Gustavo 85 years

Tribute by Kairoi Art - Digital Museum

One of the most important creators in the world of visual arts, not born in Mallorca but who has spent much of his career and lived for many years on the island, is Gustavo Peñalver, known artistically as Gustavo.


The biography of this small great man could well be turned into a script for an interesting movie, because Gustavo once acted as a chauffeur for none other than Jimmy Hendrix, during the days when he was giving concerts in Palma. He has shared a table with Woody Allen, Danny de Vito, Angela Molina, among others. Based in Son Turó – Capdepera for years, it is there in his studio where he develops his work and where his inspiration emerges. The first thing he tells me upon arriving at his studio is that he now enjoys painting and has found a new path to express himself with his language. He shows me those pieces he refers to, and indeed, it’s surprising that in his own style he has discovered a profile of subtlety in each of his geometric elements and has removed volume and therefore weight from his works. As if he had liberated them from part of the stage and choreography.

Gustavo Peñalver Vico was born in Cartagena on April 11, 1939, just ten years after the end of the Spanish Civil War.
As a child, watching his mother Leonor with brushes and canvases, he became interested in painting. For family reasons, she had to move to Mallorca and Gustavo stayed in Cartagena with his grandfather. The only memory he has of his father is a faint figure bidding him farewell while he stood at the harbour, holding his grandmother’s hand. In 1946, he moved to the Son Espanyolet neighbourhood in Palma to reunite with his mother, missing the affection of his grandparents. 

He recalls that at the age of eight or nine, he already had the habit of going out with a notebook and a folding chair to walk to a place he fancied. He would set up the chair and capture everyday scenes, mostly from downtown Palma. Until the age of sixteen, he lived with his mother. During this time, he began to collaborate for the newspaper Baleares with the section “Street draftsman”, directed by Joan Bonet, a writer, columnist, painter, and father of the singer Maria del Mar Bonet.

At seventeen, he moved to Barcelona and in the following five years, he went back and forth to Paris, where he would settle from twenty-two to twenty-three years old. Then he went to Belgium and continued to collaborate with the newspaper, sending his drawings and cartoons, while Joan Bonet added literature.

He met artists like Xam and Tarrasó who regularly met at the Bar Riskal. He befriended the cartoonist Pep Bover.

In his early post-impressionist works, a slight influence of the movement called Fauvism was perceived, but he never abused it. His ironies, his optimism about flat colors already emitted a strong personality of that young painter. He was a lover of Matisse’s painting, whom he never imitated. He always prevented influences from exceeding limits.
One of his best-known adventures was the one he experienced together with the late journalist and great friend, Miquel Vidal; A round trip through Mallorca on a camel. Sixty days and four hundred kilometres of a feat that would start at the Plaza de Cort in Palma in January 1964.


His work led him to relate to prominent figures of the time, such as the comedian Miguel Gila, the actor Toni Leblanc, the singer Adriano Celentano, the graphic humorist Chumy Chúmez, and to share editorial spaces with Pere Serra, Pepe Tous, Pau Llull, Antonio Pizá, Joan Bonet, and Miquel Vidal, among others.


He paid tribute to Federico Fellini and Woody Allen with works related to the cinema of these directors. Woody Allen asked him: Where is Capdepera?, to which Gustavo ironically replied; – it’s the place where the painter Gustavo goes to have coffee.


In Capdepera, there is the Espai Gustavo, a gallery where unique pieces and reproductions are exhibited, as well as t-shirts, cups, postcards, and other products that show the literature and organic gestuality of the creator. In Cala Rajada, mainly near the port, there are works by the artist, strategically placed in different spots. His work has been compared to Dadaism, Surrealism, Pop Art, sometimes someone has dared to dimension a hidden Expressionism, or an unconscious Naïf. The truth is that Milwaukee, Berlin, Wisconsin, and countless cities around the world have had exhibitions of this artist, painter and sculptor, and his works are part of private collections and museums.


I allow myself to finish with a brief excerpt from a text I once dedicated to his work: To analyze Gustavo’s work, it is essential to infiltrate the alchemy of his caustic titles, into the pores he leaves half-open in his extensions, into his biting criticisms of ruinous and indecorous policies, his enigmatic ornaments placed with reverse precision, his sarcasm, his rhetorical figures. Each of them offers the possibility of plunging into his swampy waters. The voluptuousness glimpsed by his endogenous codes are stabs at the spirit of the pusillanimous, assaults on the Illuminati and the rogues. Now, on his 85th anniversary, Kairoi Art – Digital Museum pays tribute to this master of the plastic arts.


Xisco Barceló – Journalist

Previous exhibitions.