Mallorca boasts more galleries per capita than anywhere in the world, so it's no surprise that the Mediterranean hotspot has become an important player in the international art scene "In Spain", QUIPPED poet Frederico Garcia Lorca, "the dead are more alive than the living of any other country in the world".
What's true of the Spanish mainland is doubly true of the Balearics. In particular Mallorca, a benevolent almond-and-citrus-tree-clad island that's long offered sanctuary to the world's most lively misfits: from Frederic Chopin and his mistress, writer (and controversial trouser-wearer) George Sand, to poet Robert Graves, who made the terraced cove of Deia his dominion for five decades, after arriving following Gertrude Stein's imprecation: "Go to Deia. It's paradise; if you can take it."
It's the art world, however, that has most worked its tangled roots into the sepia soil of Mallorquin paradise. Active from 1906-1925, the escola pollencia, the most famous Mallorcan-born art movement, drew post-impressionist landscape artists from across the globe to the pretty Port de Pollença, where they communally drew inspiration from what Joan Miró described as: "the ever-changing Majorcan sky; the line drawn by a shooting star; and the sea, at night and during the day, always blue..."
Miró (1893-1983) is undoubtedly Mallorca's most famous art alumnus. Although born and raised in Catalonia (like the similarly dotty Gaudí), the groundbreaking surrealist painter, sculptor and ceramicist had a Mallorquin mother, and he nurtured a lifelong intimacy with the island. Miró married a Mallorquin (Pilar Juncosa); he took refuge in Mallorca when the Germans threatened Paris during WWI; and when he finally settled down in 1956, it was Mallorca, in the then-undeveloped Son Abrides, near Cala Major.
Today, Miró's legacy is inescapable on the island: his organic sculptures and vivid painted arabesques decorate public spaces and the walls of many of Palma's top art museums, his former friends dominate the art gallery scene (including Sr Pinya of Centro Cultural Pelaires, who was the first to exhibit Miró in Spain), and his influence colours the artistic works of many of the modern-day Mallorquins. But that's not to say that Mallorquin waters don't continue to wean truly original artistic thinkers.
The island is home to as many cutting-edge artists as when Miró's iconoclastic spirit held sway - from the works of husband-and-wife team Fabián Schalekamp and María Isabel Uribe (he "finds the beauty in wood and bricks", she creates kitsch pieces from thousands of love hearts), to Pep Guerrero, whose painted collages are snapped up by John Galliano.
These days, Mallorca has numerous good reasons to cite itself as an artistic hotspot. A range of factors - a happy geographic location a short hop from greyer-skied European cities, more galleries per capita than anywhere in the world and an ongoing popularity with moneyed holidaymakers - have combined to make this sun-burnished spot in the Med a growing force in the international art collectors' market.
Leading the charge are a new wave of confident young gallerists, such as ABA Art (pictured top right), an outfit in the San Pere district (www.abaart.com) and Spanish/Iranian brother-and-sister team (pictured top centre) La Caja Blanca (www.lacajablanca.com), who curate challenging exhibitions.
Over the following pages, voyager trips from ancient to modern to take in some of the must-sees on this art lover's treasure island.
Fundación Yannick y Ben Jakober Tucked away behind Alcúdia on rural estate Sa Bassa Blanca, this foundation is the project of one of Mallorca's most famous art couples, who claim to be "a third artist when we unite". The main building, inspired by Nubian mud-brick buildings, is full of the contemporary sculptures of the two founder artists, as well as Yannick's pet project - a collection of 130 portraits of royal children dating from the 16th century. Sa Bassa Blanca, Malpas Alcudia, Mallorca; +34 971 54 98 80; www.fundacionjakober.arrakis.es; open: Tues entry free, Wed to Sat entry 9€; by appointment only Studio Weil A true gem for architecture buffs, Studio Weil was the first domestic design project of architect Daniel Libeskind. A jutting concrete arc rising up from the cast, Studio Weil houses the life work of Chicago-born 'new expressionist' Barbara Weil, who moulds bizarre and engaging geometric forms from resin-impregnated cardboard and fibreglass. Her son, a talented jazz musician, often jams in the resonant space. Camino San Carlos Nº. 20, Port d'Andratx, Mallorca; +34 971 671 647; firstname.lastname@example.org; by appointment only.
Looking to invest in the work of young Mallorquin artists? Here's the hot list. Barbara Juan Born in Palma 1965, Barbara creates vast wall-hangings in wool and layered screen print. Fabián Schalekamp Hess Beautiful sculptures and pictures of scattered bricks and stones that echo Miró's obsessions with organic form, chaos and order (email@example.com) Pedro Vidal Collectable photographic artist who creates ethereal, bleached-out portraits. Pep Guerrero Cuts a dash at art fairs around the world with his highly desirable furniture pieces that are painted with bizarre landscape, portrait and pattern designs. (www.pepguerrero.com) María Isabel Uribe Columbian-born María is viewed by many as the leading light in modern Mallorquin art.
Part girlish and part challenging - her bleeding Spain cake, for example, was a comment on Spain's fears over immigration - expect great things from her. Marifé Gonzales Creates angular white installations painted with geometric shapes in dashing primary hues.
GALLERIES AS TRIBUTES
Fundación Pilar i Joan Miró The Miró Foundation in Barcelona may be the most famous tribute to this great artist, but Mallorca's Foundation Pilar i Joan Miró is a more intimate portrait of the man. Visit his atelier, left littered with half-finished canvases; or the foundation itself, designed by Rafael Moneo to conceal the boxy holiday developments of Cala Major bay. C/ Juan de Saridakis, Son Abrides, near Cala Major 29; +34 971 701 420; www.fpjmiro.org / www.fundacionmiro.org; Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-3pm Casa Museu J. Torrents J. Torrents Llado (1946-1993) was a talented portrait artist who painted in a classical style.
His portraits of female nudes are luminous and his gallery and home, a dramatic dark and light space preserved as he left it, is pure theatre. The piano playing itself as you enter the drawing room is almost as eerie as the direct gaze in the artist's brooding self-portraits. C/ de la Portella, 9, Palma; +34 971 729 835; www.jtorrentsllado.com; Mon-Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 10am-2pm
Museo D'Art Español Contemporani This collection of Spanish 20th-century arts - including Picassos, Dalis and Mirós - was collated by Mallorquin banker Joan March, once one of the world's richest men. The bizarre modern sculptures on the palace terrace are breathtaking, especially Eduardo Chillida's Eulogy of Iron. C/ San Miguel +34 971 713 515; www.march.es/museopalma; Palau March - Palau Reial, 18; +34 971 711 122; www.fundbmarch.es Can Marques Nieves Barber, a glamorous Portuguese fifty-something, is the mother of the Mallorquin modern art scene. If Can Marques, her sumptuously restored velvet-draped mansion home in central Palma, wasn't impressive enough, she regularly ups the ante by exhibiting the work of young Mallorquin and Portuguese artists. C/ Zanglada, 2ª, Palma; +34 971 716 247; www.canmarques.net; Mon-Fri 10am-3pm Es Baluard Museu d'Art Modern The Es Baluard was built inside the walls of a fortress, the 'baluarte de Sant Pere' (bastion of Saint Peter).
Designed by a team of international architects, it houses the collection of businessman and art collector Pere A Serra, which includes paintings by Picasso, Miró, Picabia and Magritte, as well as works belonging to the Balearic government, Palma City Hall and the Palma Council. Don't miss the terrace bar: Plaça Porta de Santa Catalina, Palma; +34 971 908 201; www.esbaluard.org ABA Art Contemporani Plaza The daughters of prominent Mallorquin female politician, 29-year-old twins Alejandra and Maribel Bordoy, are credited with having reinvigorated the commercial scene in San Pere. Alejandra is an art historian with training at the Louvre and Maribel is a Master in international relations. Their Modern gallery plunders the world for inspiration, while doing much to celebrate Mallorquin art. Porta Santa Catalina, 21 B; +34 971 717 835; www.abaart.com