Grandson auctions Joan Miró paintings to help refugees

Some 28 artworks by the Spanish painter Joan Miró will be auctioned in London on Thursday, with the profits going towards helping refugees.

Grandson auctions Joan Miró paintings to help refugees
Paysanne en colère is one of the works on sale on May 19th. Photo: Christie’s

The Miró sale at Christie's auction house in London is aiming to raise €50,000 ($56,600) for the Red Cross humanitarian organisation.

The Barcelona painter's grandson told AFP that he would donate the proceeds of the sale because that is what Miró would have wanted.

“I consider myself as the torch-bearer for his wishes and try to do what he would do if he was still alive,” Joan Punyet Miró said.   

“Miró was a man who endured many hardships throughout his life. He went hungry, and lived in exile through the Spanish Civil War.”   

He was also conscious of the Spanish refugees living in camps across the border in southern France during the 1936-1939 conflict, and of the 2,000-odd of their number who sailed from France to Chile on board the SS Winnipeg.

Miró, who had Republican sympathies in the civil war divide, was in France when the conflict broke out, and decided to stay in Paris.

His wife and daughter joined him and lived in France until 1940, when the invasion of Nazi Germany saw him flee back to Spain.   

The Catalan artist with his grandson. Family photo: Christie's.

“He always wanted to help the most disadvantaged, the refugees and those in exile, and would be aware that what is happening today in Syria could happen tomorrow in Spain,” said Punyet.

Since the Syria conflict erupted in 2011, more than 4.8 million refugees have fled the country.

Miró, who died in 1983 aged 90, had personal reasons to be grateful for the work of the Red Cross.

A doctor from the international organisation saved the leg of his only child, Punyet's then 34-year-old mother, after a nasty car accident in 1965.

She recovered after spending a year in bed.  

“My grandfather made a tapestry for the Red Cross in gratitude, because they had saved his daughter, his only child,” said Punyet.  

Barcelona's Mayoral Galeria d'Art, which is working on the fundraising effort, has exhibited the works in several art spaces.

By Alfons Luna / AFP

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Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.


In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.