Madrid Offers Up Great Summer Art Season

Madrid
Dalí, El gran masturbador, 1929 © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, VEGAP, Madrid, 2013

Madrid is one of the best destinations in the world for art, and this summer its many museums and galleries are putting on an impressive array of temporary exhibitions.

The blockbuster of the season is at the Reina Sofia, which is having a major exhibition on Salvador Dalí. “All of the poetic suggestions and all of the plastic possibilities” brings together almost 200 works here by the famous odd man of surrealism.

Organized in roughly chronological order, the earliest paintings in the exhibition date to the mid-’20s and show a surprisingly traditional technique. Once he’d mastered the basics, however, Dalí soon plunged into his own unmistakable style. The exhibition is accompanied by detailed texts on Dalí’s life and career. For example, we learn the reason why we keep seeing the same set of cliffs in Dalí’s work. In his youth Dalí and his family would vacation at the seaside town of Cadaqués, where he became obsessed with the cliffs of Cape Creus. He once said, “I am convinced I am Cape Creus itself. I am inseparable from this sky, from this sea, from these rocks.”

%Slideshow-2876%Many of his best-known works are here, as well as early sketches and little gems, like a painting of Hitler masturbating. Who but Dalí could pull that off? (Pun intended.) Numerous video screens shows Dalí’s many film experiments, including the famous “Un Chien Andalou” with Luis Buñuel and several other lesser-known films. The show runs until September 2.

The Reina Sofia has two other exhibitions. “1961: Founding the Expanded Arts” looks at a vital year in the history of modern art that saw the expansion of artistic collaborations and music experimentation and the launch of Concept Art. It runs until October 28. At the museum’s annex at Retiro park is “Cildo Meireles,” which looks at the acclaimed Brazilian conceptual artist’s work and runs until September 29.

The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza has a major exhibition on Camille Pissarro. This cofounder of Impressionism was the only one to take part in all eight Impressionist exhibitions from 1874 to 1886. The museum brings together more than 70 of his works, mostly the lush landscapes for which he was known. The show runs until September 15.

El Prado also has three temporary exhibitions. The headliner is “Captive Beauty: Fra Angelo to Fortuny.” This exhibition brings together almost 300 works characterized by their small size and technical excellence. The point is to demonstrate the ability of some of Europe’s greatest artists to create beauty in a confined space and to highlight works that are often missed hanging next to giant, better-known works. They are arranged chronologically from the 14th to 19th centuries. The show runs until November 10.

Another of El Prado’s exhibitions examines the relationship between two 18th-century artists, Anton Raphael Mengs and José Nicolás de Azara. The two painters traded ideas and collaborated on projects throughout their careers. “Mengs and Azara: Portrait of a Friendship” runs until October 13. “Japanese Prints,” which runs until October 6, showcases items from the museum’s collection from the 17th to 19th centuries.

This year Spain and Japan are celebrating 400 years of friendly relations. In 1613, a group of Japanese emissaries set out to visit Spain. They crossed the Pacific, passed through the Spanish colony of Mexico, and then crossed the Atlantic. After touring Spain they continued on to visit the Pope in Rome before heading back home. The whole trip took seven years. We talk a lot about adventure travel here on Gadling, but nothing in the modern day can measure up to what these early travelers did.

To honor the anniversary, the Museum of Decorative Arts is hosting “Namban,” a fascinating look at the artistic influence these two distant cultures had on one another. One interesting object is a large screen in the Japanese style, yet bearing a Spanish colonial painting of Mexico City. There is as yet no closing date for this exhibition.

If you hurry you can still catch a free exhibition of the work of Swiss surrealist Alberto Giacometti at the Fundación Mapfre. The exhibition includes numerous examples of his famous statues of elongated human figures as well as his lesser-known paintings. This exhibition runs until August 4.

We’re suffering sweltering temperatures here in Madrid right now, so beat the heat and go see some art!

Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum is now free every day

Here’s some good news for budget travelers in Madrid. Following the lead of the Museo Nacional del Prado (which has been offering free hours each day it is open since 2007), the Reina Sofia will now offer a few hours of free admission every day as well.

Previously, the museum had charged €6 admission, except for Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings, when the fee was waived. But now it will offer free admission for a portion of each day that it is open, which is every day except Tuesday. Free hours will be from 7pm to close (9pm) on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, from 2:30pm to 9pm on Saturday, and from 10am until the 2:30pm closing time on Sunday. If you’re looking for just a small sampling of the modern and contemporary art housed at the Reina Sofia, swing by for a few free hours of browsing. If you’re a dedicated art-lover, spread your visit out over a several evenings to get your art fix without spending a single euro. Either way, you’ll get more art for less money, almost any day of the week.

Travel to Spain is down this year, except in Madrid, where it actually increased by about 6%. With cheaper opportunities for viewing art, Madrid’s tourism numbers may continue to increase, especially among travelers on a smaller budget.

Need a hotdog in Madrid? Try Chicago Hot Dogs

I know that part of traveling aborad is experiencing new cuisine. And, Madrid‘s a great place to do that. Sometimes, though, you just have a jones for the familiar. Or, you’re in the mood to dine ‘n’ dash. I get it. When you need a quick fix, a hotdog‘s the likely answer, and Chicago Hot Dog in Madrid is ready to deliver.

To be honest, Chicago Hot Dog’s fare did not measure up to Sweden‘s impressive dogs, and it lagged Iceland a bit. Had the hotdogs been a little hotter, though, the gap would have closed some. Similar to the dogs of Scandinavia, the mustard is the main event in Madrid. Maybe it’s a European thing: the mustard at Chicago Hot Dog was creamy and had a hint of cheese flavor (a la Oscar Mayer) … which works. The hotdog itself was quite large, especially compared to those of Iceland and Sweden (but smaller than those I had in France). For Americans, a good rule of thumb at Chicago Hot Dog is 2:1 – two local dogs equals one from home.

Chicago Hot Dog has several locations across the city. One is close to the Museo del Prado, and another is only a block away from Reina Sofia (which is home to Pablo Picasso‘s “Guernica“). So, if you’re short on time while running from one museum to the next, scarf down a hotdog instead of waiting forever for the check at a more authentic establishment, and you’ll maximize your time with the art.

Check out a video of the dining experience after the jump.