The poster

Malika Favre, or the dream of a local festival

The City Council is handing out 15,000 La Mercè 2021 posters for free, to celebrate the festival’s 150th anniversary. Check out the distribution points. You can also download the poster from the municipal website Barcelona Posters.


Is she a patron saint, or perhaps a powerful queen, the personification of the full beauty of Barcelona? The latter is the vision chosen by Parisian illustrator and graphic artist Malika Favre for her version of Mercè. Favre has been living in the Catalan capital for several years, and has just turned one of her dreams into reality. During a brief stay in Barcelona shortly before coming to live here, she came across a poster created by illustrator Maria Corte, advertising the festivities for La Mercè for that year. She recognised the image she was seeing, but without yet understanding the huge significance the celebrations had in the life of the city. When she did become aware of this, she thought, “What a fantastic project for an illustrator!” Just for a moment, she let herself be carried away by fantasy, dreaming that one day she herself might be the one commissioned to create the image of the festival. Anyone who believes that dreams are just dreams will find food for thought in Malika’s experience.

The creator of the poster for La Mercè 2021 was born in Paris, where she grew up. Her mother, an artist by vocation, passed on a passion for the fine arts together with a knowledge of how to use colour, an understanding that Malika has clearly applied in her own work. The French capital, creative and richly diverse, was an excellent school for an artist who originally hadn’t even considered dedicating her life to art. Her studies led her to choose maths and physics, the surest path towards a stable life - until the moment she realised she could never be happy dedicating herself to the world of science, and so began to study graphic design.

In her early twenties, she decided to explore London life for a year. Seduced by the mix of cultures, energy and visual diversity of the city she ended up staying for sixteen years, spending the first six working in a design studio and the rest as an illustrator. This was the true vocation of an artist who says that her greatest pleasure lies in telling a story. And that is exactly what she does in each of the illustrations that she creates for a wide variety of media, ranging from The New Yorker to the Spanish edition of VogueThe Parisianer and the Montreux Jazz Festival, to New York’s Lincoln Center or the thousand and one firms that seek her services.

You’ll know her work thanks to a minimalism that’s committed to expressing as much as possible with as few elements as possible, for the bright, intense colours she uses and for her penchant for playing with the visible and the invisible, with negative spaces and optical effects that place her work halfway between pop art and op art. A good example is this year’s image of Mercè. On closer examination, surprising details are revealed, all linked with a Mercè which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, or with the geography of the city. Take a good look at her crown, the images emerging from her chest or the earrings she’s wearing, and you’ll find a thousand and one allusions to Barcelona life. And they change - as does the colour of the image - when advertising traditional activities, street theatres, or announcing an anti-sexism event. Don’t expect the artist herself to explain the symbolism and images hidden within her Mercè, because for Malika, part of the mystery is that everyone can take their own personal meaning based on what the images suggest to them.

She would never have created these images had she not come to live in the city in search of warmer climes, in both the meteorological and the human sense, than those to be found in the UK capital. Malika fell in love with Barcelona, where she already had friends, and especially with Gràcia, the favourite neighbourhood of an artist who values the architecture and the beauty of the city as well as the warmth of its people. For her, Barcelona is a welcoming city, and even more importantly a city full of talent that’s always ready to boost its reserves of creativity by recruiting talented people like herself from other cities. The city has given her the warmest of welcomes imaginable by entrusting her with this project: an illustrator’s dream come true. 

Mercè 2021