Outtakes from the MEAM

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One post just wasn’t enough to capture how amazing MEAM is. We took about 400 photographs while visiting and it seemed appropriate to share a small selection of them.  I’m intentionally not publishing all of our photos, otherwise you wouldn’t need to go visit this amazing museum yourself. All photos property of MEAM and printed/posted with permission.

The Best Museum in Barcelona You’ve Never Heard Of

Barcelona, for me, will forever be associated with truck loads of museums. There is a museum for just about everything: Modern art? Check. Catalonian Contemporary Art? Architecture? Check Check. Chocolate? Yes, Chocolate. Check. In all fairness, that’s just my impression because we visited more museums in Barcelona than in Madrid and Seville combined.

We set out in search of classic art, wanting to first visit the Picasso museum. Go big, or go home, right?

Upon arrival, we were met with a line that disappeared down the narrow medieval street. Its length and its lack of progress towards the entrance had us quickly rethink our approach. “Go home,” was looking more appealing by the second. After a few minutes i had visions of Mr Os and i spending an entire day waiting just to get to the ticket counter. Not the smart way to spend ones time on holiday, for sure.

As we debated our options, Mr Os pulled out a pamphlet a young woman handed us in passing, on our way to the Picasso Museum. The brochure was for MEAM: Museu Europeu d’Art Modern and, as fate would have it, the MEAM was located just around the corner from the Picasso museum. Without tipping our hand to the hundred people in front of us, we casually stepped out of line and made our way to try our luck at a museum neither of us knew anything about.

While I’ve never found any museum visit to be “life changing” the MEAM certainly altered the course of our time in Barcelona. Up until that point, we had been somewhat underwhelmed by Barcelona. It was too much like New York or other major metropolitan cities with which we were familiar. It was crowded, and felt over run with tourists. Our first hotel off of Las Ramblas was loud with a somewhat shoddy room.

Simply put, nothing seemed to match what we’d been told to expect in Barcelona. To make matters worse, we’d left what was an amazing experience in Seville.But MEAM had the effect of hitting a “reset” button.

MEAM is actually located inside an 18th-Century Palace and is anchored by a large courtyard with a stone arch and sweeping stair case that leads to the second and third floor where the collection is housed. When the museum moved into the building, special attention was clearly paid to the restoration. The decorations, ceilings and walls have all received decorative awards. The result is a spectacular contrast between the physical structure of the museum and the modern art collection that calls MEAM home. It is truly remarkable and the architect artfully ties everything together (pun intended).

A glimpse down on the MEAM's ground floor courtyard.
A glimpse down on the MEAM’s ground floor courtyard.

Beyond the building, the collection itself is jaw dropping, unbelievably compelling, and for those of you familiar with me, I’m never this effusive in my praise. It is not hyperbole, though, just wording that I hope will convince you not to miss this stop.

The works range from sculpture to paintings. In fact, many of the paintings were so vivid, we mistook them for photographs.  Case in point: if you visit the MEAM website there is an image of a man with blue paint in his beard. This is a painting and even when standing right in front of it, your eyes will still argue that it’s a photo. This is not the case with every piece of art, but each piece stands on its own merits, and though pieces can be dramatically different from room to room, there is an overall common thread. If I had to suggest what I think it is, it would be the museum’s goal of selecting works that “stand out for their exquisite realism. Forcefully contemporary painting and sculpture that awaken the pleasure of the senses.”

One of my favorite pieces at MEAM. The level of detail in the sculpture is just mind-blowing.

As you wander through Barcelona, you’ll notice many of the museums and major tourist attractions are heavily promoted. This one is not. In fact, most people probably pass by it’s glint as quickly as stepping over an engagement ring in a gutter. Why isn’t it better known? Perhaps because the government promotes state funded places, versus private museums and exhibits. It’s a shame because this is one of Barcelona’s true gems. Truly, it is worth visiting while you are in Barcelona.

I’ll post a gallery with more of these amazing works later this week. One final note, many of the pieces contain nudity. It’s not gratuitous by any means but to be clear this is not a place to bring children as it can be jarring.

One of my favorite pieces of art at MEAM. It’s such an accurate depiction of how people stop in wonder to see what an artist is doing.

A Walk Down Las Ramblas

While historic, Las Ramblas is jam packed with tourists and probably a few locals that would rather be anywhere else in Barcelona.

There are as many as 10 different buildings or monuments to view when you are on this long, straight street in Barcelona. Las Ramblas is, in fact, a main street in the Old Town neighborhood, so a walk will help you get your barrings for the rest of your stay.

Mercat de Sant Josep (also called La Boqueria), this open market is spectacular.
Mercat de Sant Josep (also called La Boqueria), this open market is spectacular.
This building is a former umbrella shop. The corner features an art deco dragon.
A former umbrella shop that features an art deco dragon on the corner.

 

In addition to these sites, you should also look for Barcelona’s first official public clock, the great palace and the Font de Canaletes. Here’s a shot of the fountain at night. If you hear someone “drinks the waters of Canaletes” you’ll know they are from Barcelona.

Font de Canaletes
Font de Canaletes

Real Alcazar

The walled gardens of the Real Alcazar are one of the single most gorgeous attractions we visited during our trip through Spain including Madrid, Seville and Barcelona. The Alcázar is also a place that epitomizes Seville’s seamless blend of different cultures and religions.

The architecture is a harmonious combination of Islamic, Jewish and Catholic influences into one magical place. It belongs in a Dan Brown novel, and was actually featured in the movie Kingdom of Heaven.

Pedro I began construction on the Palace in the 1300’s. In two years regional craftsman of different faiths created a series of halls and patios that are visually stunning.

In terms of attractions in Seville, it’s probably one of the most heavily trafficked, but it is not to be missed. If possible, purchase the tickets online to avoid a long line. Or, if you’re in line, pay attention to the tour guides who are always looking for additional participants to complete their group tours. The cost is the same, but the advantage is hearing about the history of the Alcazar. And there are centuries of history to hear about, and hundreds of twists and turns among the garden paths filled with exotic flowers and fauna.

But the fact is that the Palace is so stunning, it’s best seen visually, not by reading about my impressions of perfection. Instead, here’s a small gallery of my favorite images of the Palace.

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Crafts Creation Space: A Cool Concept Brought to Life

I’m not all-that connected to the U.S. ‘creative’ scene. Creativity is something i struggle with professionally and at home. I admire and respect people who are gifted—especially those folks who have enough creativity and drive to strike out on their own.

That is why Rompe Moldes impressed me so much. Dubbed a “crafts creation space” it’s a combination living area and artisan studio, and I’m sure the concept exists in America…I just don’t know where. It’s something that the local government had a hand in creating and it brings local artisans together into a supportive community. In the street level courtyard you’ll find artists working with a variety of mediums: paper, ceramics, and glass seemed to be the most popular.

If you want to find Rompe Moldes, look carefully in the old part of town for this sign.
If you want to find Rompe Moldes, look carefully in the old part of Seville for this sign.

Each artist has a medium-sized studio and shop that visitors can wander through—often right below where they live. As you move from one studio to the next, you’ll get a strong vibe of community. We saw shops left open by the owner, with neighbors looking in on tourists to answer questions while kids played on tricycles in the courtyard. 

The courtyard artisan craft space, above the courtyard are artists living quarters.
The courtyard artisan craft space, above the courtyard are artists living quarters.

David, our @NotJustATourist friend, showed us this hidden gem and said this is a relatively new community whose housing is offset by the government. Getting an apartment and studio is a very competitive process, since this is only space (at least that he was aware of) in Spain like it.

You can find Rompe Moldes in the historic part of Seville. It’s worth a visit, especially if you are looking for a locally made, unique gift. Mr Os surprised me this necklace and matching earrings at Estudio Ciento 2. (If you’d like to check out their website the URL is: http://www.estudiociento2.com)

This glass amber-colored necklace was a unique gift
This glass amber-colored necklace was a unique gift from  Estudio Ciento 2.