Museums in Madrid

A brief note about the two main museums in Madrid.  Both the Prado Museum (main art gallery) and Reina Sofia (modern art gallery) have quite small collections compared to the national museums of most major European cities, but the pieces chosen for exhibition are of such great quality that they make the obligatory entrance fee worthwhile.  The Prado’s curators understand that there is no need to have more than a couple of rooms dedicated to renaissance crucifixion paintings, or medieval town scenes to get a general overview of the history of art, as long as there is a mix of the genre for the spectator’s education/comparison/interest.  And the rooms themselves aren’t saturated with dozens of paintings on each wall – every item is given room to breathe, with blank spaces and corridors to serve as an inter-wine-tasting glass of water.

Similarly, the Reina Sofia is scattered with areas for contemplation, be they elevated stone benches at the front which overlook the city, a sculpture garden in the atrium of the building, or Centre Pompidou-esque metal balconies and lifts between galleries.  Again, the collection is not vast, but there is Bacon, there is Futurism, there is a room dedicated to Goya, and one for Picasso’s vast Guernica, which is worth visiting for people-watching alone.  The back room has had a few Bunuel films showing on rotation; the ground floor has a ready-mades exhibition which, instead of  the fountain or images of Rose Selavy, has a glass table containing all of Duchamp’s hand-written notes on the project – his theory, his designs, even the measurements for his Glider.  A gem of a display entirely absent from the bloated Duchamp, Man Ray and Picabia exhibition that toured in 2006-7.

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