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Day 3: Barcelona
It is a joy to be close enough to walk and to prepare our own low carb breakfast: spinach, tomatoes and egg.
We head out along a series of tall streets to the edge of the park around Montjuic.
Museu National d’Art de Catalunya
Arriving soon after opening whilst there are a reasonable number of people outside taking shots of the view and selfies, there are few people inside. Skipping the 13th to 15th century church art entirely we opt to jump any chronology and go straight to the modern art.
For the first hour it feels like we are VIPs on a private viewing. This is ended by couple like us, the difference being the constant desire to be photographed in front of their favourite pieces.
Sculptures by Enrico Claraso
We marvel at sculptures where stone has the texture of skin and the muscles and skeleton are so apparent beneath the surface.
Other sculptures that caught my eye were Little Gypsy Girl by Joan Rebull and a cheeky bust of Picaso by Pablo Gargallo.
End-of-century styles thought of as too decorative, and lacking form and structure resulted in a return to classicism. At the same time urbanism and industrialism brought brutally realised in the First World War and resulting in experimentation and collage saw another shift with a return to traditional craft skills.
Too many people for my liking posed for selfies or posed in front of works. Am I being a hyporcrite? We took plenty of photos ourselves. It is permitted but perhaps people should be encouraged to turn off the shutter sound on their phones.
A game we played in the evening, as we meandered around the exhibitions, sometimes together, sometimes apart, was to play ‘snap’ with images we had both been drawn towards. This was one of them. It looks like Joan Miro. It is the same period. 1937.
I realise I am drawn to a common palette. Such as these:
We were on our way out. Two hours in one place appears to be enough for us. When we saw there was a temporary exhibition on a Spanish photographer.
The photo journalism shot of a model, legs akimbo, all 1960s reminded me of . What we got was a much more, a mixture of Don Mcullin and David Bailey with the humour of David Hockney thrown in.
Oriol Maspons. Contests in the 1950s. Against award seeking behaviour. Paris and the Club des 30 x 40. He also had to leave his job with an insurance company. The fifties saw Maspons’s developing interest in realistic and utilitarian photography. The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya conserves over 6,500 photographs of Oriol Maspons, of which 503 are on display in this exhibition. Mostly original prints.
I was immediately struck by the quality of his compositions, the way he guides the eye to a specific part of the frame, also his wit and ability to observe and captures what matters in the moment whether a model, cattle, nuns, soldiers, or a family at a funeral.
His life was reproduced as a timeline.
Outside was bright and humid. We took a slight detour to walk across the park. On a less grand scale the water cascade reminded me of Alnwick Castle gardens some 1100 miles north of here.
Fundacio Joan Miro
Having visited at length six years ago I rather felt that I was seeing it all exactly as before, this time with the bustle of a busy August crowd. There are the Garden and terrace sculptures, the Mercury cascade and its bobbing movement, the eclectic Rope tapestry with beach bits and other collages and constructions. We were flagging from our morning’s exhibitions. We avoided the bright primary colour sculptures and prints. Maybe this is what you do on repeat visits, you start to look at the niche exhibits and to feed a curiosity for the particular, rather than trying to take it all in.
I spent longer in the underground cave with its rough earth and rock strewn ground and a mechanical seesaw sculpture and these tiny rods with flower like stems – which I have only figured out days later in close up.
When I was here last we walked off the hill to the nearest metro. That was six years ago. They have built a hillside funiciar which connnects with the Metro system. We opted for this rather than my prefered ride in a cable car down to the marina.
We had a series of long trecks courtesy of closed stations and lines, or simply getting fed up of being underground when on the surface you discover, rather as in London, that things are not that far apart on foot -0 necessarily.
We eventually made it to the seafront but disorientated by Google Maps we walked in the wrong direction for a while. We worried about not getting to our next vegetarian restaurant before it closed.
Pad Thai sweet potato rice noodles
Museu de Disseny de Barcelona
The Best of 2019 was a Design & Art Direction exhibition of the top three in a multitude of categories. The inventiveness of these always fascinates me, from a Nigerian school design to encourage a draft through the building as an inexpensive solution to the heat, a temporary event display made from paper and light to look like an a lava flow and knitted fashion styled around New Guinea tribal costumes and customs.
Intriguing practical designs from tongs to pick up ice-cubes to the usual variation on a chair, bicycle or cabinet.
History of female fashion 1550 to 2015
Used to the V&A, Museum of London and others, it was a pleasure to have a different take on the development of fashion of the centuries with a very clever use of mannequins with articulated sections that could be expended, extended or stretched to show how the female silhouette has changed.
There were entire floors also dedicated to ceramics and print publishing design.
Pea, coconut and mint gaspacho
Sweet potato taliatelli, cabbage, macadamia nuts and pine nuts
Goats cheese foam
Pizza cauliflower and chestnuts
Coconut yoghurt and mixed berries and dragon fruit
And home to our Air BnB apartment.
It’s only two flights up to our apartment, but the steps are narrow and steep. After a long day on our feet, walking between exhibitions and eateries (between 15-20km) this final stretch is a push.
Day 1 Barcelona Air BnB Trip
Deposited at terminal C and found ourselves wandering off towards a distant train station in a gradually dwindling group. Soon lost and in building works we shared views and I found myself leading the party the length of the airport from terminals C, through B towards A.
Starting to realise the length of the walk and realising that the bus parked by Terminal B was headed for Placa de Catalunya near to our final destination I opted for that. Having only ever got the train into town this was a departure for me, that left a few who were on my trail temporarily bewildered.
Having arrived 30 minutes late I now fear I have badly misjudged our arrival at our Air BnB. My phone plays up too, being full, apps don’t load, I miss messages and end up relying on phone calls. All calls from our host give no identity which starts to bug me. At last we speak and we get the full address. One letter error and we are delayed again and now someone else will meet us there. Once resolved we find ourselves at a door to a late 19th century or early 20th six storey mansion block. Reminiscent of Paris but corridors somewhat narrower and darker, winding steps up steeper and the paintwork more chipped.
The small flat is all that we expect and could wish for. Two bedrooms (double and single), a modest dining/sitting room area off a kitchenette and a bathroom with a large shower. We are two storeys up, on the corner with views up, down and along a typical Barcelona street.
Lonely Planet is our guide. That and Google Maps and happy that we can do most of our trips on foot we are quickly out of the door.
Centre d’Arta Santa Monica
The Arts Santa Monica presents itself as the entrance to an international corporation. It is both imposing, and deserted but for a couple of receptionists at different desks. We find ourselves under a collection of huge paper drapes hanging from the ceiling with haunting folk music playing in support of a video installation. Its an ominous start in an obscure gallery we stumbled across simply was we walked from the Rambla del Raval to the marina.
A parallel world of exhibitions exploiting Google Street View
Twelve artist/photographers are featured. One of the most engaging is by the Cuban artist and photographer Ruben Torras Llorca. In his series ‘Road Movie’ he revisits famous movie locations using Google Street view and superimposes a mashed-up shot from the film. Off hand I remember: Easy Rider, Paris Texas, Zardoz and James Bond.
The most relevant and practical series Beagle 2.0 by Roger Grasas took excerpts from ‘A Naturalist’s Voyage round the world’ by Charles Darwin and revisited the spots now urbanised and too often piled with litter.
I’ve been doing the same with the First World War and the Western Front using Google Street view for the three volume 1938 publication ‘Then and Now’ to revisit the original pilgrimage to the Western Front 1914-1918 to 1924-1928 with a visit made by ‘The Camera Returns’ between 1982 and the present day’ and Google Street View 2014-2018.
With some cajoling, rather than heading for any of our hit list visits on our first afternoon, I got us in to the Museu Marítim. The vast and empty hall and ticket office suggests it is not a visitor to Barcelona’s priority.
This 14th century shipyard, come armaments factory was brought back to life in the early 1970s with a modern refit in the last decade. It is an impressive space that blends the gothic architecture of the original shipyard with a 21st century museum space.
Various histories are told, from the development of the shipyard and maritime trade as part of the history of Barcelona. The most revealing and shocking is to contemplate the lot of a man shackled to a bench to work out his life as a galley-slave.
There are numerous cleverly designed and revealing interest points, multi-media stations and short drama-reconstruction films.
Tired from an early start in England we ate at a very British time at a vegan choice, Rasoterra, found in Lonely Planet
It was awkward to be put next to the only couple in the place, also English. We avoided any excuse to introduce ourselves. Efforts to have us go for the tasting menu fell on deaf ears.
It was a memorable, freshly prepared meal of lovely surprises, from Seaweed Tartare, to croquettes of spinach and bao with asparagus.