Monday, May 17, 2010

Barcelona - Montjuic and Joan Miro Museum

Sunday was the highlight of my trip .. well, it's only been 2 days so I guess that's an unfair statement to make so soon. But this was the day in the itinerary that I was most looking forward to, and it lived up to all my expectations. We took a trip to the Montjuic area, which is one of the highest points in Barcelona and gave us fabulous views. We took a funicular upwards for 6 minutes to reach this area. Although there were plenty of beautiful parks and sites, the main reason for this adventure was to visit the Joan Miro museum.

I've been enamoured by the art of Joan Miro (although I originally thought he was a woman, and not spanish for John) since I first saw one of his enormous sculptures in Chicago. He works in multiple mediums including paintings, drawings, tapestry and sculptures. His art ranges from delightful and quirky to obscure, abstract and surreal. The museum was well laid out to follow the trajectory of his life and career. The audioguide did an excellent job of describing how his art changed through time, and how he was greatly influenced by events like the Spanish Civil War and World War II. It also helped to interpret what we were looking at (a man? a woman? a bird?) since sometimes you had to stretch the imagination to see it.

Also in the Montjuic area was the Mies Van de Rohe Pavillion that was built for the 1929 Barcelona international expo. We first encountered this architect's work during a Toronto Doors Open visit to the 54th floor of the Toronto Dominion Centre. There we saw the "Barcelona" chair amongst others of his designs. It was quite interesting to see the place where he first came up with this idea, in Barcelona itself. Considering this was done in the late 1920s, his designs seem incredibly modern, even in current times.

Finally we visited the Caixiforum, which is the second gallery of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, and much superior to the MABCA that we went to the day before. Inside, we saw an exhibition on photographs of children from around the world, sponsored by Unicef, a tribute to Frederic Fellini, a collection of "Declassified Objects" including pairings of sandals with swim caps made of things like bathtub plugs, fishing lures, etc., a huge sculpture made of bright yellow plastic virgin mary figures and more. There was also an exhibit of black and white photography by Jacques Lartigue (1894-1986) who played with concepts of 3D photography, movement/speed, framing, etc.

Now for an update on the soccer celebration from yesterday. It turns out Barcelona won the Spanish league championships and beat a bitter rival in doing so. The festivities lasted late into the night until some time between midnight and 1am, the riot police came out in full force. At one point, outside the window of our apartment loft, we could see a line of more than10 police vehicles, with riot armed police in position and a helicopter in the air scanning for looters and hooligans. What we heard and taught were firecrackers throughout the night seemed to come in rapid repeated bursts, which in retrospect we wonder whether that was actually gunfire! All in all, it was an exciting Sunday day and night.

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