Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Art in Madrid
Art is very important to the Madrileños.
Antique art... modern art... pop art... every kind of art has been created or collected and is displayed in the more than 80 museums and collections dotting Madrid’s cityscape. Madrid is steeped in art, from the gorgeous baroque and belle époque buildings that line the streets and avenues, to the monumental sculptures decorating fountains along the avenues and in parks, to three leading picture collections: the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and the Reina Sofía Art Center. These three major art museums mentioned above are located along the “Paseo del Arte” as the Avenue of the Prado is known, a city artery that starts from the Plaza Emperador Carlos V and the Atocha Station and is the city’s major North to South boulevard.
Creating a great art museum in the Spanish capital was promoted by the Spanish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, championed by Maria Isabel de Braganza, the wife of King Ferdinand VII, and built by royal decree. The Prado’s inauguration, on November 1819, heralded the creation of an institution that is now considered the equal in the quality of its collection to the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, the National Gallery in Washington, and the Alte Pinakotek in Munich.
The Prado possesses one of the most important collections of art from the 16th to the 18th century Spanish, Flemish and Italian schools. Viewing the works of Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco), Francisco de Goya y Lucientes and Diego Velázquez exhibited in the Prado would be enough reason to spend an entire day in this Museum.
Another important stop on “The Avenue of Art” is the Thyssen-Bornemisza picture gallery, with almost 500 paintings collected by Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza between 1920 and 1947. The collection now comprises of many masterpieces of world art of the 19th and 20th century, with holdings ranging from Italian primitives and Gothic paintings to the Pop Art of the ‘60s; almost a 1,000 images. The majority can be seen in the Madrid collection though a number of pieces are on loan to other Spanish museums.
The Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, is the repository of the modern art that formed the collection of the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art with the addition of the 20th century art collection of the Prado. In 1992, the King and Queen inaugurated the institution as a permanent display of contemporary works of art, including Picasso’s famous painting “Guernica” that used to be displayed at an annex behind the Prado. The second floor of the building is devoted to art from the beginning of the 20th century to the Spanish Civil War (Avant Gardes); the fourth floor contains art from the Post War Period to the present. Amongst the many artists included in the collection are Antoni Tàpies, Antonio Saura, José Gutiérrez Solana, Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Joan Miró and many others.
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