical prehistoric tribe.

The monumental character of this strange being brings to life an ideal of great open spaces, or depths still to be discovered in the nocturnal darkness of the seas. In this work of titans, Plensa has managed to transfer with confident gestural liberty a spectacular past world before all those known.

  • “Miraculu”, photoengraving and aquatint on Velin d’Arches paper, 1994.