Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Madrid Museums | "Is That One Famous?"

In Madrid I was captivated by not only by the Palace, the Plazas and the food, but as well by the works of great artists showcased among a number of renowned museums. Art lovers and those otherwise inclined venture south of Puerta del Sol to the area of Paseo del Prado where the 'Golden Triangle' of museums are located. This avenue can be reached easily on foot or via the metro stops Banco de Espana or Atocha. Strolling down the Paseo del Prado, the central walkway dividing street lanes is defined by low hanging trees, park benches, statues and playgrounds. A top cultural sight in Madrid and also said to be one of the world's greatest museums, the Museo Nacional del Prado was opened in 1819 in an 18th century neo-classical building. The Spanish Queen at the time, Maria Isabel, was a huge influential factor in the museum's opening. After an inspired visit to Le Louvre on a trip to Paris, she wanted to showcase an enormous compilation in her country and that vision was realized with much success. Based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, The Prado features one of the world's finest collections of European art from the 12th century to the early 19th century, and the best single anthology of Spanish art.
The massive scale including works on display by great artists such as Goya, El Greco, Raphael, Velaquez and Bosch, is impressive, but can make a visit feel daunting. It is recommended to arrive with a few highlights in mind, or concentrate on the 'must visit' masterpieces listed in the guide brochure. As we strolled through the galleries coming upon poignant works of art, the question, or sometimes it was more like an epiphany: "Hey, that one is famous!" was mentioned a number of times before I had to laugh because I realized how often I was saying it, and it somehow became "the saying" on museum centered outings. Among my favorites at The Prado were Goya's dark and twisted "Saturn Devouring his Child" (room 67), Bosch's incredibly detailed whimsical fantasy "The Garden of Earthy Delights" (room 56 A) and Patinir's "Crossing the Styx" (also in room 56 A). I also enjoyed viewing the various Roman Sculptures (room 71).
The Prado is open Tuesdays through Sundays: 9am to 8pm. (Closed Mondays.) Admission is 10, with the exception of the hours between 6pm and 8pm, when entry is free. Enter Picasso's Guernica at the Centro de Arte Moderno Reina Sofia and is that one famous?! took on a new level of sarcasm. The Museo Reina Sofia beholds a wealth of 20th Century contemporary and modern art including works by Salvadore Dali, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso. The "Guernica" is a major highlight, perhaps the 20th Century's most famous painting and one of Picasso's most influential works. Before the Reina Sofia opened this painting was displayed at The Prado. I was interested to learn that the museum was once home to an 18th century hospital. When the hospital closed its doors back in 1965, rumors of demolition surfaced. Thankfully, the building’s survival was guaranteed when it was declared a national monument due to its historic and artistic value.
It wasn't until fairly recently in late 1992, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia inaugurated the Permanent Collection.
Two of the four floors are devoted to contemporary exhibits; we really enjoyed ourselves at Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's installation. Her eccentric use of repetition in the form of giant spherical structures was just plain fun. The other two floors are devoted to the permanent collection which covers movements from minimalism, to abstract, to pop art. I also favored the Miro sculptures in the courtyard.The Reina Sofia is open Monday to Saturday: 10am to 9pm and Sunday: 10am-2:30pm. Admission is 6 with the exception of Saturday 2:30pm to 9pm and on Sunday all hours, when entry is free.
The impressive Museo Thyssen Bornemisza houses what is said by critics to be one of the finest private art collections in the world. Now owned by the state, the collection illustrates the history of European art through it's evolution; beginning in the middle ages with primitive Flemish and Italian paintings to 17th century medieval works, to later impressionism, post impressionism and international 20th century pop art. This museum is a strong complement to the Prado and the Reina Sofia. Its painting collection of about 800 pieces makes a visit itself feel much more manageable in comparison. I was glad we had ample time to visit, however, I wouldn't skip the Prado or the Reina Sofia in favor if you were in town for limited number of days. The Thyssen Borenmiza is open Tuesdays to Sundays: 10am to 7pm. Admission is 8.
Our time spent exploring the museums, whether it was getting lost among what felt like a limitless number of galleries, or seeking out famous paintings, was fascinating. I appreciated the wide variety of art in all mediums and periods throughout history. Madrid is truly an art lovers mecca.

11 comments:

In and Around Town said...

The Thyssen Borsenmiza was my favorite, because you were able to such a great mix of art, but I totally agree, you should not skip the Prado!

Betsy said...

The Guernica is my favorite painting, ever! I love it and think it's amazing to see in person. Madrid has some awesome museums - great post.

MOLLY GALLER said...

Is it wrong that I am equally impressed by your outfits as I am by the art work?

Michelle Collins said...

To follow up on Molly's comment...I was just thinking to myself, "I never look that well dressed on vacation!"

Amber Blue Bird said...

so Goya was an artist and not a spice maker..good to know.

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

I envy your patience for museums... I'm such a five year old. (Cute shoes and earrings btw!)

Di said...

I love museums! I could wander around all day if I'm with someone else who doesn't mind doing so. Great post!

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

Unrelated to anything about museums, I love your bootie sandals!

Elizabeth said...

Jealous. Jealous jealous jealous :) I've never been to Madrid but Dave has and he always raves about the Prado

Shannon said...

aaah, i need to make a trip to spain!!

Megan said...

I'm pretty sure the museo del prado is the one I went to right after getting off the plane and being totally jetlagged... wish I could remember it better!