Imaginary Friends: Barcelona art show aims to connect with our inner child
Nine leading contemporary artists have come together to create an interactive exhibition in Barcelona for kids – and anyone in touch with their inner child.
“Before the pandemic we had the idea of mounting an exhibition of contemporary art for people of all ages, something that children could relate to but also so that older people could relive the experience of being a child and participate as if they were children,” said Martina Millà, who jointly curated the show at the Fundació Joan Miró with Patrick Ronse, the artistic director of the Be-Part contemporary art platform in Belgium.
Millà added: “There’s much in this exhibition that’s therapeutic, above all a return to a pre-pandemic spirit after we’ve all suffered so much.”
The show, titled Imaginary Friends, brings together installations from nine contemporary artists, several of whom are known to Ronse from his involvement in the 2018 Play festival of contemporary art.
Outside, at the entrance to the exhibition, visitors are invited to sit on Jeppe Hein’s beguilingly convoluted bench, conceived as a riposte to the hostile architecture of street furniture, such as benches designed so that homeless people cannot sleep on them.
One of the most striking installations is We Are the Baby Gang, a collection of colourful, feathered polar bears created by Paola Pivi, an Italian artist who lives in Alaska, which Millà says is designed to make us consider the anthropomorphic way we look at animals.
The creatures are very tactile but this part of the show is not interactive, leaving one small and disappointed boy to go into a screaming meltdown when he was told off for touching the exhibit.
That aside, the gallery is filled with the babble of excited children and the British artist Martin Creed’s Half the Air in a Given Space gives them plenty of opportunity to let off steam.
Creed has filled a room almost to the ceiling with large orange balloons, creating an immediate feeling of disorientation and claustrophobia accompanied by an irresistible impulse to burst out laughing.
Perhaps the most engaging work in the show is the Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist’s oversized sofa and armchair. Sitting on the enormous sofa, with your feet barely reaching the edge of the seat, never mind the floor, is an Alice in Wonderland moment that provokes a powerful physical memory of childhood.
“These works are a way of inventing a parallel life,” said Millà. “It’s like having an imaginary friend, and also a means of escape.”
Imaginary Friends is at the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona until 2 July