The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art is situated in the Plaça dels Àngels, Barcelona, Spain. The museum opened to the public on November 28, 1995.
In 1959, art critic Alexandre Cirici Pellicer formed a group of contemporary artists showing work in a series of 23 exhibitions with the hopes of beginning a collection for a new contemporary art museum in Barcelona. It was not until 1986 that the Barcelona City Council recommended the American architect Richard Meier & Partners (1987–1995) to design the museum. Art critics Francesc Miralles and Rosa Queralt were hired to write the museum’s mission statement. In 1987, the MACBA Foundation was created.
In the following year the MACBA Foundation, in conjunction with the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Barcelona City Council, founded the MACBA Consortium in order further the process of the museum. The Consortium commissioned Meier later that year to build the museum. This was a controversial issue considering that the museum had no collection at the time of construction. The museum opened to the public in 1995, well after the 1992 Summer Olympics for which it was planned.
In 2014, the museum acquired an additional venue for its programming, comprising a converted 15th-century chapel and two large halls, a total of about 21,500 square feet, as well as the central Plaça dels Angels square. While MACBA has long used the chapel for performances and site-specific installations, this time the city lent the entire historic cluster to the institution for an unspecified term.
Meier embraced the difficult task of creating a building that would ultimately display a variety of contemporary artworks that were unknown to him at the time of design. The choice to build the museum in the Plaça dels Ángels is consistent with Meier’s vision to situate the building amongst some of Barcelona’s oldest streets and buildings, in addition to revamping the public space of the Raval.
After the completion of the $35 million construction, local media referred to the museum as “the pearl” amongst the old architecture and narrow streets just a few blocks from Gothic center of Barcelona. The building’s architectural style has strong references to Modernism. The large (120 by 35 meters) white building has much of its southern elevation glazed, providing the visitor with views across the plaza, and allowing for an abundance of natural light to illuminate the interior galleries. The museum has three main galleries, which can be subdivided, as well as five smaller galleries, one of which is in a tower.
The permanent collection of around 5,000 works dates from the mid-20th century onward. There are three periods of modern art represented: the first one covers the forties to the sixties; the second spans the sixties and seventies; the third period is contemporary.
The collections focus on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art, although some International artists are also represented.
The permanent collection, as well as temporary exhibitions, seek to exemplify the Foundation’s mission, stated below: “Through the Collection and the exhibition/activities calendar, the MACBA hopes to construct a critical memory of Art of the latter half of the 20th century, with two objectives: to oppose rhetoric and hegemonic forces which tend to mythologize the local-national while exploiting cultural institutions as active agents of tertiary economics in urban centres; and to present alternatives for the insufficiencies of the dominant museum model, which is generally based on the universalist myth of the original work presented as spectacle. Working from the concept that there is no “public;” only “publics” consisting of specific and differentiated groups, the museum ceases to be a mere producer of exhibitions and becomes a purveyor of different services for different subjects. The exhibition is then an experience on a par with that of workshops, conferences, audiovisual activities, publications, etc. All of these experiences are defined by a series of discursive lines which lend thematic coherence” MACBA Website.