Two Overlooked Art Spaces in Madrid

Madrid is famous for its art. The “Golden Triangle” of the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza attract millions of visitors a year.

But there are plenty more places to see art than those famous three. One of my favorites is the Conde Duque, an 18th century barracks that has been turned into an art and educational space. Behind an elaborate Baroque gate are three large courtyards. The high, thick walls muffle the sound of the busy city outside and a sense of calm reigns.

There are three major exhibition spaces, although all aren’t always showing something at the same time. Conde Duque has recently reopened after a major remodel. While it’s lost some of its decaying charm, the building seriously needed work because termites were eating away at the old beams.

Entrance to the exhibitions is free. Evening concerts of classical music are often held in the courtyards and these charge for tickets. This is a popular nightspot for madrileños so book well in advance.

Right across the street from Conde Duque is Blanca Berlin, one of the best photo galleries in Madrid. They have a constantly changing collection of photos for sale from established and up-and-coming photographers from all over the world. They also have a permanent stock of photos you can look through. Unlike some of the snootier galleries in Madrid, they don’t mind people coming in just to browse.

These two spots are at the edge of Malasaña, a barrio famous for its international restaurants, artsy shops and pulsing nightlife.

Still haven’t satisfied your art craving? Check out five more overlooked art museums in Madrid.

[Photo courtesy Luis García]

Five overlooked art museums in Madrid

Madrid is famous for its art. The Spanish capital boasts a “Golden Triangle” of world-class museums: the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. While these are all worth a visit, Madrid has dozens of other art museums that are generally overlooked by the casual visitor. Here are five local favorites.

Museo Sorolla
The house of one of Spain’s most famous painters from the turn of the last century is preserved much the way he left it. The Museo Sorolla is an elegant old mansion with a quiet Moorish courtyard. The walls of the high-ceilinged rooms are covered in the paintings of Joaquín Sorolla Bastida, a prolific painter who favored sunny beach scenes like the one shown here. As interesting as the paintings are the many antiques he collected and knickknacks from his daily life, like a palette covered in colors next to a shelf stuffed with used tubes of paint. Looking at little details like this, you feel like Sorolla has just stepped out for a coffee.

%Gallery-127477%Museo del Romanticismo
Visit a mansion built in 1776 to see how rich folks lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the Museo del Romanticismo the ballroom, dining room, bedroom, and nursery are all fitted up with period furnishings. There’s even a velvet commode. The furnishings and artwork are all good examples of Romanticism, an art movement that was hugely influential at the time because it reacted against industrialization and science and hearkened back to a simpler age. Nostalgia is nothing new! The paintings often show Arcadian scenes or the exploits of famous adventurers. The collection of personal objects includes a bit too much lace and porcelain for my taste, but my wife loved this place.

Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando
The Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando is a Madrid institution. Founded in 1744, it’s still teaching aspiring artists today. It’s housed in a grandiose Baroque palace and has an impressive permanent collection of Renaissance and early modern art, including works by Francisco de Goya, who used to be the academy’s director. The ground floor has a temporary exhibition space that attracts small but interesting shows. I saw an amazing exhibition on Ottoman calligraphy there once. Not what I was expecting but good on the eyes!

El Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales
Not technically an art museum, “The Monastery of the Barefoot Royals” houses a large collection of religious art. These nuns went barefoot as penance for their sins, but they lived well in other ways. First off, they were daughters of noblemen, so they came to the order with their dowries. This often included fine art. Since they’d been given a 16th century royal palace to live in, there was plenty of room to decorate. Check out the soaring church, fine tapestries, and even some religious relics such as a portion of the True Cross. This is still an active nunnery so dress respectably.

Museo Lázaro Galdiano
Another house museum like the Museo Sorolla, the Fundación Lázaro Galdiano has recently reopened after a long renovation. It’s a beautiful palace along Calle Serrano in Madrid’s poshest district. Galdiano was a millionaire and one of Spain’s most passionate collectors of art. When he died in 1947 his collection was turned into a museum. It’s especially strong in Old Master paintings, so if you didn’t get enough of that at the Golden Triangle, here’s your chance to see more. Plenty of Romanticism too, if visiting the Museo del Romanticismo left you wanting more of that too.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]