It’s round two in Spain, this time focusing on contemporary art in Madrid. In fact, as incredible as it might sound granted it is still Covid season, I went back to Spain just a couple of weeks after my Barcelona trip, for yet another contemporary art fair, ARCOmadrid. This “monthly trip to Spain” thing is becoming a very pleasing habit, I have to be honest!
Now, before my recent trip, I had only been in Madrid once, approximately 2 geological eras ego. I must have been 15 or something, and I didn’t really remember much. So upon my arrival, I found myself in a pretty new environment. As always, I did my research before leaving and my excitement was already pretty high. Not only I was going to Madrid for a major art fair, something I haven’t experienced in more than a year, but the city itself looked incredibly cool, with a myriad of bigger and smaller exhibition spaces and museums.
And to be honest, I did not disappoint me! Madrid is less “beachy” than Barcelona, or a little posher if you wish, with its classic palaces and elegant streets and avenues. Yet, it has a very Spanish vibe, especially if you walk around Malasaña, probably the coolest neighborhood in the center of Madrid.
Culturally speaking, Madrid has a lot to offer. From former industrial buildings turned into contemporary art centers to huge museums and private foundations, from small independent galleries to big international ones, Madrid has something for every taste.
So, just to give you a brief introduction to the city, here are my favorites places for contemporary art in Madrid.
Favorite museum: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Utterly unsurprisingly, the top of my list when it comes to contemporary art in Madrid is the Reina Sofia Museum. Big, bold, and beautiful, it is easily one of the best museums in Spain and in Europe, and not just for contemporary art.
The collection is hands down one of the richest in the continent. I mean, this is where you can see Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, one of the most famous and recognized artworks of the XX century! And the rest of the collection is nothing short of amazing, with works by both Spanish and international modern and contemporary masters (like Richard Serra’s installation, a true masterpiece!). Not to mention the small sculpture garden, with a Calder’s mobile sculpture dancing in the wind. Should I say more?
But it’s with temporary exhibitions that Reina Sofia really captivated my attention. When I visited, the collection was almost just a frame to the two beautiful exhibits, extremely well designed and curated, that the museum was hosting. Working with both local and international artists, emerging and well established, the museum offers a vast range of different inputs.
Bonus point, the museum is just steps away from Prado Museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, if you have the gut and the resistance to squeeze all three in a single day!
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Calle de Santa Isabel, 52 – Madrid
Info, tickets and opening hours: museoreinasofia.es
Favorite art center: La Casa Encendida
Another favorite, equally for its groundbreaking exhibitions and for the overall amazing program, is La Casa Encendida, a social and cultural center in central Madrid.
Located south of the center, just a couple of stops away from the main attractions of Madrid, it was originally opened in 2002.
The huge building, maybe a little intimidating from the outside, is in fact a pure joy to explore. It has multiple exhibition spaces, as well as workshops, a library, and a beautiful terrace on the top floor. Built in 1911, it served as a bank for many years, before being turned into an art center, with its name deriving from the eponymous book of the poet Luis Rosales Camacho, whose heirs gave their permission for its use.
Famous for its exhibitions, the program of the center mainly revolves around four themes, Arts, Solidarity, Environment, and Education. Start your visit from the courtyard right behind the entrance, but make sure the visit all the various floors and galleries. La Casa Encendida is a stimulating place to discover the true essence of Madrid’s contemporary art scene.
La Casa Encendida
Ronda de Valencia, 2, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Free admission for exhibitions, talks, and outings
Info, program and opening hours: lacasaencendida.es
Favorite gallery: Sabrina Amrani
If there is one thing I owe to 2020 and the Covid season, it’s the fact that they made me slow down and discover new things that were hiding in plain sight. One of those is Sabrina Amrani Gallery. Despite it participating in all the most important fairs, I only got to know it during Covid, when I was stuck at home visiting Viewing Rooms around the internet.
So when I knew I was going to Madrid, it was one of the first places to end up on my to-do list. And it did not disappoint! The gallery works with some super interesting artists and their exhibitions, as well as their booths in art fairs, are well-curated and very high level. It has two separate spaces in Madrid. The first one, right in the city center, is a small space that you have to carefully find among the beautiful and colorful streets of Madrid, while hopping around eating tapas and shopping in small boutiques.
The other one, slightly further away from the center, is a much bigger space. It has the industrial feeling we all love and it hosts big installations and works by artists represented by the gallery. Sure, it is a little bit off the beaten track, but it is definitely worth a visit!