- Joan Miró (1893-1983), Personnages fantastiques (Figures), steel, polyester composite, paint
The Catalan sculptor and painter Joan Miró lived in Paris in the early 1920s and kept artistic and personal links to France throughout his life. The Personnages fantastiques, a pair of gigantic marionettes, is one of his last monumental works. A mischievous and poetic dialogue in primary colors, it is part of a series of large scale sculptures Miró started in the 1960s (including Miss Chicago, created for the city of Chicago in 1981 and his 22 metre high sculpture Femme et oiseau which can be seen in the Parc Miró in Barcelona.)
Commissioned for La Défense in 1976, Personnages fantastiques, like Calder's Araignée Rouge which stands opposite it on the Place de la Défense, is part of the same ambitious project, which began in the mid 1970s, to place works of art by internationally recognized artists at the very center of La Défense. It marked the beginning of the 'open air gallery' which in subsequent years, saw the addition of works by other prestigious artists.
The Personnages fantastiques is an exemplary work in so far as it was a site-specific commission in which the positioning of the work had to be considered by the artist from its conception to its realization. The shopping center, les 4 Temps, which is now behind the sculpture, was not built until 1981. The placing of the Personnages fantastiques had been carefully considered, based on the chosen location and, prior to the definitive realization of the two figures, each over a dozen meters high, several models were produced. One of these was called Lovers playing with almond blossom, a large piece, which was to become one of the key pieces in the Miró Foundation in Barcelona, where it is on permanent exhibition.
'A homage to humor and life', unique in France for its sheer scale and the fact that it is in a public space, the Personnages fantastiques gave rise to some incomprehension when it was first installed. It is imbued with the surrealist spirit, of which Miró was one of the freest and most inventive exponents.