Like the first, the second of Barcelona's major trade exhibitions served as a pretext to plan the city of the future. While in 1888 the main scenario had been the Parc de la Ciutadella, the site for the 1929 Exhibition was the Mountain of Montjuïc, which was redeveloped on the basis of the original plans for the Electrical Industries Exhibition (planned for 1917) by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Other major projects were undertaken, however, such as the renovation of Ciutat Vella, the redevelopment of the foot of Tibidabo, the first broadcasts by Ràdio Barcelona and the construction of Plaça de Catalunya and the first metropolitan underground railway lines. With these projects and transformations, Barcelona had laid the foundations for the great city it aspired to become.

Planning of the Eixample continued after 1888 and neighbouring towns gradually became annexed as new suburbs: 1897 saw the absorption of Gràcia, Sants, Sant Martí, Sant Andreu, Sant Gervasi and Les Corts, followed by Horta in 1904 and Sarrià in 1921. The new districts that were added to Barcelona also gradually acquired their own personalities, based on identification with their industries (La Barceloneta with La Maquinista, Les Corts with Can Batlló, Sants-Hostafrancs with L'Espanya Industrial and Sant Andreu with Fabra i Coats) or traditional métiers (the washerwomen of Horta, the coopers of Poblenou and the tile makers of Hostafrancs).

Gradually they acquired a new character, whereby the Eixample, Sarrià and Sant Gervasi became residential areas for the bourgeoisie, while districts such as Sants, Hostafrancs and Sant Martí became more closely associated with the workers' movement. The new districts and the first waves of immigration, attracted by industrialisation, account for the fact that during the first third of the 20th century the city's population doubled, reaching the figure of one million inhabitants in 1930.

With the outbreak of World War I, thanks to Spain's policy of non-intervention a new period of prosperity opened out for Catalonia, based on exports, similar to the one that took place at the turn of the century with the Febre d'Or. Fortunes were amassed in a very short time and the lure of easy money attracted all kinds of people to the city. The customary pace of Barcelona city life was altered, as we learn from the history of Barcelona coordinated by Jaume Sobrequés: "This was an era of profligacy. New theatres and cabarets were opened, but the latter were now called supertangos, and popular ballrooms dancings... the first pianolas and jazz hit Barcelona... The reign began of the meublé, of illuminated signs, of automatic coffee machines and of the American Bar, opposite Canaletes...".

  Exposició d'Indústries Elèctriques (primer croquis) (Electrical Industries Exhibition [initial sketch])
Josep Puig i Cadafalch, 1915

It is also during this period that Barcelona's services improved, since social and urban changes had created new demands. Thus improvements were introduced into the health service, energy supply, the fire brigade and public transport. The development of public transport was linked to the construction of the Eixample and the need to join the main points of the city (the first stretch of metro, between the Liceu and Lesseps, came into operation in 1925). The first permanent hospitals were founded at the beginning of the century: the Quinta de Salut l'Aliança, the Hospital Clínic and the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, the latter designed by Domènech i Montaner.

The first third of the 20th century witnessed intense artistic activity, which emulated the different fin-de-siècle European movements. Outstanding here are the modernista buildings by Antoni Gaudí (the Sagrada Família, Park Güell, La Pedrera and Casa Batlló), Lluís Domènech i Montaner (Casa Lleó i Morera, Palau de la Música Catalana, the Hospital de Sant Pau) and Josep Puig i Cadafalch (Casa de les Punxes and Casa Amatller), and the works by painters such as Ramon Casas, Santiago Rusiñol and Isidre Nonell, sculptors like Josep Llimona, Frederic Marès and Josep Clarà, and a host of goldsmiths, blacksmiths, glassmakers, joiners and other craftsmen. The period that ended with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 witnessed the end of the modernista movement, to be replaced by Noucentisme, which coexisted with all the avant-garde movements that became consolidated in the twenties.

Noucentisme came to prevail as an orderly, classical, civilised, official movement under the aegis of the Mancomunitat, presided over by Enric Prat de la Riba, and the intellectual guidance of Eugeni d'Ors. Writers such as Carles Riba, Josep Carner, J.V. Foix, Guerau de Liost, Josep Maria de Sagarra and Marià Manent came to the literary forefront. Architecture relived a period of Neoclassicism, observable in the Catalan schools during that period and in the planning of gardens and urban space. The architects of the GATCPAC (Grup d'Artistes i Tècnics Catalans per al Progrés de l'Arquitectura Contemporània), among them Josep Lluís Sert and Josep Torres i Clavé, established and maintained contact with Le Corbusier. The organising spirit of the times went beyond individual works to embrace urban planning.

The placidity of these movements contrasted with those of the avant-garde, some of which referred to themselves as snobs, like the members of the Associació d'Amics de l'Art Nou (ADLAN), who in the thirties presented works by Joan Miró, Ángel Ferrant, Eudald Serra and Pablo Picasso. D'ací i d'allà was a review alert to all developments in modern art of the 20th century. Shortly before, "rupturist" tendencies emerged in such figures as Joan Salvat-Papasseit, the motive force behind militant publications like Un enemic del poble or Arc Voltaic. The names of the Uruguayan vibracionista Rafael Barradas and the constructivist Joaquín Torres-García occupied their own space in the Barcelona of that moment, where the arts had their protector in the figure of the gallery owner and dealer Josep Dalmau, who subscribed to the Dada journal 391 and in 1912 presented an exhibition of cubist painters, followed by a show featuring the works of Miró, Picabia and Dalí. The latter had already expounded his provocative artistic ideas in the Manifest Groc (1928), in emulation of the Italian futurist manifestos, which preceded his surrealist paranoid-critical texts endorsed by André Breton and Paul Eluard.

The Montjuïc Exhibition, a People's Fair

The International Exhibition was an extension of the Electrical Industries Fair planned for 1917, which was cancelled. The Exhibition therefore embraced commerce, industry, and sporting and artistic activities. The fact that the Exhibition was organised at all was a sign of the Catalan bourgeoisie's will to transform Barcelona into a modern, industrial, cosmopolitan city. The event was a great popular success, a spectacle that drew the attention of the people of Barcelona and invited them to contemplate its attractions: the plazas and gardens, the zoo, the exhibition and recreational buildings on Montjuïc, the fountains of water and light by Carles Buïgas...

Font Plaça Espanya (Plaça d’Espanya Fountain)
Miquel Blai, 1929

The Exhibition marked the beginning of another of the most prosperous eras for Catalan sculptors, thanks to the initiative of the City Hall in the form of its plan to embellish the city. The Ajuntament programmed the placement of sculptures in parks, squares, gardens and all the urban areas that had been renovated on the occasion of the Exhibition, particularly the mountain of Montjuïc and its surrounding area, and Plaça de Catalunya, for which the Ajuntament convened a competition in which the most renowned Catalan sculptors took part.

Construction of the first buildings on Montjuïc, the Alphonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia pavilions, along with other facilities, had begun in preparation for the Electrical Industries Exhibition, which was never held. Many of the works were left only half finished, and some years later they were used as the venues for a furniture and decorative arts show. Thus, in 1923 the fair precinct was used for the first time.

When it was confirmed that the 1929 Exhibition would actually be held, all that needed to be built was the Poble Espanyol and the interplays of water and light designed by engineer Carles Buïgas. All the facilities created for the event were very popular with the people, especially the fountains as well as the fun fair, the Palau Nacional floodlights, the zeppelin, the gardens, the new stadium, the new swimming pool, the Teatre Grec and all the exhibitions.

The most important sculptural contribution to the precinct still remaining is Josep Llimona's Sant Jordi nu (1924-1929). Also still standing is the monumental complex in Plaça d'Espanya (1929), by Josep M. Jujol, contributors to which were the sculptors Miquel Blai, Llucià and Miquel Oslé and Frederic Llobet, whose figures symbolise the rivers Ebre, Tagus and Guadalquivir alongside concepts such as health and abundance. And the German Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe, reassembled in 1986, which was built specially for the Exhibition and housed the classical-style sculpture by Georg Kolbe, chosen by the architect himself.

The Plaça de Catalunya

The Plaça de Catalunya was opened on November 2 1927 by King Alphonso XIII, after much controversy and the rejection of many projects. The one finally chosen was by architect Francesc de Paula Nebot, who designed a small temple with a central colonnade on a level above that of the rest of the plaza, and several decorative details such as a monumental fountain and a set of sculptures in stone and bronze, commissioned from the leading sculptors of the time (Frederic Marès, Eusebi Arnau, Vicenç Navarro, Pau Gargallo, Josep Llimona and Josep Viladomat), as well as Josep Clarà's white marble Deessa. The twenty-eight pieces still stand in the square, and have recently been joined by Josep M. Subirachs's monument A Francesc Macià.

The Monumentalist Boom

Artistically speaking, the Exhibition marked the apotheosis of a monumental style somewhere between the Baroque and Noucentisme, an antiquated form of monumentalism in the opinion of M. Carmen Grandes: "This monumentalism was never reflected in the quality of the materials, in the pathology of buildings or in the arrangement of space. The result was a perishable, 'theatrical' architecture, which is lamentable when one bears in mind that it was decided to preserve most of the official buildings". An artistic monumentalism observable in the symbols most emblematic of the Exhibition: the Alphonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia palaces, the "magic fountains" of Montjuïc and, above all, the Palau Nacional, the work of Pedro Cendoya.

The best artists and sculptors contributed to the decoration of the different buildings, of the gardens, plazas and interiors, an outstanding example of which is Francesc D'Assís Galí's murals for the Palau Nacional dome.

The Search for New Sculptural Materials

When we view this conventional, mediocre, early 20th-century panorama from today's perspective, two sculptors stand out. Pau Gargallo and Juli Gonzàlez made notable contributions to the Exhibition and may be regarded as pioneers in the quest for new sculptural forms and materials. Pau Gargallo was responsible for the monuments to actors Lleó Fontova (in the Parc de la Ciutadella) and to Iscle Soler (in Plaça de Sant Agustí), as well as for the magnificent Aurigues i genets that crown the Montjuïc stadium. Alongside these sculptors, Manolo Huguet, Ángel Ferrant, Leandre Cristòfol and Antoni Clavé were the first to break away from the traditional realism of Catalan sculpture to place themselves alongside leading artists of the calibre of Picasso, Brancusi and Duchamp. However, their new works as yet had no place in public spaces.

The first third of the 20th century witnessed how little by little sculptures were produced of local personalities related to the worlds of culture and politics: the bust of Joan Maragall (1913) by Eusebi Arnau for the Parc de la Ciutadella; Francesc Rius i Taulet (1901) by Manuel Fuxà on Passeig de Lluís Companys; Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer (1924) by Joan Borrell on the column at the intersection between Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig de Sant Joan; and Frederic Mistral (1930) by Eusebi Arnau in Plaça de les Cascades. Added to these were a number of other pieces such as the Mamut (1906) by Miquel Dalmau in the Ciutadella; Antoni Gaudí's Font del Drac (1914) at the Park Güell, which may or may not be regarded as a sculpture; and the monument in homage to Pi i Margall, La República (1934) by Josep Viladomat. The fact that this monument was replaced in 1939 marked the end of the civil War and the beginning of the Franco dictatorship.