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Announcement
October 31, 2016

Joan Miró:Personnages Oiseaux

Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University
Joan Miró, Personnages Oiseaux (Bird People), 1977–78. Venetian glass and marble, 316 x 625 inches. Courtesy Ulrich Museum of Art.

Joan Miró created only one large glass-and-marble mosaic public artwork in his lifetime. From 1978–2011, Personnages Oiseaux (Bird People) filled the street-facing brick wall of the Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University (Kansas). After a lengthy conservation project the 26-by-52-foot mural, Personnages Oiseaux, returns to welcome tens of thousands of students, staff and visitors to campus.

The toll of time and weather on this monumental artwork necessitated removal of the structure and a 2.2 million USD campaign to fund its restoration. For the past five years, Personnages Oiseaux has undergone extensive structural rebuilding and cleaning by Russell-Marti Conservation Services, Inc. The unique nature of the mural required the conservation team to develop and implement new methods and practices specifically for this work, preserving its integrity and staying true to the artist’s original intent.

“The students of WSU and citizens of Wichita should have a high level of civic pride to see this masterpiece re-entered into the public art milieu of Wichita,” said Bob Workman, director of the Ulrich Museum of Art at WSU.

Martin H. Bush, founding director of the Ulrich Museum, commissioned the pioneering Spanish surrealist artist Joan Miró to create a one-of-a-kind artwork to fill the large expanse on the museum’s south-facing exterior. Miró’s mosaic mural Personnages Oiseaux was dedicated on October 31, 1978 and immediately became a vibrant symbol of the campus and the museum.

Joan Miró (1893–1983) was one of the most renowned 20th century artists. Over a span of seven decades, Miró produced works in painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, collage, ceramic and relief-mural. The hallmarks of his artistic style—child-like abstract shapes, filled with strong primary colors, surrounded by bold black lines and rendered in a playful manner—are all enthusiastically depicted in Personnages Oiseaux.

Miró himself was quite pleased with the final results. “It fills me with pride to see the great reception of the mural by the students and people of Wichita, who are the people of the future,” Miró wrote in a letter to Martin H. Bush in 1981. He did not charge a fee for the design, taking instead a nominal payment for the prototype painting.

The hundreds of thousands of glass and marble tesserae that comprise Personnages Oiseaux were fabricated at Ateliers Loire in Chartres, France, a specialized decorative stained-glass manufacturer, following Miró’s design for the mosaic. It is the only mural that Miró made in this medium.

“Now that its long restoration process is complete, the mosaic sparkles once again,” said Workman. “Joan Miró’s passion for inspiring individuals through public art is what led him to creating this world-class artwork—we are thrilled to carry that passion forward with his mural inspiring generations to come.”

Coinciding with the return of Personnages Oiseaux, the Ulrich Museum is presenting an exhibition of works on paper by Joan Miró that showcases holdings from the museum’s collection as well as artwork loaned by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the University of Michigan Museum of Art. The pieces included in Miró: Shape and Color provide context for the exterior mural’s design and highlight the unique visual vocabulary that characterized Miró’s career. Miro: Shape and Color is on view through December 11, 2016.

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