Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Miquel Barceló
B. 1957
signed, titled and dated X.91 on the reverse
mixed media on canvas
130.5 by 195 cm. 51 3/8 by 76 7/8 in.
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Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
Private Collection, Norway
Private Collection, Spain
Private Collection
Christie's, London, 14 February 2014, Lot 256
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Moscow, First Gallery Moscow, Miquel Barceló, 1992, p. 7, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1991, Cap i Pota showcases an exploding bull as an emblematic symbol of the drama integral to a bullfight or corrida. Hanging in the center of the canvas, the elevated bull is recognised only by its head and legs, as vivid impasto dashes of its blood and gristle divide it’s torso in two. This theatrical representation, describes the cyclical nature of both the ferocity and the passion characteristic of the sport. Miquel Barceló was particularly captivated by this subject matter in the 1990s and after being commissioned to create a poster for the Nîmes bullfighting festival in 1988, he went on to produce his celebrated bullfighting series. In adopting one of Spain’s most familiar symbols of cultural identity, Barceló continues the tradition of iconic Spanish painters Francisco de Goya and Salvador Dalí.

Born in 1975, in Mallorca, Spain, Barceló is now widely known as a nomadic artist. His varied explorations of materiality and subject matter can largely be mapped in parallel to his travels around the world. His extensive lists of destinations include New York, the Himalayas and multiple countries throughout Europe and West Africa. These nomadic tendencies ensure that each of his works are rich with material, fragments and organic matter sourced and archived from his varied collection of localities. These are often mixed with pigments and techniques that transpire from each location. Barceló often returned to his native Mallorca between his travels. Following his first exhibition there, in 1977, Barceló was considered the leader of a new generation of Spanish painters. He was respected for borrowing, but never imitating, the same intelligent technical skill, instinct and control that the great Venetians and Jackson Pollock had demonstrated before him.

Barceló’s bullfighting series began with explorations of the stadium from above. These swirling abstract portrayals celebrate sand as a material, the movement of bull and fighter around the ring and the looping trail of thought that penetrates the mind of a fighter during a battle. Barceló sees these cyclic works as “a beautiful metaphor of painting because my paintings are like traces of what has happened there, all that happens in the head, in fact” (Miquel Barceló cited in: Exh. Cat., Saint-Paul, Fondation Maeght, Miquel Barceló: Mapamundi, 2002, p. 98).

In 1991, Bruno Bischofberger edited Barceló’s bullfighting series, in the book Toros. He used the work to illustrate a text by Rodrigo Rey-Rosa, interviewing the bull fighter Martincho. When asked what bullfighting meant to him, Martincho replied “It meant being down in a ditch, where you lose all track of time, a kind of splitting in two, a duel with myself in the middle of a gang of punks” (Rodrigo Rey-Rosa, Toros, Zurich 1991, p. 58). In the same year of Toros publication, Barceló created Cap i Pota. The work marks a clear development from the circling whirlpool of the bullfighting arena and comes to focus solely on the bull in isolation. As paint lies in a ferocious gestural dance on the canvas, it comes to resemble the performative essence of the corrida itself.

Contemporary Art Day Auction