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In 1959, art critic Alexandre Cirici Pellicer formed a group of contemporary artists showing work in a series of 23 exhibitions, with the hopes of beginning a collection for a new contemporary art museum in Barcelona. It was not until 1986 that the Barcelona City Council recommended the American architect Richard Meier & Partners (1987–1995) to design the museum.

Art critics Francesc Miralles and Rosa Queralt, were hired to write the museum’s mission statement. In 1987, the MACBA Foundation was created. In the following year the MACBA Foundation, in conjunction with the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Barcelona City Council, founded the MACBA Consortium in order further the process of the museum. The Consortium commissioned Meier later that year to build the museum.

The building’s architectural style has strong references to Modernism. The large (120 by 35 meters) white building has much of its southern elevation glazed, providing the visitor with views across the plaza, and allowing for an abundance of natural light to illuminate the interior galleries.

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