MACBA – Museum of the future?
by Meg Emmitt
Thanks to a 6 hour layover in Barcelona, I was able to spend an entire afternoon at the MACBA (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art). And it happened to be Wednesday, visitors day, when entrance fees are reduced to $3.50 euros. Que suerte! Contemporary museums are fascinating institutions to explore because, as is said in the opening paragraph of the museum´s pamphlet, “Contemporary” and “Museum” are really quite contradictory words.
How is art preserved and displayed when it is no longer the object or artifact that is the main concern? Contemporary art is all about the experience, the way in which the viewer interacts with a concept more so than the tangible thing. Art institutions have had a heck of a time creating environment based on this new reality. In my opinion, the MACBA is one of the best examples around of a succesful contemporary art museum.
Getting out of the cab, the building exudes “modernism”.. it´s a hip, gritty scene with local teens skateboarding, biking, and simply “hanging” in front.. it is right in the middle of the city, surrounded by cafes and bars and you just feel COOL being there. The museum itself, built by renowned American architect Richard Meier, is gorgeous, full of character and vitality… yet it´s not completelty overwhelming and doesn´t detract from the excellent art collection on display inside (as is the argument with many of the modern museums of today such as Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao). The building is impressive but not a spectacle… sort of the updated “white cube” in which its clear the art not the structure is on display.
And the art, as well as the atmosphere, certainly does impress. I had read that the museum´s director had a desire for the museum to be locally relevant so I was on the lookout to see how much Catalan art was actually being exhibited. The current exhibition was “Matter of Time”, a compilation of the MACBA´s new acquisitions. Many of these works addressed issues of news, mass media, consumption, and war. Barcelona artists created works such as Joan Rabascall´s “Mass Media” and Eugenia Balcells´ “For/Against”, commenting on the effects of popular culture and the atrocities of war using collage and video as mediums. These two mediums had a HUGE presence at the MACBA, suggesting the direction that contemporary art is headed.
There is no doubt the museum is making an effort to be locally relevant, displaying a significant number of artists from Barcelona in “Matter of Time” and, subsequently, increasing their presence in the permanent collection.
However, if its big name international artists you want to see, the MACBA surely does not dissapoint. You can see abstract paintings by Philip Guston and Franz Kline and video performance art by Bruce Nauman. My personal highlight was four pieces by San Sebastian superstar sculptors (say that 5 times fast) Eduardo Chillida and Jorge Otieza.
Bottom line, this is a must see museum if you go to Barcelona for it seems to cover all the bases: Impressive structure, lively atmosphere, local relevance, and art that not only is top rate, but is placed in an environment that allows for an intimate, transformative experience.
Filed under: architecture, contemporary art, museums, travel | 8 Comments
Tags: Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Bilbao, Bruce Nauman, Catalan art, Eduardo Chillida, Eugenia Balcell, Frank Gehry, Franz Kline, Guggenheim, Joan Rabascall, Jorge Otieza, MACBA, Philip Guston, Richard Meier