In search of the perfect backdrop

Our route of free art continues from David and Goliath, to the nearby plaça dels Voluntaris, where Robert Llimós’s sculpture Frame, like Botero’s Cat, attracts constant attention: kids to clamber over it and couples to pose for the typical Barcelona snapshot. Yet its inauguration attracted no less controversy.

David Mackay, the architect from the firm that designed the general plan for the Olympic Village, protested that the sculpture did not fit “either in style, in scale, or for its site”(1). This in turn prompted an open letter from a group of artists, including Frederic Amat, Xavier Corber, Gardy-Artigas and Xavier Medina-Campeny, defending Llimós and attacking architecture’s insistent encroachment on artistic terrain.

Daubed with dashes of colour, characteristic of Llimós’s enthusiasm for the primaries and neon tones, Frame (in Catalan: “Marc”, means both “frame” and the boy’s name), is dedicated to the artist’s deceased son. It is an anonymous, genderless nude, stepping towards and supporting a large, rectangular frame in a well-balanced composition. Is the figure about to step through into another reality—possibly to disturb the static viewer-object hierarchy—or is it content to observe from its side of the frame? It challenges our idea of a picture, of nice art. What should the content be? Simply by moving a few steps we can insert a new scene, allowing us as viewers to maintain hegemony yet—over what? Our own point of view.

Frame likewise seems to frame the past. It captures the receding flagpoles of all the nations who participated in the ’92 Olympics, as well as all the volunteers who gave their free time to make that event a success—for which the square is named. An identical work entitled Threshold was installed in Atlanta, where the ’96 Games following Barcelona’s were held, offering a nebulous desire for continuance, a sisterly link between Olympic cities—although this work was created well after the body of works developed for the Barcelona Games. Yet once again the sculpture’s setting has become inextricably bound into its interpretation.

Frame by Robert Llimós, 1997. Plaça dels Voluntaris, Vil·la Olímpica.


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