Estil Internacional (Mur d'Ònix), 2013-2014

International Style (Onyx Wall), 2013-2014
Object, 310 x 586 x 20 cm

In 2014, Lúa Coderch was invited to take part in Preventive Archaeology, a cycle of exhibitions curated by the critic and art theorist Oriol Fontdevila at Espai 13 of the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona. Based on a re-reading of collective memory, the project focused on different ways of explaining history from the point of view of the present.

Inspired by the location of the Fundació Joan Miró on the mountain of Montjuïc, Coderch presented the exhibition The Magic Mountain, a title that, besides referring to Thomas Mann’s great novel on the passage of time, also brings to mind the Magic Fountain, as the fountain at the foot of this urban mountain, and famous for its light shows, is known in Barcelona. Opposite the fountain is the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, built for the International Exposition of 1929, an event that propitiated the urbanisation of Montjuïc. In a reference to this architectural masterpiece, Coderch produced and presented Estil Internacional (Mur d’ònix) (International Style [Onyx Wall]), an inflatable sculpture on a one-to-one scale of the emblematic onyx wall from the Atlas that is part of the pavilion.

Designed by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich in 1929 as the German Pavilion, it hosted an official reception presided by King Alfonso XIII and the German authorities. It was demolished a year later, at the end of the International Exposition. In time, this masterpiece of the Modern Movement became an architectural icon, and in the 1980s, the Barcelona City Council decided to rebuild it. Since the original plans of the building had been destroyed during the Second World War, the pavilion had to be reconstructed from photographs and drawings from that time, a procedure that partly resulted in a process of virtual interpretation akin to a mise-en-scène of the image. This explains Coderch’s decision to use a malleable material such as plastic to reproduce the onyx wall. As the artist explained in a 2017 interview: ‘The onyx wall is the centrepiece of the Pavilion. Mies van der Rohe conceived his entire plans around this central wall – it represents the heart of it all. So the wall carries a lot of symbolic weight. As for the inflatable wall, for me it best represents the irony, the complexity and insincerity of that whole story.’ (Lúa Coderch, in In the Studio: Lúa Coderch. ‘Objects are capable of triggering stories. In turn, a story itself can become an object,’ Collectors Agenda. Voices of Contemporary Art and Culture, Vienna)

But Coderch takes irony even further. Her inflatable plastic wall also carries a critique of the reconstruction of the past as an ideological projection of the present. In her own words: ‘After the end of the Franco regime, Barcelona sought to connect, or find a link back to modern history, back to the pre-war years, as a way to distance itself from the forty years of dictatorship and ostracism. As a part of this process, it was decided to rebuild the German Pavilion […]. Barcelona wanted to catch up and reconnect to what was happening in the rest of modern Europe, retaking that thread. This inspired me to call it International Style (Onyx Wall), in reference to the architectural style that emerged in the 1920s and 30s.’ The fact that the reconstruction of the pavilion was not based on the original building plans but on contemporaneous photographs, gives Coderch further food for thought: ‘A reconstruction from an image feels to me like a ghost. On the other hand, during the Franco regime, another pavilion was built in the area. So, when the German Pavilion was rebuilt, there was also a huge brutalist pavilion with little architectural value at just a few metres distance from it. With that other pavilion so close, nobody could carry home that picture-perfect, iconic image of the rebuilt Mies van der Rohe Pavilion. So they cleared the space around it and demolished the other pavilion… Barcelona has always been accused of being just an image. It’s a touristic city.’

Regarding the context in which the inflatable wall was presented, The Magic Mountain was formulated as a container of moments. In the same exhibition space, Coderch installed a warehouse reproducing the municipal depot on Via Favència, where the Barcelona City Council stores sculptures and urban material that have been withdrawn from the public space. During the seventy-two days that the exhibition lasted, each day the artist took one of the stored items and placed it in the area being used as a gallery, on a device specially built for the purpose. Some of the exhibited items had been appropriated by the artist, while others appeared to be her own creations, but always in relation to the historic imaginary of Montjuïc. ‘For that exhibition I built a big warehouse on the premises, using up half of the exhibition space to store things, like stage props in a theatre. That warehouse was open for a few hours a day only, remaining closed during the rest of the opening hours of the museum. Behind the scenes, in the warehouse, I worked to prepare a new exhibition each day, composed from objects, video, audio and photographs, and also archival material I had collected. The exhibition lasted for seventy-two days. That was quite a tour de force, I can tell you. Each day, I tried to develop a different line of research, to explore how the city of Barcelona evolved, and how the city built its memory.’

Technical details

Original title:
Estil Internacional (Mur d'Ònix)
Registration number:
Coderch, Lúa
Date created:
Date acquired:
On display
MACBA Collection. Government of Catalonia long-term loan
Object type:
Inflatable object, digital print on PVC.-- Photo: Adrià Sunyol Estadella.-- Thanks to: Fundació Joan Miró, Fundació Mies van der Rohe Barcelona, Galeria àngels Barcelona
310 x 586 x 20 cm (height x width x depth)
Edition number:
Ed. 1/1 + P.A.
Meier Building, Level 1
MACBA Collection. Government of Catalonia long-term loan. National Collection of Contemporary Art
© Lúa Coderch
It has accessibility resources:

The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.

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