Spain Museums and Galleries
6-8 Av. de Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, Sants-Montjuïc
CaixaBank is Spain's largest bank, and its foundation, La Caixa, is one of the largest in the world. CaixaForum, their signature cultural program, exists in every major Spanish city (and a few smaller cities as well), offering cultural programs such as art exhibitions, live music, kids programs, film screenings, and more. The Barcelona iteration, housed in a renovated textile factory, is one of the largest in the country.
Paseo del Prado, 36, Centro
The Caixa is a necessary contemporary counterpart to the Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen museums. In high contrast to the centuries-old palaces those institutions inhabit, the contemporary collections here are housed in an industrial warehouse that's been reinterpreted by Herzog and de Meuron. Fittingly, you can expect cutting-edge exhibitions of pieces from the last 30 years. Like the now iconic vertical garden at its entrance, the museum literally breathes fresh air into the neighborhood dominated by the old guard art institutions. Photo: Carles Escrig i Royo
Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, Centro
Though its permanent collection is a who's who of modern Spanish art, including major works by Picasso—his Guernica is the museum's Mona Lisa—Miró, Dalí, Eduardo Chillida, and Antoni Tàpies, the Reina Sofía is also a major contemporary art institution both within and outside its Jean Nouvel-designed walls. Head to the museum for its contextualized permanent collection of Spanish and international masters, and then go to the Parque del Retiro to check out the exhibitions at the Palacio de Cristal and Palacio de Velázquez.
El Born Cultural Center
12 Plaça Comercial, Born
The Born neighborhood has a bit of an artistic reputation, so it's really no surprise that when it came time to remodel their market, they re-imagined it as a historic and cultural center. The new project was first unveiled in 2013, corresponding with the tricentennial of the Siege of Barcelona—a hugely important date to Catalans, as it represents the end of the War of Spanish Succession and the last time Catalonia was independent from Spain. The market itself is a historic structure, as it was the first Spanish market to be built in the iron-framed, French market style, but an excavation beneath the old floor reveals ruins that date back to medieval times. A permanent exhibition explores life in the city in the early 1700s, and is a great way to dip a toe into the city's complicated and fascinating history. You can also check their website for lectures, music performances, and temporary art exhibitions.
Fundació Antoni Tàpies
255 Carrer d'Aragó, Dreta de l'Eixample
The collection at Fundació Antoni Tàpies may be a little esoteric for non-art buffs, but it's certainly a legit, if less mainstream museum experience. The bulk of the Fundació is comprised of works by Antoni Tàpies, a distinguished painter and Barcelona native who passed away in 2012. Tàpies's diverse body of work touches everything from the abstract, to Surrealism, sculptures, tactile object works made of a combination of unlikely materials, and his textured, layered "matter paintings." The museum, which Tàpies founded in 1984 (and opened in 1990), sits in an old publishing house that was originally constructed in 1880—and many architectural details have been preserved. (For example, the shelves in the Fundació library are the original shelves from the publishing warehouse.)
Fundació Joan Miró
Parc de Montjuïc, Sants-Montjuïc
Seminal 20th-century artist Joan Miró was born in Barcelona in 1893, but he was most influenced by the years he spent outside Barcelona, in Mont-roig (a small Catalan town), Majorca, Paris, Japan, and New York. You can see some of Miró's work in the States (sculptures in Chicago and Houston, paintings at MoMa) but seeing such a comprehensive edit of his art at Fundació Joan Miró, a space created by Miró himself in 1975, is a whole different experience. In addition to the museum's Miró collection, other artists from the 20th- and 21st-centuries are occasionally featured in varied temporary exhibitions.
345 Carrer de Pere IV, Poblenou
While this arts studio and co-working space doesn't necessarily function as a gallery—they have one gallery night a month and otherwise you have to book to tour the space—it's definitely one of the best places to understand the contemporary art scene in Barcelona as it's where the freshest work is coming out of. The ever-evolving display of graffiti on the walls outside alone is worth the trip.
99 Carrer de Pujades, Poblenou
More than a gallery, this is a hub of cultural activity with a studio workspace for artists in the back. With a constant stream of evening events from art sales, to openings, to food and drink tastings, this a hotspot for young artists and a great place to discover young talent.
Plaza de Legazpi, 8, Centro
A slaughterhouse for most of the 20th century (hence the name), the Matadero today is a bustling hub for multitudinous arts pursuits. Drop by on any given day for an awe-inspiring spectrum of cultural activity: take a urban cycling course, catch a documentary at the Cineteca movie complex, check out the latest design show at the Central de Diseño, catch a concert at the Nave 16, or take the kids to an experimental reading session at the Casa del Lector. Along with presenting the latest in contemporary art and culture, the Matadero is also a hub for creatives, offering workspaces and residencies across a variety of disciplines, meaning a lot of the work you'll see here has been made on-site.
Calle de Ventura Rodríguez, 17, Argüelles
The Marquis of Cerralbo lived in this palace in the 19th and 20th centuries and designed everything from the staircase to the displays, to the gardens he sketched out himself. Today his absolutely over-the-top vision (he always hoped it would become a museum) remains faithfully intact complete with his collection of masterpieces by Spanish greats like El Greco and Zúrbaran, early photography, and Japanese armor from the Edo period.
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