An industrial doctorate project highlights the cultural impact of the Joan Miró Foundation

The Industrial Doctorate project "Histories of a Museum" between the Joan Miró Foundation and Pompeu Fabra University combines strategic research with audiovisual creation, making visible the institution's return to society, and how art impacts its environment
Ramon Balcells, industrial doctoral student at the Joan Miró Foundation

The Joan Miró Foundation celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2025

During 2025-2026, the Joan Miró Foundation (FJM) in Barcelona will celebrate its 50th anniversary. In this context, an exhibition will be organized that will review the history of the institution, reaffirming the role of the Foundation as a benchmark in contemporary art. With this celebration on the horizon, the institution launched an innovative industrial doctorate project in 2023, in collaboration with Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), which aims to explore the institution's exhibition history and its cultural impact.

It should be noted that one of the strategic axes of this collaboration is to promote the completion of doctoral theses, facilitating the transfer of knowledge, research and the participation of doctoral students in the exhibition plan. In short, an alliance that allows the resources and knowledge of both the academic and the Foundation to be combined, thus enhancing the quality and scope of research.

Beyond commemorating the legacy of the Catalan artist Joan Miró, the FJM also wants to open up new avenues of understanding in contemporary art. Specifically, the project, which is a pioneer in its field, aims to study the FJM's temporary exhibitions from a historical and audiovisual perspective. The study, led by industrial doctoral student Ramon Balcells, seeks to understand how these exhibitions have had an impact both locally and internationally, offering a complete view of the Foundation's trajectory and influence over the years. All this, with the aim of highlighting the legacy of the institution and its lasting influence over time, laying the foundations for new research and projects in the field of contemporary art.

The Foundation was created with the aim of preserving, studying and disseminating the work of Joan Miró, as well as promoting contemporary art. With a clear international vocation and public service, the Foundation seeksto consolidate itself as a global benchmark in the field of contemporary art. In addition, it promotes research and training in this field, offering a space for reflection and dialogue between artists, researchers and the public.

Originally conceived as the Centre for Contemporary Art Studies (CEAC), it opened to the public on 10 June 1975. Founded by Joan Miró himself, the institution has always acted as a great window from Barcelona to the world, exhibiting works of the new avant-garde and contemporary art, many of them never seen before in our country. This collaborative and welcoming attitude has marked the trajectory of the FJM, making it a dynamic space where the art of Joan Miró coexists with the most emerging artistic creation.

Ramon Balcells, PhD student and audiovisual professional

Ramon Balcells Vela is a professional who combines audiovisual production with research and university teaching. Since 2019, he has been an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF).

After being accepted into the Industrial Doctorates program in June 2023, Balcells started working at the Joan Miró Foundation: "honestly, it's been one of the most transformative and exciting experiences I've had so far," says the doctoral student. The Industrial Doctorates have allowed Balcells to integrate his passions for research and audiovisual creation, developing a project that merges these disciplines to explore and reinterpret the exhibition history of an iconic museum such as FJM.

The research project: "Stories of a museum"

The industrial doctorate, linked to the 50th anniversary of the Foundation , has great academic and artistic potential. In addition, it is strategically key for both institutions, according to the members of the project, who highlight their innovation (it is one of the few Industrial Doctorates in cultural production and the first in the CINEMA research group of the UPF Department of Communication).

Balcells' research, in general terms, focuses on the research of the exhibition history of the Fundació Joan Miró, analysing its exhibitions from a transversal and creative perspective. The objective, however, is to understand exhibitions as symptoms of different political, social and cultural contexts, following the line of Exhibition Studies: "an academic discipline that is responsible for studying the history of art and society through exhibitions", Balcells himself clarifies.

The research will help Balcells to conceive an audiovisual device that will tell the history of Miró's exhibitions from different angles, not only historiographical or artistic. The fact is that this initiative represents 50% of the thesis project and will be part of the Foundation's 50th anniversary exhibition. Balcells himself explains what this device will consist of: "it contains interventions by key witnesses, archive images and everyday filming, combining the historical side with forms close to contemplative and experimental cinema".

In particular, the work will not only document the Foundation's trajectory, but will also explore the artistic, cultural and social phenomena that have defined its influence over the years.

The collaboration between the Joan Miró Foundation and Pompeu Fabra University

The directors of the thesis, Manel Jiménez Morales and Ivan Pintor Iranzo, emphasize that this project breaks down borders that have been indivisible until now, since it is a research and artistic creation project that addresses the history of art from various fields. This strengthens the model of transfer between universities and cultural institutions, and consolidates the modalities of art as research and applied theses, which are emerging in the field of Audiovisual Communication in Catalonia. In addition, the project has a great added value: "it hybridizes documentation and historical research with the creation of an audiovisual device, being one of the first doctoral theses applied in Audiovisual Communication at UPF", point out the thesis directors.

One of the challenges of the project from the academic point of view is to build a fluid relationship between the Foundation, UPF and the doctoral student, remaining open to changes in cultural, political and social contexts. As the two directors explain, contemporary art museums are living institutions that are permeable to external dynamics, a fact that must be kept in mind in the development of the project: "we are facing a unique project with very few precedents. We have a great opportunity to be a beacon for future doctoral projects, paving the way in a type of collaborative and applied research".

On behalf of the Foundation, Dolors Rodríguez Roig is responsible for tutoring the strategic research project. As coordinator and curator of exhibitions at the FJM, she highlights the pride that the institution is proud to be the first contemporary art museum in Catalonia to carry out an industrial doctorate project. The project will allow us to obtain a solid understanding of the history of the exhibition and its social and cultural impact: "we want to emphasize that the project will place us as a benchmark from the national point of view of a discipline, Exhibition Studies, with a lot of future projection in the academic field," says Rodríguez Roig.

In the center of the image, Dolors Rodríguez Roig, head of the project at the FJM. On the right, Ramon Balcells, and on the left the thesis co-supervisor Manel Jiménez Morales.

The audiovisual project "Histories of a Museum" will have a direct impact on the activities of the FJM, becoming an iconic testimony of its history for future generations: "that the Miró Foundation can count on innovative research that provides tangible results beyond the exhibitions, such as the future audiovisual result that Ramon will develop, it is a great incentive to continue promoting collaborations between Miró and not only other academic institutions, but with other centers that do not necessarily have to be linked to the academy".

Rodríguez Roig highlights that having different perspectives and transversal knowledge, such as that provided by Ramon Balcells, opens new doors to research and allows a new approach to contemporary art. In addition, tutoring this project is a great personal satisfaction, as it is an opportunity for mutual learning: "accompanying someone like Ramon Balcells in his research and project development process allows me to change views learned and define them again".

In conclusion, the project will not only benefit the artistic and academic context but will also have a positive impact on society at large, providing a deeper understanding of the Foundation's exhibition history and its role as a catalyst for contemporary art. Thus, Balcells' research represents an innovative confluence of academic research and artistic creation, which aims to project the legacy of Joan Miró and his permanent influence on contemporary art.