Sr. Joan Parés opened a shop which sold prints, picture frames and supplies for artists at number 3 Carrer de Petritxol (Petritxol Street), in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.
Sala Parés’ first exhibition room was opened at the back of the original premises. Prominent local artists took part in the opening exhibit: Lluís and Agustí Rigalt, Ramon Martí Alsina, Modest Urgell, Francesc Torrescassana and Joaquim Vayreda. The opening was a grand event widely attended by Barcelona’s important members of the community and cultural sectors. Today, Sala Parés is the oldest commercial art gallery in Spain. It is also reputed to be among the world’s oldest active galleries.
A new, larger exhibition hall was inaugurated at Sala Parés with a show displaying 237 works by well-known artists of the time. Prince Ludwig Ferdinand of Bavaria and his wife Maria de Paz of Spain opened the exhibition. The Gallery became one of Europe’s largest commercial exhibition spaces and renowned for its excellent natural light. The layout of the 1884 gallery was the same as it is today.
In this period, art exhibitions were group shows with large numbers of participating artists consisting of crowded displays of paintings, sculptures and decorative artefacts which filled up the walls at different heights. Those group exhibits presented new work on a weekly basis. Visiting the Gallery on Sunday mornings came naturally for many families, a ritual that turned into tradition.
It was the beginning of the Exposiciones de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Exhibitions) that took place periodically and were a gathering of the best Catalan art production of the time. Exhibition catalogues were published for the first time.
Exhibition of Spoliarium by the Filipino artist Juan Luna y Novicio. The painting portrays a dramatic scene of the Roman Colosseum where the fallen and dying gladiators were dumped. The theme, conveyed skilfully, attracted the crowds that were constantly queuing in Sala Parés to admire it.
The first of the three men shows Rusiñol, Casas and Clarasó, was held in 1890. It displayed paintings by the first two artists and sculptures by the latter. Rusiñol and Casas had been painting in Paris and the presentation of their work at the Gallery would become a milestone in the evolution of modern Catalan painting. Until Rusiñol died in 1931 the three artists exhibited together repeatedly.
Between 1889 and 1895 Ramon Casas and Santiago Rusiñol frequently stayed in Paris, where they created some of the best paintings of their careers. Many of which would be exhibited at Sala Parés in the coming years.
The third exhibition of the “Círcol de Sant Lluc” art society at Sala Parés illustrated this important period of the history of Catalan painting.
For the first time the Fine Art Exhibition included paintings by the young artists Ricard Canals, Joaquim Mir and Isidre Nonell, alongside masters of the old school.
Sala Parés hosted Ramon Casas’ first solo exhibition. The show was organised by the art magazine Pèl & Ploma and brought together some of his best paintings of the early period. Today they are part of the National Art Museum of Catalonia collection (MNAC).
Hermen Anglada Camarasa opened an important exhibition with paintings portraying scenes from la vie bohème and music halls in Paris. This contributed to the growing prestige of the artist.
The art magazine Pèl & Ploma organised the third solo exhibition by Ramon Casas. It also included a display of some pastel drawings by Picasso. Picasso’s work was neither commercially successful nor received favourable reviews. It was the first time that the young Picasso exhibited in a commercial art gallery in Barcelona, the city where he developed as an artist.
Francesc Gimeno paintings shown at the Fine Arts Exhibition caused great controversy due to his bold and direct style.
Isidre Nonell’s first solo exhibition at Sala Parés received negative reviews from the audience and art critics. His portrayal of gypsies created scandal and became a commercial failure. However, today they are his most sought-after works.
Santiago Rusiñol presented a successful individual show with paintings produced in Mallorca, which would become famous works of Catalan art.
In the coming years the Gallery exhibited many artists that would become important figures of the Catalan and Spanish history of painting. Their names would be associated with Sala Parés from then on, e.g. Darío de Regoyos, Eliseu Meifrèn, Joaquim Torres García, Pere Torné Esquius, Joaquin Sorolla, Joaquim Sunyer, and Ignacio de Zuloaga.
The beginning of a decline of Sala Parés: innovative young artists were starting to feel uncomfortable because of the growing anachronistic atmosphere and were attracted to the new galleries opening in town. However, the Gallery was still enjoying happy moments thanks to the famous artists established during earlier times.
Joaquim Mir opened one of his most important solo exhibitions, with paintings created in the Catalan village of L’Aleixar.
An important exhibition commemorated 25 years of Rusiñol, Casas and Clarasó exhibiting jointly.
The closure of Sala Parés was widely reported in the press. A few months later it was made know that the Gallery would reopen briefly under the new ownership of the brothers Joan Anton and Raimon Maragall.
The Gallery went through an important refurbishment process, but the two modern exhibition halls remained: the small hall at the back and the larger gallery which could be seen from the street.
The Gallery kept its old name. However, a new 20th century way of collaborating with artists was introduced, based on exclusivity of representation and international promotions. A group of innovative painters —whose work evolved from Realism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism— was attracted to the Gallery, shaping its profile for years to come: Joan Serra, Alfred Sisquella, Manuel Humbert, Rafael Llimona, Ramon de Capmany and others. The Gallery program embraced another group of artist who had already attained international appreciation, such as Manolo Hugué, Emili Grau Sala, Josep Mompou, Pere Pruna, Josep de Togores and Miquel Villà. Later on Josep Amat would join this group.
Rafael Llimona and Joan Serra presented their inaugural shows. Both artists would remain linked to the Gallery until the end of their lives.
Sala Parés’ new program combined modernity and tradition; scheduling regularly exhibitions of its new group of artists as well as of the famous living painters from the earlier period, e.g. Joquim Mir, Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas. They also arranged exhibitions to celebrate other prestigious Catalan artists, e.g. Francesc Gimeno, Ricard Canals, and Llorens Artigas.
The Gallery also offered concerts and lectures. They contributed to the reinvigoration of the cultural atmosphere that Sala Parés had at the beginning of the century.
Josep de Togores’ first exhibition at the Gallery was a huge success. Togores, like Manolo Hugué, was working with D. H. Kahnweiler’s gallery in Paris, where he was living since 1919. The show’s achievements encouraged him to return to Barcelona.
Manuel Humbert exhibited in the Gallery for the first time. He would remain closely connected to it.
Homage to Antoni Gaudí.
The homage to Antoni Gaudí was a commemorative exhibition marking the first year of the architect’s death. It was organised by the Catalan Society of Architects and the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc art society.
The Salons de Tardor (Autumn Salons) helped to attract innovative artists and to rebuild Sala Parés’ prestige. Salvador Dalí took part in the third Saló de Tardor presenting two paintings. He also gave an avant-garde lecture that caused intense controversy and was widely covered by the press.
The homage to Francesc Gimeno exhibition was organised shortly after the artists’ death. His work was starting to be appreciated and sought after.
Manolo Hugué’s first individual exhibition in the Gallery presented 28 sculptures.
Joaquim Mir exhibited paintings produced in Tarragona. It was one of the best exhibitions of his life.
Josep Mompou exhibited for the first time in the Gallery. His painting had raised expectations and the exhibition was welcomed. His independent style, which set him apart from the current movements in Catalonia, was received with great interest.
Miquel Villà’s first solo exhibition in the Gallery displayed 20 paintings created in Paris. The show received flattering reviews but was not commercially successful. His work would be valued in time.
Apel·les Fenosa exhibited his sculptures in Barcelona for the first time. One of the aims of the Gallery was to incorporate into Barcelona’s art scene some Catalan artists who were working in Paris and had gained international recognition.
Rusiñol, Casas and Clarasó last joint exhibition. A few months later, the Gallery organised an exhibition in homage to Santiago Rusiñol commemorating his death.
Another Catalan artist living in Paris at that moment was Josep Llorens Artigas. His first exhibition at the Gallery was a revelation to the audience of Barcelona of his brilliance as a ceramist.
The Gallery organised Emili Grau Sala’s first solo exhibition. In the years to come Sala Parés presented his work periodically.
The homage to Ricard Canals aroused great interest and the opening was a grand event. The Gallery underwent a great transformation to host the exhibition.
The retrospective exhibition of Joaquim Mir was opened by the Catalan President Lluís Companys.
The Gallery organised an important exhibition in homage to Pau Gargallo to mark his death in 1934. It was the most comprehensive exhibit of the work of this famous sculptor to date. It showed works from his early classic phase up to his avant-garde period.
Alfred Sisquella and Rafael Durancamps presented their first solo exhibitions at the Gallery with works produced in Paris.
The exhibition II Saló Mirador, devoted to 14th and 15th century Gothic Art, was organised by art historian Josep Gudiol. It was a successful and widely attended event which contributed to the valuing of Medieval and Early Renaissance Catalan art.
Pere Pruna, one of the Gallery artists’, was awarded the Premi Nonell for his painting El vi de Kios.
When the Civil War started in July, the Gallery greatly reduced its public activity in Barcelona, only holding occasional displays. The company’s main operation moved to London, and later on to Buenos Aires. Several exhibitions with works by the Gallery’s group of artists were presented in London, as well as one solo show by Pere Pruna and another by Emili Grau Sala.
After the Civil War the Gallery resumed its activity with a collective exhibition of the same group of artists who closed the season in 1936. The Gallery’s former artistic aim and relationship with its group of artists was maintained. Many new painters, like Josep Amat, would enlarge Sala Parés’ offer in the years to come.
Sala Parés took up a new venture by embarking on buying and selling old masters’ pieces dating from Medieval times up to the 19th century. This was in addition to programming exhibits of its group of painters and of famous 20th century artists who had displayed in the gallery in the past.
A very special case was the recovery of two missing panels of the Altarpiece of the Epiphany by the 15th century painter Jaume Huguet. After its disappearance in 1936, the panels had been found in Paris. The Gallery took the right steps in bringing them back. Today the complete masterpiece can be admired in Barcelona’s Palatine Chapel of Santa Àgata at Plaça del Rei.
Mallol Suazo’s first solo exhibition was presented. The artist would remain linked to the Gallery and his paintings would be promoted internationally.
The display of Ramon Casas’ paintings owned by Cercle del Liceu members’ club enabled many people in Barcelona to admire this great collection. Some of the works shown had been exhibited and sold at Sala Parés in previous years, e.g. Ball de tarda (Evening Ball).
El Greco’s Crist amb la creu was sold to the art collector Santiago Espona. Today it is part of the National Art Museum of Catalonia collection (MNAC).
In the years to come some 17th and 18th century Spanish masterpieces were bought and sold by Sala Parés. The Gallery always gave Spanish museums the first opportunity to acquire the works.
The Gallery hosted the exhibition “Els 4 Gats” which focused on the principal Catalan Modernist painters from the late 19th and the early 20th century. It marked the starting point in the widening of the appreciation of the style. More than 100,000 visitors attended the exhibit and queues were often formed in the street.
Since then the Gallery scheduled regular shows of the groups of artists who had exhibited in the early years. Many of the pieces by these artists would become part of renowned Spanish collections.
Sala Parés began its program of promoting its group of artists internationally. The exhibition “Onze peintres catalans d’aujourd’hui” was organised in collaboration with the Gallerie Paul Ambroise in Paris. The catalogue had a preface by Jean Cocteau and the display was visited by prominent people.
In the 1950s the new avant-gard movement of Informalism became influential in Barcelona. In response to this trend the Gallery invited a new generation of artists of the current innovative realism. It was the natural progression from the artistic position the Gallery held in 1925. The close collaboration between the Gallery and its artists was important for their national and international status in the decades to come.
Gabino Rey exhibited for the first time in the Gallery.
Josep Roca Sastre and Jordi Alumà presented their first individual exhibitions in the Gallery.
The Gallery opend the Galería del Cisne in Madrid. The new venue was devoted to promoting and selling artists linked to Sala Parés. The opening exhibition consisted of works by Darío de Regoyos, a painter who had exhibited at Sala Parés during its early period.
The Gallery continued attracting new artists working in innovative realism, some of whom presented their first solo shows during this decade: Rafael Duran (1960), Simó Busom and Olga Sacharoff (1964), Julián Grau Santos and Josep Serra Llimona (1968) and Ignasi Mundó (1966).
Sala Parés bought the Plandiura Collection, considered to be among the most important nationally. It contained Romanesque frescos and panels, Gothic sculptures, some of Picasso’s paintings and works by other celebrated Catalan painters. It also had an impressive library. Some of Plandiura’s most celebrated pieces became part of museum collections in Barcelona, Madrid and Bilbao.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the Gallery attracted more artists to enrich its repertoire. The following painters were invited to present their inaugural exhibitions: Josep Puigdengolas (1970), Francesc Todó (1972), Ramon Pichot (1979) and Pere Gastó (1981). In this period Sala Parés expanded into Sala Vayreda, a second exhibition venture in Barcelona’s L’Eixample district. This location showed the work of the new generation of artists as well as 19th and 20th century masters.
The Gallery also organised retrospective exhibitions of important Spanish and Catalan artists, whose works had been displayed at Sala Parés in the past, such as Antoni Gaudí, Ramon Rogent, Ignacio Zuloaga, Ramon Casas, Joaquim Mir, Santiago Rusiñol and Joan Rebull.
In the 1980s the new additions to the Gallery’s group were Josep and Ramon Moscardó (1979), Raimon Sunyer (1981), Jordi Sardà (1983) and Àngel Badia Camps (1987). All of them became regular exhibitors.
In the years to come Sala Parés undertook a program of internationalisation through collaboration with galleries from abroad as well as participating in art fairs in Madrid, Bilbao, Paris, London, New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
Sala Parés’ historical space at 5 Carrer de Petritxol was completely renovated by the architects Miquel Espinet and Antoni Ubach. The renovation allowed the Gallery to incorporate a new exhibition area on the first floor. It also provided a new look to the main hall with the large skylight at its core.
The recurring theme of the refurbishment was the balance between the original and postmodern structural features. This reflected Sala Parés’ aim of welcoming the young generation of artists and new art trends whilst maintaining the Gallery’s rich past.
Sala Parés presented the new space with the show “Figuracions”. The Catalan President opened the exhibition on October 25, 1988. This event was a significant landmark in Barcelona’s cultural life and was widely reported in the press.
The show, displaying work by seventy different artists, reflected the Gallery’s new aim. Among the participating painters were some members of the contemporary avant-garde who were exhibiting at Sala Parés for the first time.
New artists were presented in Sala Parés from 1989 onwards. Their first exhibits marked the nature of the Gallery’s current period: Glòria Muñoz and Jaume Roure (1988), Francesc Artigau (1989), Miquel Vilà and Anna Miquel (1990), Toni Catany (1991), Montserrat Gudiol (1992), Carmen Galofré (1994) and José Maria Guerrero (1999) among others.
The Gallery’s management was handed over to the new generation led by Marta and Joan Anton Maragall Garriga, who maintained the connection with Raimond Maragall Marfà. In 1993 the founder of the 20th century Sala Parés Joan Anton Maragall senior dies. He was a widely respected and consulted professional within the nation’s art sector.
The opening of Galeria Trama was a new venture of Sala Parés devoted to contemporary art. Trama developed its own group of artists: Robert LLimós, Matias Quetglas, Javier Mariscal, Donald Sultan, Santi Moix, Rafael Joan, Perico Pastor, Toni Catany, Miguel Rasero, Anna Miquel, Arranz-Bravo, Jordi Fulla, Regina Giménez, Lluís Ventós, Agustí Puig, Gonzalo Sicre, Marcos Palazzi, Aziz & Cucher, Julio Vaquero, Angel Marcos or PSJM. These artists shaped Trama’s unique profile.
In the years to come Galeria Trama took part in some of the most prestigious international art fairs, e.g. Arco (Madrid), Zsona Maco (Mexico D.F.), Art Cologne (Cologne), Art Miami, ArtRio (Rio de Janeiro) and Artinternational (Istanbul).
Sala Parés undertook a new venture by opening the Maragall Edicions, a gallery focusing on original prints. It was located in Barcelona’s L’Eixample district, in the same site as the former Sala Vayreda. Maragall Edicions operated as a print publisher, exhibitor and original print seller for many artists for 15 years. Today these areas are dealt with from Sala Parés’ premises at Carrer Petritxol.
The Gallery began commissioning regular exhibitions led by art curators. They have contributed new insights and, at the same time, emphasised the cultural commitment of its activity. In 2000 the exhibit organised was “Pintura Metarrealista” arranged by art critic Juan Bufill. Later on it traveled to the Spanish Institute in New York.
Alongside its exhibitions Sala Parés also offers cultural activities in the fields of music, critical thinking and gastronomy.
At the turn of the millennium the Gallery has been expanding its repertoire by recruiting promising young artists as well as nationally established ones. They all are working within the boundaries of modern realism, figurative and representational art. The following artists were invited to present their inaugural exhibitions: Neus Martín Royo (2000), Albert Vidal (2001), Gonzalo Goytisolo (2002), Magí Puig (2003), Xavier Rodés (2004), Marcos Cárdenas (2006) Carlos Díaz (2008), Antoni Mas, (2010), Carlos Morago and Alejandro Quincoces (2011), Juan Luque (2014) and more.
Sala Parés started a busy program of participating in international art fairs in Europe and Asia. It also arranged exhibitions in collaboration with foreign galleries, mainly in London, Paris and Geneva.
Once a year the Gallery organises a display, mainly 19th and 20th century paintings, featuring works created by prestigious artists from its earlier periods.
Sala Parés and Galeria Trama began an annual exhibition called Art<35. The show is the outcome of a contest targeting young painters and photographers who are less than 35 years old. It is the result of a close partnership with Facultat de Belles Arts de Barcelona and other university art departments across Spain, sponsored by Fundació Banc Sabadell. The Jury of the contest is made up of senior representatives from the academic, commercial and institutional sectors within the art field. Several companies participate in an acquisition programme each year. These exhibitions travel to institutional venues in other Spanish cities.
Galeria Trama moved to the first floor in Sala Parés’ building. Thanks to its relocation today it is one of the largest and naturally lighted exhibition facilities devoted to contemporary art in the centre of Barcelona.
Sala Parés has been keeping up with the times throughout its long history. The most recent step in adapting to today’s demands is the replacement of its traditional red velvet panels by new white walls, which are more suitable for the display of contemporary art.
Galleria Trama and Sala Parés merged under the single name of Sala Parés by the end of 2017, integrating their artists and programmes.
From then on, Sala Parés’ exhibition calendar is set in the three halls that were formerly occupied by the two galleries. Sala Parés embraces artists working in figurative painting, Realism and abstraction as well as those using other art media such as sculpture, photography or video.
Sala Parés is among the oldest art galleries in the world, with a long and prestigious history.
Since 1877 its activity has been based on a strict selection of the artists presented. Long-term relationships as well as the continual addition of new artists showcasing the evolution of the Arts have been a constant feature for more than 140 years.