Winter has come, at least where I am right now. And with temperatures dropping and a second lockdown far from easing down any time soon, all I dream of is a sunny beach and a frozen beer. Since I can only have the latter as of now, why not dwelling on sweet memories about the former? So here I am, thinking of Barcelona and its beautiful, warm and welcoming people.
Barcelona, the capital of the Spanish region of Catalunya, is a real creative hub in the Iberian Peninsula. Less bourgeois than Madrid, Barcelona is a colorful city with a laid-back atmosphere. Yet it has a rich cultural heritage and today it is a major cultural center not only for Spain but for Europe as a whole. And quite obviously this reflects on its contemporary art scene. Barcelona is a fascinating city where modern and contemporary art goes hand in hand. Here you can find works by some of the best and most renowned artists and architects of the XX century. Think Antoni Gaudì, perhaps the most famous architect of Barcelona, with his Parc Guell, the Sagrada Familia, and Casa Batlò, as well as real Spanish masters such as Dalì, Mirò, and Picasso. But Barcelona is also open to cool emerging artists. Here they can find the perfect environment to develop their art, with a strong gallery network and plenty of inspiration from contemporary art centers and museums.
So, while I keep dreaming of a glass of Sangria on a sunny day in Barcelona, here are the best places to discover contemporary art in the Catalan capital.
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona – Museum of Contemporary art Barcellona
The first time I visited MACBA, I was on a school trip. Some of my friends were chilling outside, watching some skaters doing their tricks in the square outside of the museum, while a couple of other friends and I, together with one of our teachers, decided to visit the museum. I remember it was the first time I successfully explained to someone else why I liked contemporary art and actually got them engaged in the visit with me.
It was fairly easy though, as MACBA is one of the most exciting places I have ever visited. First of all, it looks amazing, with giant windows and plenty of natural light filling up its spaces. It overlooks Plaça dels Àngels, right in the oldest part of the city – the Ciutat Vella – but it stands out with its modernist architecture and white profile. The museum has a permanent collection, which mostly focuses on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art, but it also holds interesting works by International artists.
At the same time, it also hosts temporary exhibitions, presenting both Spanish and International artists through solo and group shows. Since 2007 the museum also features the Center for Studies and Documentation, which further widens the activities and research of MACBA.
Needless to say, it has a lovely shop and a lot of great collateral activities for you to enjoy during your visit. The ticket, very reasonably priced (just 10€ if you book online), gives you the chance to visit as many times as you want for 30 days after the first activation.
CCCB – Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona
CCCB is another must-see contemporary art space in Barcelona, equally for its activities and its stunning building. Located in the Raval district and just a few steps from MACBA, it occupies part of the old Casa de Caritat, a former almshouse built in 1802. The building was completely renovated with the addition of a new wing and a spectacular facade entirely made of glass. The center has a rich program of activities, with not only exhibitions but also debates, festivals and concerts, film cycles, courses, and lectures. All of its activities focus primarily on the themes of the city and urban culture, which are analyzed through all sorts of media and outlets. Here you can also find a riveting multimedia archive open to the public, as well as the XcèntricArchive, a digital archive of experimental and documentary films, comprising over 700 titles.
Moving to the Montjuïc area, here you can visit the CaixaForum Barcelona, one of the 8 art centers sponsored by La Caixa bank around Spain. Opened in 2002, it is hosted in a former textile factory that was originally built in 1911. The original building was completely renovated and a new entrance was designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, in a process that included firing 100,000 bricks to match the original ones.
The museum hosts international exhibitions as well as Spanish artists, both modern and contemporary. It also has a permanent installation by Joseph Beuys, originally part of the Caixa Bank collection, and a beautiful mural by Sol LeWitt in the basement lobby.
Strange enough, their website is only in Spanish and Catalan but you can still find opening hours and ticket info.
Fundació Joan Miró
Once you are in Montjuïc, you cannot miss the Fundació Joan Miró. Dedicated to the famous Spanish painter, the museum was founded in 1968 by Miró himself together with his friend Joan Prats. The idea was to create a new building that would encourage younger artists to experiment with contemporary art while also exhibiting Miró’s work. The museum opened in 1975 and soon became one of the cultural landmarks of Barcelona.
Together with a rich collection of works by its founder, donated by the artist himself, the museum also holds a good body of works by international artists, such as Calder, Greenaway, Chillida, Magritte, Rothko, Tàpies, and Saura. At the same time, in line with Miró’s original intention, the Foundation has developed a space to exhibit, encourage, study, and produce contemporary art, working primarily with emerging and younger artists. This space, called Espai 13, is hosted inside the museum and displays interesting temporary exhibitions.
Fundació Joan Miró is a historic landmark with an eye open to the present and the future, the kind of space every city should have.
Last but not least, you know I like to feature smaller spaces with great collections, and Fundació Suñol is exactly that. The space hosts and displays the Suñol Soler Collection, the private contemporary art collection of Josep Suñol. Comprising more than 1.200 works of art by 250 artists, such as Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Antoni Tàpies, Man Ray and Alighiero Boetti, the collection is one of the most important and extensive private collections in Spain, with works spanning from 1915 to 2006. They host interesting exhibitions and also a dedicated library, plus a good program of collateral activities and guided tours.
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