Brief Interview with Manel Mayoral, founder of the gallery
LLUCIÀ HOMS (LH): Hi Manel; this year the Mayoral family is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the opening of the gallery.
MANEL MAYORAL (MM): Yes! After ten years in Tarragona, we decided to embark on a new adventure and open a gallery in Barcelona. The years in Reus and Tarragona allowed us to learn the trade and get to know many professionals with whom I then developed a great friendship, to visit fairs and discover artists who greatly impressed me. They were very rewarding years.
LH: What brought you to Barcelona?
MM: Barcelona is the capital and we had the sensation that everything important that happened took place in the city. We made the decision in 1986, in a very stimulating environment, because it had just been chosen to host the 1992 Olympic Games. Our children had the ideal age to come to Barcelona and my wife and I didn’t think twice about it. One year later we had already moved there to live.
LH: How do you recall the Barcelona of those years?
MM: The city was bustling with life and people were very passionate. I recall it smelling of life, of the world. The shops, the markets, the restaurants were all full, in the street you could feel that happy, joyful years were coming, culminating the dream of the city, to host the Olympic Games. They were magical years.
LH: First you found premises on the Bulevard dels Antiquaris at Passeig de Gràcia, and then you set up on Consell de Cent.
MM: Yes, first on the Boulevard, in small premises which allowed us to disembark and get to know the city’s professionals well. I was increasingly passionate about art and, two years later, we had already found very special premises where we could carry out the gallery project that had always thrilled me: a space in the city centre, in an area historically linked to Barcelona’s best art galleries. A very special street, with galleries of different lines, going from antiquarians to other more avant-garde galleries, often visited by collectors. This allowed us to position ourselves and to have visibility.
LH: What line did you maintain in the early years?
MM: A classical line of Catalan painting first and, shortly afterwards, our artistic offering evolved. We did all this with the full complicity of the city’s other gallery owners who maintained the same line and had a similar business model, holding exhibitions to promote artists. We supported the work of our country’s leading creators, such as Miró, Tàpies, Clavé and Barceló.
LH: Over the years, you have built up a big family project around the gallery. Which moment moved you the most over these thirty years of existence of the Mayoral gallery?
MM: I must say that, as a sector, we have experienced all kinds of moments, because after the Olympic Games there was a severe crisis. An especially exciting moment for me personally was when I organized the exhibition 35 Picassos in 2008 with the collaboration of Maya Picasso. It required a considerable effort but one of which I am especially proud.
LH: What do you think one of the keys to your success has been?
MM: Probably the fairs, since they opened us up completely. We began in Madrid and continued throughout Europe and America, where we have been able to disseminate our culture, working side-by-side with collectors and gallerists from around the world.
LH: You talked about the crises that you have overcome, but you were already well-established.
MM: You have to be conservative and bold at the same time, but you must know how to live with a certain moderation so as to be able to invest in the business, in the operations which emerge. This is also an attitude to life.
LH: Your three children have been involved in the business for some years now.
MM: That’s right; they have gradually found their place in the family business, with considerable support from their mother. Together we have organized a progressive handover and we have developed the current gallery project.
LH: How do you manage this family and professional coexistence?
MM: Like all families which share the management of a business. In our case, we share a passion for art and we love to talk about the future: exhibitions, collectors and business strategy.
LH: Some of the exhibitions that you have presented together with your children have had a considerable impact; they have been great exhibitions.
MM: Back in 2014, and already with my children involved, we held a show devoted to two of the main artists of modern art, Miró/Calder, which included the collaboration of Joan Punyet, Miró’s grandson and President of Successió Miró. I remember that the first time that I saw the works of Calder I was very moved…
LH: You talked about the importance of fairs, but you are now already participating in the big international fairs.
MM: Yes, we are currently participating in TEFAF Maastricht and in TEFAF New York, and within a few weeks in Art Basel Hong Kong. This represented a huge recognition of the work that we are undertaking in the gallery, which fills me with pride. This is a success for everyone, but especially them, because I probably wouldn’t have managed alone.
LH: What do you think of this evolution that your children have implemented and the new line of the gallery?
MM: The first stage of the gallery fulfilled me and made me very happy. But now I believe that it has evolved to another level, with a rigorous programme which will help us to consolidate the gallery on an international level. All together, we are promoting the artists and our culture, and this gives us great pleasure.
LH: And you are working with the most important Spanish artists, in particular with their estates, in order to reach museums and collectors.
MM: Yes, substantial work has been carried out to bring the work of these great artists closer to the public, with curated exhibitions and rigorous publications.
LH: Absolutely. Especially now, since you have just opened a space in Paris while celebrating your 30th anniversary. And not just anywhere, but on Avenue Matignon, one of the historical streets of galleries in the French capital, next to the headquarters of Christie’s and other galleries with a long-standing tradition, such as Galerie Lelong & Co. and Applicat-Prazan.
MM: This is one more step in the consolidation of the family gallery project, and I cannot conceal how it fills me with joy and enthusiasm. We have opened with a big Antonio Saura exhibition, with works from 1956 to 1962, and the exceptional painting Brigitte Bardot (1960-61) which The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York exhibited in 1964. We want to organize a line of curated exhibitions which promote postwar Spanish art and its connections with Paris.
LH: A truly fascinating project…
MM: Yes, which is the result ofthe work and commitment of everyone.
LH: Thank you, Manel, and congratulations on the 30th anniversary of the gallery!
This interview is published in 30th anniversary 1989-2019, Barcelona, 2019. Mayoral, p.11-15