Art Madrid’s Reina Sofía Museum has 20,000 works in every artistic medium including those of Picasso and Dali. Aruna Chandaraju
Standing outside a museum and waiting for friends to arrive so you may enter together may sound like a recipe for boredom, but the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, had plenty to keep one from getting bored. There is art within and without the museum. Going beyond the interiors, there are impressive displays in the corridors, terrace areas and garden, entrance and other open spaces.
The locations are such that it is easy to spot these artworks and walk up to them for a close look. Roy Lichtenstein’s imposing ‘Brushstroke’ was at the entrance. The garden areas sported large sculptures by contemporary artists.
But don’t linger for too long outside. The galleries inside , which are spread over several floors, will need many hours, if not days, to do justice to them.
The permanent collection of the museum includes works produced between the late 19th century and the present day.
According to Museum officials, it currently boasts, “over 20,000 works in every artistic medium: approximately 4,100 paintings, more than 1,700 sculptures, nearly 3,600 drawings, over 5,500 prints, 4,480 photographs, approximately 120 installations and 40 video installations, 400 film and video creations, over 100 pieces of decorative art and 35 architectural works. However, only about five per cent of these are on display as part of the museum collection.”
It features mainly Spanish artists. It includes many priceless works of two of Spain’s greats, artists whose work is celebrated around the world –– Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. It has Picasso’s world-famous work, ‘Guernica,’ and there are many art-lovers who are drawn to the museum for this painting alone.
The other big draws are Picasso’s ‘Woman in Blue,’ Dali’s Landscapes at Cadaques and also his ‘Face of the Great Masturbator,’ and Joan Miro’s ‘Portrait 11.’
Other important artists represented in the collection are: Juan Gris, José Gutiérrez Solana, Maruja Mallo, Brassaï, Jean Dubuffet, Robert Delaunay, Georges Braque, Yves Klein, Robert Motherwell, Antoni Tàpies, Francis Bacon, Richard Serra, Alexander Calder, René Magritte, Gerhard Richter, Luis Gordillo, Juan Muñoz, Antoni Muntadas, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Sol LeWitt and Marcel Broodthaers.
For students there are resources to last years of study and research. The library's collections comprise more than 1,32,000 monographs and pamphlets, 2,000 magazines, 1,800 videos, audio tapes, and an important collection of ephemera, manuscripts, photographs and slides.
Named after Queen Sofia, the museum is often referred to as part of the ‘Golden Triangle of Art’––which includes the Museo del Prado aka Prado Museum (a mere 10-minute walk from the Reina Sofia), and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.
The central building was formerly a hospital and various modifications and additions over the centuries have resulted in the large and impressive building you see today in central Madrid.
One headed straight to the ‘Guernica,’ in case one could not make it before closing time –– and this was the last day in Spain. It was a tough task considering how groups of visitors kept streaming into the room and crowding around the famous painting.
It was commissioned by the Spanish Government for a 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. After being exhibited at different venues around the world, it remained in New York's renowned Museum of Modern Art until 1981 in deference to the painter’s wishes that it should not be displayed in Spain until democracy was established in the country.
The mural-size canvas painted in oil was first exhibited at the Prado museum and later shifted here in 1992. The work, which reflects the suffering that war inflicts on people, has been acclaimed around the world and serves as a standing reminder of the tragedies of war and hence, also an appeal for peace.
Beginning with the end of the 19th century, Collection One features a large range of paintings that includes Avant-garde, Cubism, Dada and Surrealism. It is called ‘The Irruption of the 20th Century: Utopias and Conflicts.’
Collection Two asks, ‘Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World’ and reflects the ‘artistic transformation occurring in the post-war period.’ The battle for ideological supremacy between the two major powers of the time, United States of America and the Soviet Union, also finds echoes in the art of that period.
Collection Three, which is titled ‘From Revolt to Post-Modernity,’ has influences of the political, social and cultural phenomena of those times –– 1962-1982, and includes feminist art.
There are two glass lifts that protrude out of the façade. Going up and down this elevator as we visited one gallery after another, we got a great view of the surroundings in spite of the presence of a few tall buildings in the vicinity.
Not many among the staff speak English though and so if you don’t know Spanish it is good to equip yourself with a couple of booklets and maps before you negotiate the Reina Sofia. Photography is permitted only on select floors. Once you are done with the museum – and if you still have the energy – there are lots of things to see and do around here – shopping, dining and entertainment options are aplenty.