OK, have one more night in Madrid for some bar hopping, then to Granada first thing tomorow.
Overall impressions? To be honest, I’ve not warmed to it. The art is amazing (of which more later) but apart from that it’s not really grabbed me. It’s not an ugly city by any means, though less pretty than either Valencia or Barcelona – and particularly the squares are a bit lacking, even the Plaza Major.
It has some impressive buildings – the Royal Palace demonstrates that if you’re going to oppress the poor then you can at least get a nice building and some fancy furnishings out of it. But there’s nothing particularly unique about any of them. The only interesting building I saw in 4 days was the Caixa Forum and I’m not convincedby that. In other areas, Gran Via for instance, it could be any generic big European city.
One other thing that has started bugging me is the terrible quality of a lot of the English translations here. Now I don’t want to be the guy complaining that no-one speaks English, you can’t buy pie and chips and so on – the best complaint I’ve overheard was “these people walk really slow, and (as if it were the final insult) at an angle.”
I realise I’ve no right to a translation and try to speak Spanish where possible. I managed to buy my ticket to Granada entirely in Spanish (I know, it’s hard not to be a little humbled by that level of linguistic brilliance) but if you are going to have translations at least make an effort. At the train station, “departing today” was rendered as “selling out today” (did they get the translation over the phone?) and inside the Prado a sign read
Soil newly installed
We apologize for de inconvenience”
Which is practially incomprehensible. If it had been at a modern art museum, I’d have assumed it was a poem of some sort. There must be loads of Spanish-English speakers looking for translation work, but no, they ask some guy who went to London for a weekend once.
Swine flu update. Some people wandering around the galleries with masks on. I laugh at them in the safe knowledge of someone who hasn’t seen any news for a week and may be blithely unaware that Parmageddon is nigh. I’m reassured that Reina Sofia has taken precautions with its exhibits though.
I’m also reassured by the active response that the Health Ministry has taken – a big poster in front of their building declaring “salvar vidas está en tus manos”. Just wash your hands folks, and it’ll all be OK.
Also wandering through the galleries are several groups of small children, 4 or 5 years old I’d guess. They seem remarkably well behaved, but I’m not sure I’d like to be a teacher and have to supervise 15 kids two metres away from priceless works of art. Not sure what a 5 year old makes of a modern art museum but I was amused when I saw them in front of Picasso’s The Painter and Model. Do British children get shown this sort of material? Does the Daily Mail know? Will no-one protect our children from this filth?
I’ve now been to both the Reina Sofia and Thyssen galleries which are superb.
The Reina Sofia is the modern art museum and so has lots of home grown material, Dali, Picasso, Miro, a superb collection of Antoni Tapies.
Not so much from outside of Spain though, but I was really impressed with how much use they made of films, so often seen by the annoying, hyperactive younger brother of painting.
Oh, and it’s got Guernica too. That’s not bad.
Originally assembled as a private collection, the Thyssen gallery has a more international and diverse collection. In fact it would work pretty well as a whistlestop tour through Western art.
Portrait of a Senator
Maerten Van Heemskerck – Portrait of a Lady with Spindle and Distaff
Ribera – La Piedad
Caravaggio – Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Van Dyck – Portrait of Jacques le Roy
Dégas – At the Milliners
Magritte – La clef des champs
O’Keefe – New York with Moon
Max Beckmann – Quappi in Pink Jumper
Lucian Freud – Large Interior, Paddington
Liubov Popova – Pictorial Architectonic
I’ll probably be taking a bit of a break from galleries while going round south Spain, but hopefully these will keep you going till I get to Italy…