Madrid post Mozarabe



My Spanish journey is nearly over- I’ve taken roughly 1,900,000 steps so allowing for a 5% poetic license I’m calling it a two million step journey. 

The last four days have been the most intense immersion in art of my life and it’s been both exhausting and life affirming. There are shows everywhere. Not just in the big three galleries but a host of other civic and private buildings display world class art. My campaign to assimilate as much of it as I could continued yesterday morning at the Thyssen Bornemisza gallery containing maybe the best private collection in the world spanning works from the 17th to 20th centuries. The first to really strike me was by a man from Clonakilty in west cork Michael Harnett who painted “Material for a leisure hour”. I think he nailed it. 

I was there for many hours admiring the work of all the finest artists of the last 400 years. Here is a small sample. 

It had been raining all day so when I emerged the streets were awash. 

Nothing for it but to engage in some appreciation of the fine art of drinking in the celebrated bars of this city. 

I ended up in one of Hemingways favourites. 

Of course food and eating are also an art form here and the shops reflect that. 

I ended the night by going to the movies. Many of the films shown here are in the original language with Spanish subtitles so I caught up with Pride, about the gay and lesbian support of the miners strike which had a pretty low attendance in spite of the huge and open gay scene here. I guess it was a bit too English. Great feel good movie though. 

Today, my last, it was time to tackle the big boy. The Prada, with works spanning nearly 900 years but mostly concentrated on the old masters. Incredible stuff, my vocabulary could not possibly do it justice. I stood in front of the huge Bosch’s, fascinating since childhood, till time stood still. Unfortunately no photography was allowed though I did sneak some later. 

I was interested in this scene of the Med coast near Torreminos from 1860 by Carlos de Haes. 

How things have changed! The galleries had quite a few artists working on their own copies of masterpieces. 

I staggered out to the botanical gardens next door in the late afternoon which had the tulips out. 

Into the greenhouses to admire the cactus

and the rainforest complete with jungly soundtrack. 

Up the road to Madrids green heart, El Retiro park, a godsend in summer I’m sure. 

Where I discovered more art in the palace of Velaquez showing modern sculpture by Italian Luciano Fabro. 

And finally, nearly sated, I called in to the Palace de Cibeles for a couple of cutting edge shows of new work by a host of artists. On approach I reaLized the cops were out in force again as were the demonstrators. 

Inside there were 4 floors of this huge building given over to art displays and a restaurant and bar above.

One show was strictly no photos another was not ??

While I’d been passively looking at art some of Madrid had been gathering for more democratic demonstrations. 

And I have to hand it to the civic authorities because they know how to deal with it in a organised fashion. The police controlled the movement of the crowd that was followed by ambulances and civic defence vehicles and bringing up the rear were the clean up crew in formation. 

So that was Madrid for me. A vibrant stylish city that loves it’s food and drink and its art and culture. It loves to party. It’s in your face but not brash. 

Gort has its work cut out to follow that. 

MADRID POST MOZARABE: 21st/ 22nd March

i guess all my regular readers are no longer checking in believing that I have no longer anything to say. However, I’m still on my journey and will continue to report from the front line. The walking can become a bit of an addiction and so it seems can the blogging. 

A soft misty start to Saturday. 

It looked like they had run the train track through the Roman viaduct. 

The track followed the route of the Camino north until  Caceres so noted with interest that the countryside changed back to Holm oak and granite before long and became hilly again. Then cork oaks became predominant as well as wild areas of scrub. I was just thinking that it was a great area to walk through when it changed again and a long , long stretch of flat, treeless grassland from horizon to horizon made the going look tough. The clouds had built up and it was grey and gloomy and I was glad I was on my way to the bright lights of the city. 

The old terminus building has been transformed into a botanical garden and still manages to deal with the high speed trains. 

Just across the street from the station is the National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia where my cultural tour of Madrid began with a 5 hour session with a massive collection of the worlds greatest artists of the last 150 years or so. I cannot begin to list my favourites that I can as able to get up close and personal with but I made some new ones. It’s a rush for me to come upon a painting in real life that I’ve loved from books especially if the scale is impressive. Like Guernica for instance which has a huge room constantly full of admirers. 

It fact it was great to see how much time and effort the human race wants to put into an interaction with artwork. Especially if it’s free. This is the queue to get in at 7 when it’s free till 9

The galleries are so many and large that the numbers were accommodated without crowding. Mostly paintings there was also sculpture and some video, film and photography. In fact there was a temporary show about the reinvention of Documentary Photography which included a load of counter culture stuff from the seventies squatting scene which took me back. But mostly I just soaked up the visuals of work like



and so many more

At 8 o’clock hunger and a need to find my hostel drove me out into the throbbing city streets. They were actually pulsing a little more than usual because there was a demonstration going on which by the time I got to the hostel had got out of hand and the riot cops were out in numbers. 

A police car window had been smashed outside and it took a few hours for quiet to return. 

Well when I say quiet its relative. Saturday night in the centre of Madrid is not quiet and we were one floor above the street. The cries of the revellers continued till after the sounds of the daytime activities started up around 7. In fact when I got to Puerta del Sol the runners warming up for big event shared the space with many not in such good shape. 

Then off for walking tour to the Plaza Mayor where stalls were being set up by the purveyors of collectables. Coins,stamps,postcards and all sorts of assorted medals,keys and bric-à-brac were keenly scrutinised by those in the know. Down to the Sunday flea market area of El Rasto, a huge space of everything from secondhand clothes to antiques. 

After a bit of shopping it was back through Puerta del Sol again which had by now become the venue for a dog show with policemen on ?

After moving rooms to somewhere I didn’t have people coming and going all night and didn’t proudly display letters of complaint I returned to the art orgy. 

Two of Spain’s biggest companies Telefonica and Mapre both have fundacion a to support and display art and both were running shows I wanted to see. 

Telefonicas was housed in what was considered Europe’s first skyscraper and was a very impressive mixed group show called Big Bang Data, concerned with the exponential growth of data production and storage we are all complicit in and the uses/ misuses and the art created from it. 

Real time flights over USA   

Amount of photographs uploaded to Flickr everyday. 

A huge wall of babbling video diaries. 

Different globes different data

And a good interpretation of the data world. 

Coupled with a big show of Instagramer’s photos it gave me food for thought after my recent entry into the blogging world. 

Then off to the Mapfre foundation show of an old favorite. 

Where a notice on the comment board was from someone who had completely by surprise came upon a picture from 1964 of his mother and brother! 

More at the Circulo de Bellas Artes. The one I liked was a show about the cabins, sheds , huts and cottages used by writers, poets and philosophers. Photos, little scale models, plans and dried plants from around the sites were included. And a slide show of artistic representation of the  cabana. It made me keen to get to the cabana of my own. 

Finally a visit to the roof terrace there and a much needed dinner in the posh surroundings of their cafe. 

And so to bed.