The European Museum of Modern Art, better known as the MEAM, is housed in a restored 18th century Renaissance-style palace located on an enchanting narrow street of El Born quarter, in Barcelona, Spain. Since its opening in 2011, the MEAM’s goal is to encourage and support contemporary expressions of representational art rendered in present-day skill-based language.
In recent years, representational art has been enjoying a vast resurgence in popularity; a happy indication that the art-loving public is casting aside the propagandist ideas surrounding modernism. The realistic and truthful depiction of the world around us has — once again — become a powerful form of expression. The ways in which realist artists today perceive the human condition, cultural and sociopolitical issues, and a wide range of emotions are built upon centuries of pictorial skills rendered using modern mediums and tools. The MEAM shows the artistic results of slow, meticulous creative processes that take time, know-how, experience, and a unique sense of aesthetics, that together celebrate a revival of craftmanship.
You may be familiar with Oscar Wilde’s 1889 quote, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” That may well be the case, but when art imitates life, it is called mimesis.
Mimesis — derived from the Greek verb mimeisthai — is a term that carries a wide range of meanings, including representation, mimicry, the act of expression, the act of resembling, and the presentation of the self. In ancient Greece, mīmēsis was an idea that governed the creation of works of art, especially in regards to the physical world which was identified as the paradigm of truth and beauty. Nowadays this term is mainly used in literary criticism and philosophy, but in regards to this exhibition we will recognize the original meaning of mimesis; the act of representing reality in art.
The Ancient Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle (384–322 BCE) defined mimesis as the flawless imitation of nature. Describing the “four causes in nature,” Aristotle’s first and formal cause is the ‘blueprint’ or the ‘immortal idea.’ The second is the ‘material cause’ or what something is made of. The third is the ‘efficient cause’ describing the process and the creator. The fourth and final cause is the reason and function of the entity.
Aristotle’s “four causes in nature” are an interesting set of premises to consider as a basis for an exhibition of representational art; art which not only involves a high degree of skilled interpretation but also uses symmetry, balance, and intention in search of perfection. Moreover, if representational art mimics nature, it is interesting to note we can find similarities between art and nature in that nature demonstrates an ongoing cycle of change, growth, decay, and renewal, which is similar to the cycles and processes an artist goes through in search of significant, stirring, authentic artwork.
The seed of this exhibition has been germinating for quite a few years. The concept originated during a conversation between the founder and director of the MEAM, the late José Manuel Infiesta and his friend and current museum director José Enrique González. They examined ways to offer a broader and more varied selection of contemporary representational art, beyond the expectations and predictability that is so often associated with this style.
By inviting established artists as well as renowned artists who have not previously shown in this museum, and by focusing above all on quality, creativity, and diversity, González aspires to enliven and invigorate outmoded ideas surrounding realist art. By showcasing a fresh, singular, and stirring impression of contemporary realism, this exhibition seeks to surpass the public’s expectations and buttress the museum’s reputation as an exciting place of discovery.
Seeing the exhibition in person I was truly impressed with its superb array of exquisite, interesting, inspiring, and stirring paintings — and very honored to be part of it. José Enrique González succeeded in bringing the seed he and Infiesta planted to take root, flourish, and yield resplendent fruits.
Mímesis | Representational Art 2023
On April 21st, the MEAM held the well-attended inauguration of the exhibition entitled Mímesis | Representational Art 2023.
Mímesis features a thoughtful selection of paintings by the most outstanding artists in contemporary representational art today. The aim of the exhibition is to present an overview of the current trend through the great masters of representational art and its most outstanding artists. Artists who are leading the way, not only because they are the forerunners of this artistic movement on an international level, but also because they have their roots in the pictorial tradition with the aim of seeking a new language of art of our time.
Mímesis represents 62 artists from around the world who, each in their own technique, style, and sense of aesthetics, present a singular view of the concept of mimesis. From the venerated traditional classic realism, to highly meticulous hyperrealism, to loose brushstrokes that lead to wild abstraction within realism, this exhibition shows a plethora of creative frontiers within the wide range of possible expressions that representational art has on offer. Likewise, the subject matter varies extensively, showing the human figure, portraiture, landscape, still life, flora, and fauna. Notably, this collection covers half a century of realism by including artworks created from the 1970s up until today.
Among this impressive collection, museum visitors will find paintings by Antonio López and his late wife María Moreno, as well as Gottfried Helnwein, Don Eddy and his wife Leigh Behnke, Miriam Escofet, Jeremy Mann, and Guillermo Lorca García-Huidobro. This exhibition aims to give visibility to the skill and creativity of contemporary artists who are pushing the boundaries of traditional representational art as well as determining current artistic styles and techniques, through works that reflect diverse perspectives and styles, and the exploration of new themes that explore the beauty and the relevance of the human experience.
Mímesis is a must-see for anyone interested in the contemporary art world. With a wide range of styles and approaches, there is something for everyone. The exhibition will be on view in Barcelona until 25 June 2023. However, if you can’t make it to Barcelona, do consider buying the Mímesis catalog, a beautiful synopsis of this wonderful exhibition.