Underground and Counterculture in 1970s Catalonia

El underground y la contracultura en la Cataluña de los 70
20.10.2022 - 12.02.2023

Tuesday - Sunday, 10 am - 20 pm

Floor 5

"Underground and Counterculture in 1970s Catalonia, an exhibition about how freedom transformed our beliefs and way of life, opens in Madrid. These were times in which creativity flowed without the restrictions of imposed canons times that were lived on the margins of privilege, political parties and institutions. Factors such as inconsistencies in Franco’s regime as it met its decline, Catalonia’s geographical distance from the nerve centre of power, as well as that region’s rich civil fabric of industries, offices and culture, all combined, enabling the fissures and cracks to open that numbers of rebellious youth slipped through.

In the age of rock and roll, psychedelia, counterculture, and May '68, the vital need to escape the clutches of authoritarianism in all its forms was palpable, and soon fines, kidnappings, beatings, trials and arrests were the norm. However, behind closed doors, imagination and enthusiasm was abundant, eventually overflowing onto the streets, liberating minds, and giving way to spaces where like-minded people could meet, smoke, dance, and listen to live music. Out went ye-yes pop and in came progressive music and open-air concerts, while new theatre companies emerged, shaking up the stage. Art and life became inseparable, and many opted for communal families over authoritarian structures.

Barcelona’s Las Ramblas transformed into a space for public forum. The rupture of life heightened the need for poetic expression. Underground comics, fanzines and counterculture magazines began to emerge, with contributions from thousands of young people. Sexual freedom, feminism and gay rights were vindicated, and electroshock therapy was abolished. The climate struggle, alternative medicine, renewable energies, organic agriculture, and conscientious objection were at the forefront of society. As was the fight for an amnesty of the incarcerated general population and the decriminalisation of drugs. 

The spring ended with the fragmentation of the counterculture world. Punk emerged, alongside the mandarinism of political parties, the culture of state aid, and the advent of the “I” and postmodernist era. However, these new ways of life sowed the seeds of the civil liberties we still enjoy to this day".  Pepe Ribas


Underground and Counterculture in 1970s Catalonia has been curated by Pepe Ribas and Canti Casanovas, a Palau Robert, Barcelona, and CentroCentro, Madrid co-production.

  • In co-production with