Museum Honors 75th Anniversary Of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ With Special Exhibit


It’s Picasso’s most famous and discussed work. “Guernica” was the artist’s response to the Luftwaffe’s bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Some 1,654 civilians died. Nazi Germany was supporting General Francisco Franco and his Nationalists in their attempt to overthrow the Republican government, a fight he eventually won.

Now the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, which houses the work, is honoring its 75th anniversary with a new exhibition titled “Encounters with the 1930s.” This show examines the crucial decade through its art, looking at the various artistic movements and how they grappled with the increasingly polarized political landscape of Europe.

More than 400 exhibits are divided into six sections: realism; abstraction; international expositions; surrealism; photography, film and posters; and Spain: the Second Republic, the Civil War and exile. The museum is also hosting a film series titled “Cinema of the 1930s.”

This exhibition comes at a time when the old divisions from the Spanish Civil War are beginning to reemerge. This excellent article on the BBC goes into more detail.

“Encounters with the 1930s” runs from October 3-January 7, 2013.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Best Anti-Drug Poster Ever Found In Santander, Spain

anti-drug poster
I was at my local Sanidad Exterior here in Santander, Spain, getting some medicine for an upcoming trip when I spotted this wonderful poster. It reads: “If you bring drugs aboard the plane they’ll cook you lobster and the captain will let you fly.”

The next line reads: “If you believe that taking drugs is the solution to your problems you’ll believe anything.”

This brightened up an otherwise boring wait to see the doctor. While I don’t buy the myth that “all drugs are evil and need to be banned for your own good,” I do think this poster is a quick remedy for stoners who think they can flout international law and common sense just because they’re seeing the world on daddy’s credit card. It’s a big world out there, kids, and it’s just as interesting with a clear head.

Spain has come up with some other fun warnings on the dangers of travel. Last year, I wrote about another anti-drug poster.

[Image courtesy Ministerio de Sanidad, Servicios Sociales e Igualdad]

Spain Raises Airport Taxes

Spain, Barajas
The government of Spain has announced that it is raising airport taxes.

The amount of the increase depends on the airport, with the average being 18.9 percent. Taxes at the two busiest airports, however, will more than double. Madrid’s Barajas airport will increase from 6.95 euros to 14.44 ($8.64 to $17.94). Barcelona’s El Prat airport will go from 6.12 euros to 13.44 ($7.60 to $16.70).

Ryanair and Vueling have already passed the extra fee onto their passengers. Other airlines have yet to decide how to respond. The tax is retrospective for those who booked before July 2, 2012, and are traveling from July 1 onwards.

Spain is one of the most troubled economies of the Eurozone. It has recently been granted up to 100 billion euros ($124 billion) in bailouts for its banks and the government is planning harsh austerity measures in order to balance the books. With summer tourist season kicking into high gear, the increased tax will bring in tens of millions in much-needed funds, assuming it doesn’t turn away too many tourists.

[Photo of Madrid’s Barajas airport courtesy Andres Rueda]

Two Overlooked Art Spaces in Madrid

MadridMadrid 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]

World’s Oldest Cave Art Found In Spain

Archaeologists analyzing prehistoric paintings in Spain have discovered the earliest example of cave art.

El Castillo Cave in Cantabria on Spain’s northern coast was one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites investigated for the study. The earliest dates were a minimum of 40,800 years ago for a red disk, 37,300 years for a hand stencil, and 35,600 years for a club-shaped symbol. The red disk is at least 4,000 years older than anything previously found in Europe and arguably the oldest cave art anywhere.

These early dates have sparked an interesting debate. The paintings are from the transition period between Neanderthals and the arrival of modern humans. No cave art has been firmly attributed to the Neanderthals and scholars have long debated the level of their intelligence.

Researchers used uranium-series disequilibrium dates of calcite deposits overlying art in eleven caves to determine the dates. Like radiocarbon dating, this technique measures the change in radioactive isotopes. Unlike the more common radiocarbon dating technique, however, which studies the half-life of carbon 14, this technique studies the rate of decay of uranium 234 into thorium 230, a process that happens at a precise rate. It can date calcite up to 300,000 years old.

Very thin films of calcite were sampled from just above the paintings. Being on top of the paintings, they are younger than the art, thus the paintings could be centuries older than the minimum dates given.

The results have been published in the journal Science. Meanwhile, the team is sampling more cave art in the hope of finding even earlier dates.