Museums in Barcelona
Our favorite museums in Barcelona
Josep Lluís Sert, who spent the years of the Franco dictatorship as dean of the School of Design at Harvard University, designed one of the greatest museum buildings in the world on his return. Approachable, light and airy, these white walls and arches house a collection of more than 225 paintings, 150 sculptures and all of Miró’s graphic work, plus some 5,000 drawings. It is one of our favorite museums in Barcelona!
When it opened in 1963, the museum dedicated to Barcelona’s favourite adopted son was housed in the Palau Aguilar. Nearly five decades later, the permanent collection of some 3,800 pieces has now been spread across five adjoining palaces, two of which are devoted to temporary exhibitions. By no means an overview of the artist’s work, the Museu Picasso is rather a record of the vital formative years that the young Picasso spent nearby at La Llotja art school, and later hanging out with Catalonia’s fin-de-siècle avant-garde.
If you’re used to being soft-soaped by eager-to-please art centres, you’ll have to adjust to the cryptic minimalism of the MACBA, where art is taken very seriously indeed. Yet if you can navigate the fridge-like interior of Richard Meier’s enormous edifice, accept that much of the permanent collection is inaccessible to the uninitiated, tackle shows that flutter between the brilliant and baffling, and, most important, are prepared to do your reading, a trip to the MACBA can be extremely rewarding.
Other good museums in Barcelona
‘One museum, a thousand years of art’ is the slogan of the National Museum, and the collection provides a dizzying overview of Catalan art from the 12th to the 20th centuries. In recent years the museum has added an extra floor to absorb the section of the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection that was previously kept in the convent in Pedralbes, along with the mainly Modernista holdings from the former Museum of Modern Art in Parc de la Ciutadella, a fine photography section, coins and the bequest of Francesc Cambó, founder of the autonomist Lliga Regionalista, a regionalist conservative party.
Antoni Tàpies exploded on to the art scene in the 1950s when he began to incorporate waste paper, mud and rags into his paintings, eventually moving on to the point where his works included whole pieces of furniture, running water and girders. Today, he’s Barcelona’s most celebrated living artist, and his trademark scribbled and paint-daubed pieces are sought after for everything from wine bottle labels to theatre posters.
In a controversial move, the Generalitat appointed new director Vicenç Altaió to pump up the lacklustre visitor numbers for this contemporary art space. Altaió has created ‘a multidisciplinary centre for art, science, thought and communication’, although detractors fear that the governmental hijacking of the management will mean diluted programming. After remodelling, the museum reopened to the public in spring 2009.
Opened in 2007, the foundation’s two floors house the contemporary art collection of businessman Josep Suñol. There are 100 works on show at a time, including painting, sculpture and photography, shuffled every six months (in January and July) from an archive of 1,200 pieces amassed over 35 years. The collection includes historic – and predominantly Catalan and Spanish – artists of the avant-garde: Picasso, Miró and Pablo Gargallo, with international input from Giacometti, Man Ray and Warhol.
One of the masterpieces of industrial Modernisme, this former yarn and textile factory was designed by Puig i Cadafalch and celebrated its centenary in 2011. It spent most of the last century in a sorry state, briefly acting as a police barracks before falling into dereliction. Fundació La Caixa, the charitable arm of Catalonia’s largest savings bank, bought it and set about rebuilding. In addition to the permanent contemporary art collection, there are three impressive spaces for temporary exhibitions – often among the most interesting shows to be found in the city.
Can Framis was just another Poblenou factory at the end of the 18th century. In 2009 it was converted into a museum of contemporary painting, thanks to the Fundació Vila Casas. The walls of Can Framis hold some 300 works by Catalan native or resident artists, dating from the 1960s to the present day. Temporary exhibitions are held in the Espai A0.
Set in a beautiful 19th-century paper mill, this art centre lies just beyond the borders of Barcelona, in neighbouring L’Hospitalet. Its main focus is contemporary visual art and it seeks to promote Catalan artists, although not to the exclusion of foreign creatives.