Where to see modern art in Spain?

Where to see modern art in Spain?


The Balearic revival
Menorca, a axis of contemporary art? Given its conservative reputation, it may seem unlikely, but Swiss art magnates, Iwan and Manuela Wirth, have a habit of disrupting expectations. Best known for turning a Somerset farm into a multi-purpose destination, the couple have chosen a wind-swept islet in Mahón harbor for their latest addition.

The gallery opens in July with a show by LA-born painter Mark Bradford, whose US pavilion for the Venice Biennale in 2017 was a powerful rumination of slavery and the American Civil War — housed in the sustainably repurposed outbuildings of a former naval hospital, alongside a restaurant run by the pioneering local winery Binifadet.

"Isla del Rey is completely immersed in nature and has been a place of contemplation for millennia," Manuela says, referring to the ruins of a sixth-century basilica that can be visited, along with a sculpture trail with works by Louise Bourgeois and Eduardo Chillida set in gardens designed by Piet Oudolf. Menorca's scene currently includes a few commercial galleries and municipal art galleries.

Whether H&W Menorca will galvanize this modest ecosystem remains to be seen, though it will surely boost the island's growing conservation-focused profile. Fresh places to stay and continue to follow 2019 Experimental and Fontenille, with the newly opened Cristine Bedfor hotel in Mahón exactly the bolthole to attract a blue-chip collector.


The rural upstart
Two things have happened in recent years to put the small city of Extremadura Cáceres on the map. One was the success of Atrio, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms in a mansion reimagined by architects Luis Moreno Mansilla and Emilio Tuón. The second was Helga de Alvear Museum of Contemporary Art. German-born, Spanish-based collector De Alvear was looking for somewhere to house her collection of 20th and 21st-century art when she visited Cáceres and unveiled the first phase of her headquarters in 2010.

The new wing, opened this spring, has amazed locals with its elegant modernity (also the work of Tuón) and the unerring quality of its contents. Entry is free, and cacereos pose for selfies among large pieces by Olafur Eliasson and Katharina Grosse, while Ai Weiwei's Descending Light, made of 60,000 glass beads, has become its poster child.

With Cáceres rubbing the provincial sleep out of its eyes, an art route is developing, with stops at the Museo de Cáceres for its modern Spanish masters and at the space dedicated to Fluxus artist Wolf Vostell a few miles from the city, where his post-industrial work punctuates the landscape. The down-at-heel areas around De Alvear’s museum are still ripe for improvement, but Julián Gómez's Kernel gallery on Plaza Marrón (and L'Avenir, his tapas bar nearby) shows what might happen when a new wave of art-savvy visitors pitches up.


The city enclave
This salt-of-the-earth barrio in south-west Madrid was never a name to conjure with, known mainly for its factories, hard-rock gigs and the capital's largest prison. But a recent influx of creatives has given it a jolt of energy. Driven out of the center by a lack of affordable studio space, and partly driven by the proximity of Matadero, a cultural hub in an old slaughterhouse next to the River Manzanares, artists have influenced Carabanchel's rich supply of garages, print shops and textile workshops. The main nexus is the Oporto metro station, where collectives such as Mala Fama and Nave Oporto are rooted. Another hotspot is in the Comillas quarter.

Here, French-Algerian gallery Sabrina Amrani runs one of the most beautiful art spaces in the area, and designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón, indigenous communities whose recycled PET lamps worldwide, has a spectacular converted factory where he holds under-the-radar concerts. If natural-wine bars, artisan bakers and hipster hotels are so far absent (a craft brewery, Patanel, is an exception), that's exactly how the residents like it.

"Let's hope Carabanchel doesn't become another version of New York's SoHo," says painter and singer Alberto Acinas, an early arrival in 2005. Acinas points out that gentrification was exactly what he and his colleagues were fleeing from. "And also, with any more distractions, you'd get no work done."

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