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From Tàpies to Barceló: Jean Marie del Moral, the photographer who portrays artists in the privacy of their studios


Highlights: Jean Marie del Moral has been photographing Miquel Barceló for 45 years. The 71-year-old has photographed the artist in his studio in Mallorca. Del Moral has also photographed Damien Hirst, Ai Weiwei and Zao Wou-ki. The EL PAÍS stand in Arco is open to the public on Tuesday, September 11. For more information on the EL PAíS stand, visit www.elpaí

For 45 years he has been photographing Miró, Tàpies, Saura, Motherwell and Lichtenstein in the place where their creations are born. But Miquel Barceló has been and is his favorite prey. A relationship that comes to life at the EL PAÍS stand in Arco.

Jean Marie del Moral wanted to be a writer.




“I am a frustrated writer and filmmaker.”

Maybe a painter.


It is not known what we missed but we do know that, having ruled out such artistic options, and having entered Joan Miró's studio in Mallorca one day 45 years ago, something clicked in his head.

He would definitely be a professional photographer (he had already been making his first steps for some years, with great reports on the May 68 riots and the post-Portuguese Carnation Revolution) and, in addition, he would launch what is today a whole history of modern art, a history in images written in the studios of painters and sculptors.

Or in other words: the eye that stalks the artist.

So, for decades and years, this graphic all-rounder, both a reporter for the communist newspaper


and a contributor to luxurious travel magazines, born in France to an Andalusian father and a Catalan mother who were exiled after Franco's victory, convinced the greatest to make a space between their easels, their brushes, their stain-ridden attire.

From Miró to Plensa and from Saura to Sicily, passing through Tàpies, Palazuelo, Apel·les Fenosa, Clavé, Campano, Chillida, Broto, García Sevilla and Esther Ferrer, he was composing a gigantic fresco of the creative activity in Spanish art of the last half a century.

That, not to mention the international scene and the masters of American expressionism and pop (Motherwell, Lichtenstein, Francis, Katz, Stella, Schnabel...) and hyper-quoted stars such as Zao Wou-ki, Damien Hirst, Marina Abramovic or Ai Weiwei.

But nothing comparable to his relationship with Miquel Barceló.

Jean Marie del Moral examines a contact plate with portraits of Miquel Barceló taken in the late 1980s.

Sofia Moro

Jean Marie del Moral (Montoire-sur-le-Loir, 71 years old) began photographing the Mallorcan artist in 1985. He had obtained his telephone number thanks to the painter Miguel Ángel Campano.

He convinced Barceló to allow him to come to his studio on Avenue de Breteuil, in Paris.

It was a dilapidated apartment in which the artist – then already a 28-year-old star who had triumphed at the Documenta in Kassel and had been anointed by the protective finger of gallery owner Bruno Bischofberger – was finishing the paintings for his first American exhibition, to the Leo Castelli gallery in New York.

Barceló reluctantly agreed to be immortalized while he painted and while Jimi Hendrix's music blared in the studio at full blast.

This is how he recalled in the book

Ten Hours with Miquel Barceló

(La Fábrica) his initial reluctance to accept the presence of a photographer: “I have a hard time painting while someone is looking at me.

It's an imposture.

Painting is not something that is done in public;

It's like masturbation or murder, something you don't do in front of people.

It is difficult to paint knowing that there is a camera around, but Jean Marie, despite being so big, knew how to go unnoticed.

So he has managed to take great photos.

After a while I realized that a series was starting to form and that I liked Jean Marie's eye.

I have tried other photographers and he is still the best.”

Barceló explains to

El País Semanal

: “He has the discretion of a naturalist photographer specializing in nocturnal animals or albino foxes,” and defines his way of doing things like this: “It seems like he always works with his head inside a black cloth box.

That makes his presence in the workshop almost imperceptible.

In any photo of me in the studio taken by any other photographer, I am standing impatiently looking at the camera, waiting for it to go away.

In Jean Marie's photos, none of that.

As Lezama says, he is noticed more by his absence than by his presence.

That must be a gift.

A rare one.”

Del Moral has been photographing Miquel Barceló in full creative action for four decades.

The artist painted the dome of the Mercat de les Flors in Barcelona in 1986.Jean Marie del Moral

So from that first meeting, in Paris and in Angers, in Artá, in Vilafranca and in Farrutx, in Palermo and in Ségou or Gao (Malí), in Barcelona and in Lanzarote..., a professional and friendly relationship was forged that It has lasted for four decades.

Never has a photographer mapped with such zeal, and with the same doses of efficiency as creativity, the universe of an artist in action.

Neither David Douglas Duncan or Brassaï with Picasso, nor Hans Namuth with Jackson Pollock, nor Paul Strand with Georges Braque dared to do so much and for so long.

Not even his beloved gods of photography, Paul Strand, Robert Doisneau or Henri Cartier-Bresson.

That of Barceló / Del Moral is a relationship of complicity, silence and words that will take shape through 23 large-format photographs at the El PAÍS stand at the ArcoMadrid contemporary art fair, between March 6 and 10.

Poses, foreshortenings, glances, doubts, complicities, skepticisms, color, black and white, figuration, abstraction, interiors, landscapes..., everything fits in the photographer's Nikon, applied in the composition of a biography that is not typical.

The activity of Jean Marie del Moral, a very tall type of walk and slow gesture, polite to the point of exhaustion and apparently calmer than an elephant seal, is actually frenetic.

The preparation, these days, of his exhibition in Arco is another chapter in his tireless pace of production, with incessant photo sessions for magazines, newspapers and catalogues, and above all for his beloved photobooks, with titles such as

Barceló, Barceló Behind the mirror


Miró's eye

(all three published by La Fábrica);

Horta Picasso / Miró Mont-Roig

(Palau Foundation);

Passes per Palma

, with texts by the Mallorcan writer Biel Mesquida (Vibop Edicions);

Fuga Mundi

(Ensiola Editorial);

Alenar dins el fang

(Ensiola Editorial, a small format book about the Barceló altarpiece in the cathedral of Palma), or

Conversations with Jean Marie del Moral

(Ensiola Editorial), by the writer and journalist Pere Antoni Pons, a volume in which The reader can look in great detail at the life and artistic career of Jean Marie del Moral.

The same happens with the beautiful documentary

Compass of Silence

, directed by Cesc Mulet with production by La Periférica Produccions and Allegra Films, soon to be released and of which excerpts can be seen at the EL PAÍS stand in Arco: a true portrait of life in image and word.

And in 2025, the photographer will give birth to his new creature: the monumental photo essay

Jean Marie del Moral / Barceló (Suite)

, which he considers as a true retrospective of his work on the painter and sculptor from Felanitx.

Barceló, in 1986, resting lying down in the dome for the Mercat de les Flors.

Jean Marie del Moral

The French editor and writer Patrick Mauriès, who coordinated the Barceló

book project ,

defined this relationship in his prologue: “One look follows the other and is irrevocably altered: it is a story or a chronicle that is suddenly interrupted (or is concentrated, or revealed) due to incidents that occur at random, due to details that are a revelation.”


An essential ingredient in the image hound work undertaken 45 years ago by Jean Marie del Moral.

Another would be the Spartan discretion, which in

Compass of Silence

takes shape in those shots of the character crouched in a corner of Barceló's studio in Farrutx, like a Carthusian monk but with a camera at the ready.

And another, a non-negotiable escape from artifice: “I try to eliminate the superfluous, both in life and in what I am looking at.”


Sitting in the studio of the beautiful house in Ses Salines, in the extreme south of Mallorca, where he lives with his partner, the French author Catherine de Montalembert, and his cat Tita, the photographer explains the work processes in his approach to Barceló's universe: “When I'm in his studio with him, I try to place myself in a place where I know I won't bother him.

And of course, sometimes I stay still and suddenly realize that from another place I would have a much better viewing angle, but I no longer dare to move.

“Sometimes it is very complicated.”

The shyness of the photographer, faced with the aggressiveness of the camera, an issue that obsesses Jean Marie del Moral, author of a phrase that is a profession of faith: “A photographer is a peaceful hunter, he searches for he knows not what prey, “The eye is the dog and the camera is the shotgun.”

In this battle, shyness has often been the winner.

That has caused him to lose photos.

Even great photos.

But he considers that it is not possible to compromise according to what principles.

“Our days are full of successes and also things you miss, and that is the perfect metaphor for life, and it is extraordinary, what happens is that we live in a world where we want everything, all the time.

But no, sometimes I see something that interests me but I don't register it.

Because sometimes, for whatever reason, out of respect, you don't record things.

And I know that it is an extraordinary photo… and that I am not taking it.”

The photographer, born 71 years ago in France to exiled Spanish parents, poses on the southern tip of the island, next to the Ses Salines lighthouse.

Sofia Moro

The crossing of paths with Miquel Barceló and in general with all the great artists he has portrayed is, according to him, a pure matter of time.


It would be said, in relation to that, that his is a work consciously and almost militantly related to memory: “A lot of time has passed and in Spain the Spaniards who were abroad are still not taken into consideration.

They do not exist,” he laments.

“I have done work that no one has done—and I can say it without any vanity—on an important part of memory outside of Spain.

Spain through its painters.

Since I was little, thanks to my parents, I knew that this was not only a country ruled by a shitty leader who was guilty of the fact that I speak Spanish with a French accent, but that it was also a place where there were great artists and great poets... And I grew up with that, and over time I discovered the Spanish exiles in Paris, Clavé, Baltasar Lobo, Campano, Viñes, Xavier Valls, Orlando Pelayo, Apel·les Fenosa, and that is what I have always wanted to portray, a Spain of the know, of art and poetry, without any spirit of revenge at all.”

The drama experienced by his parents, who spent a year in the Argelès-sur-Mer concentration camp, in the south of France, the bitter experience of his grandparents far from their homeland, his childhood in France


and then in Paris , the return to Spain... All of this left traces.

Not necessarily happy footprints.

“I don't think you ever fully heal from exile,” she concludes.

“I was born in France…, but I don't have anything French, although I have to admit that I carry a double culture within me, French and Spanish, and I think that is a gift of life.

In any case, if I have to define myself, I am a Spaniard born in France.

And first of all, a half Catalan, half Andalusian.”

Barceló, after painting the windows of his ceramics studio with clay in 2019, in Vilafranca de Bonany (Mallorca).Jean Marie del Moral

And half anarchist.

Or complete anarchist.

Which does not mean chaos or disorder.

“I am a civic anarchist, I do not understand anarchism as 'I do what I want', nothing like that, we live in society and there are rules and duties, although sometimes we believe that we only have rights.

But don't let any politician come and tell me what I have to do.

I claim the possibility of being honest.

"If we were all honest, we wouldn't need politicians, police or priests."

Jean Marie del Moral is convinced that the perfect metaphor for all that anarchism with rules, for that ordered chaos, is an artist's studio, which he claims as an artistic expression in itself.

Although not everyone seems to think the same.

“Artists' studios are works of art, what happens is that normally no one looks at them.

They are authentic mental caves, but almost no one knows how to see them, curators and art critics pass by without seeing them, they are not interested in them.

Word of the eye.

From the eye that stalked and continues to stalk artists.

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Source: elparis

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