In 1985 Barcelona hosted the first Mediterranean Biennial, a multidisciplinary event which brought together works by young creators from this geopolitical area. Its aim was to foster new trends and consolidate the local circuits presenting and promoting emerging creative forms.

The Mediterranean Biennial was organised by cultural associations and youth departments within a number of municipal councils. Participating cities included Bologna, Bari, Florence, Milan, Naples, Parma, Prato, Regio Emilia, Turin, Venice, Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Toulouse, Dubrovnik, Lubliana, Zagreb, Athens, Thessalonika, Cyprus and Tipasa.

The Biennial had its permanent headquarters in Barcelona during odd-numbered years (1985, 1987, 1989, 1991), and became a nomadic event during even-numbered years when it was held in Thessalonika (1986), Bologna (1988) and Marseille (1990). Rosa Martínez was the director of the Barcelona Biennial from 1988 until 1991 and gave the event fresh impetus by opening it up to confrontation between northern European artists and circuits. Over 500 creators from the fields of architecture, the plastic arts, film and video, design, photography, cartoons and comics, literature, fashion, music, theatre and dance took part in the 1989 Biennial. In 1991 the Barcelona project was cancelled because the city’s municipal council was focused on organising the 1992 Olympic Games. This marked the end of one of the most singular events of its kind, both in terms of its commitment to multidisciplinarity and to boosting intercity cultural networks.

Architects such as David Chipperfield, writers such as Javier Cercas, photographers such as Erwin Olaff and visual artists such as Juan Urrios, Eulalia Valldosera, Richard Venlet, Cathy de Monchaux and Antoni Abad took part in the Barcelona Biennial.