Editor’s PicksGalleries

Hauser & Wirth’s Menorca Gallery: A Visual, Culinary, and Intellectual Delight

Hauser & Wirth, already boasting a dozen exhibition spaces worldwide, ranging from London to Los Angeles, made an unexpected move in 2021 by establishing a presence far from the traditional art-market hubs: Isla del Rey, an island located 15 minutes away from Mahón, the capital of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Menorca. This “island within an island” witnessed British occupation intermittently during the 18th century and was returned to Spanish control after the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. Today, it hosts one of the world’s largest galleries. The 16,145-square-foot Spanish outpost resides within an 18th-century naval hospital, transformed into a gallery by Argentinean architect Luis Laplace. Landscape designer Piet Oudolf oversaw the gardens, carefully selecting plant species adapted to the Mediterranean climate. Although the island and its buildings are publicly owned, Hauser & Wirth manages them in collaboration with the nonprofit Fundació Hospital de l’Illa del Rei. The latter has devoted 18 years to restoring and preserving the site with the help of dedicated volunteers from around the world.

Accessing the gallery is an adventure in itself. Visitors must embark on a boat journey from Mahón harbor, followed by a 15-minute boat ride and an ascent along a sculpture trail to reach the gallery. “I love spaces that imply a journey to get there,” remarked artist Christina Quarles, whose paintings are currently on display at the space. “It slows down the process of looking. It gets you prepared.”

Even before encountering Quarles’s exhibition, visitors encounter numerous outdoor artworks. These include Hans Josephsohn’s seemingly abstract brass figure, Stefan Brüggemann’s neon sculpture “OK,” enclosed by three stone walls, a twisty Eduardo Chillida sculpture that beckons visitors to pause and take notice, and a Paul McCarthy work featuring reddish casts of Disney characters clustered together in an outdoor patio that leads to two indoor spaces. The first of these spaces showcases the work of the seven most recent artists participating in Hauser & Wirth Menorca’s residency program. Curated by researcher Oriol Fontdevila, the exhibition explores ecological challenges in the Mediterranean.

Most of the works in the exhibition, titled “After the Mediterranean,” were produced in collaboration with local experts. For example, during her residency, Ghanaian artist Adjoa Armah worked with geologist Lorena Rasero, archaeologist Irene Riudavets, and marine biologist Rita Pabst to create “when time turns, space turns,” a clock made of 12 suspended, sand-filled transparent containers. The Huniti Goldox duo, composed of Areej Huniti and Eliza Goldox, collaborated with the printing studio Xalubinia and the salt mines of Sal de Menorca on “Rising up from Halite,” a semi-cylindrical installation covered with a blue, undulating sheet that projects a subtly changing water- and snow-filled landscape on its interior. The duo explained, “Salt can be seen as a matter of resistance that we use to propose a digital narrative in which the Mediterranean Sea has dried out—and we have been able to incorporate the material in the physical installation.”

Adjacent to this exhibition is “Come in From an Endless Place,” Christina Quarles’s inaugural solo exhibition in Spain, featuring canvas and paper paintings, as well as drawings that the Los Angeles-based artist considers the foundation of her practice. While most artists use drawings to plan their paintings, Quarles employs the medium in a more experimental manner. “The gestural line is something I am very familiar with,” she noted. “Materially, I am still exploring scale, texture, and color directly on the canvas. I don’t do sketches beforehand.”

Quarles’s paintings depict entangled bodies merging, overlapping, and interacting with each other. Are the figures in conflict or engaged in play? Her works deliberately maintain ambiguity on this matter. Quarles’s gender, sexual, and racial identity inform her approach to portraying bodies. As a queer, cis-woman with fair skin but born to a Black father, her art defies labels, archetypes, and categorization. She gives her sketches titles borrowed from overheard phrases, poetry, or pop songs, including Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Frank Ocean’s “Self Control.” For Quarles, such titles create a sense of familiarity and intimacy.

Similar to Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset and Los Angeles galleries, the Menorca space includes an on-site restaurant called Cantina. It is managed by Luis Anglés, owner of la bodega and the vineyard Binifadet, as well as the founder of the Menorca Bonita Project, a company that oversees several iconic eateries in Menorca.

Anglés mentioned, “The best courses are made with one ingredient only, but you have got to choose wisely,” before revealing the surprising fact that mayonnaise, often attributed to the French, is actually derived from “mahónaise” from Mahón. It was invented by the chef of Duke de Richelieu, who had spent time in the Balearic Islands.

Hauser & Wirth Menorca, brimming with art, delectable cuisine, and history, offers a feast for the eyes, the palate, and the intellect. Anglés noted, “Because they understood that gastronomy,” referring to Hauser & Wirth’s founders, “travel and the art combine to perfection. Hauser & Wirth created a place that has a soul and character.”

Comment here