Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Perusing 2,000 years of art

“Dying Moments: Kicking a Man When He’s Down,” Bernardo Ferrandiz y Badenes (1835-1885), 1881

From Museum of Malaga label: This allegorical composition alludes to an episode in the artist’s life. A man of choleric temperament, he had a run-in with a fellow Academy member… which resulted in Ferrandiz being tried and sent to prison. Deeply shaken by this event, which led to his removal from the post of director of the San Telmo Fine Art School and social and personal disgrace, the once-haughty artist depicted himself as the skeleton of a cat. Only then, when the feline is “down,” so to speak, does the weakest of its sworn enemies, the mouse, dare to scurry among its remains.

Pondered how to pick a piece of art to represent a museum’s enormous collection…. Not sure why this painting by the man regarded as a founder of the Malaga School of painting was nominated, except Day of the Dead has been on my mind.

The Mister spied the painting first, perhaps drawn by the unusual printing painted directly on the frame. Somewhat illiterate in Spanish (understatement), I am label dependent. But what a great personal story – a tale of the politics of art – lurks within that frame.

The Museum of Malaga occupies the Palacio de la Aduana. The former customs house was commissioned by King Charles III (1716-1788) in 1787 in recognition of Malaga’s major role as a maritime trading center.

Two collections, one of fine arts and one of archaeology, were merged to become the Malaga Museum of Art and moved into the almost 200,000 square-foot neoclassical building in 2016. A lot to wander through and absorb, but here’s an abbreviated armchair tour.

Loved the horse “volunteering” his serum to inoculate a child in the 1900 painting by Enrique Borras. But my particular favorite is Enrique Simonet’s 1890 painting of an autopsy – “Anatomy of the Heart: And She Had a Heart.” Alas, now she has none. Seems a screen-shot from a macabre film.

Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Street Art, Part II

So here’s the second installment of following the trail street artists have marked in Malaga….

Click here to view Part One.

Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Cuisine anchored by seafood

El Pimpi Bodega Bar

El Pimpi Bodega Bar is an institution in Malaga. Although it was not founded until 1971, the buildings and décor are much older. Enormous wooden wine kegs line the hallway of the entrance.

Historically, los pimpis were the young men who would head to the docks to help unload cruise ships and then freelance their services as informal tour guides for the newly arrived tourists. El Pimpi has numerous dining rooms and a bright patio, but unfortunately it feels as though pimpis just led an entire boatload of tourists there. Definitely worth visiting though. Somehow we found a slow time, like early on a Monday evening, to belly up to the bar for a glass of wine and a tapa-sized order of croquetas. Both were perfect.

But on to seafood. And where to find the freshest? Head to a market. El Mercado Atarazanas is reputed to have the best. Tourists and locals in equal numbers compete for high tops with stools outside the market. The first time we landed at was a relative newcomer, Happy Fish, the name of which worried us. Too close to “happy meals.” But, fortunately, that was not the case. We felt reassured by the fact we were brought a bottle of wine that coincidentally bore the name of our favorite restaurant almost anywhere – La Biznaga in Oaxaca. On two other occasions we snagged space at the longer established Bar Mercado Atarazanas.

Both delivered great fresh seafood. We dove into platters of boquerones fritos (fried fresh white anchovies), chiles padron, fried eggplant, tortillitas de camarones (shrimp fritters). By our third trip to Mercado Atarazanas and after almost two months of opportunities, we finally got up the courage to take the plunge. We ordered an Andalucian delicacy we had been avoiding – ortiguillas de mar frito.

In the sea, these anemones use their long swaying tenacles to sting and entrap fish. Green algae filters through their somewhat translucent bodies. Restaurants serve them battered and fried. Hey, anything is good fried, right? Ortiguillas come close to a fried oyster in texture, but an oyster with a belly-full of blackish green algae. That makes them sound horrible, which they weren’t. Just a tad challenging for us. We did make it through about two-thirds of the way through our media racion (no tapa-size available). Box checked. More boquerones, please.

The market seafood stalls are packed, but locals have an escape spot away from the maddening crowd – La Peregrina. Not always easy to snag a table, but there is more elbow room. The place is somewhat sterile compared to the bustling market, but loved that women seemed to rule the open kitchen. All the same dishes can be found here. The grilled pulpo was perfect, but the pincho (skewer) of red tuna blew us away. You cannot tell from the photo, but it was seared on the outside and rare in the center – wonderful.

By all inside appearances, La Taberna de Cervantes appeared a perfect place to delve into traditional dishes, and our food was fine. But our waiter totally ruined it for us. Menus in the Andalucia region often feature three sizes of servings – tapas (light appetizers), media racion and full racion (full size). Our waiter, acting like a greedy pimpi trying to take advantage of tourists just off the boat, kept trying to upsize us, saying we needed raciones of everything. Oh, and better wine. And the “background music” was a commercial radio station playing tired cheesy tunes. Not a good experience, but, who knows, the “parent” restaurant does get good reviews….

El Gastronauta really should not be lumped together with these more traditional places, but, in order to restrict Malaga to two food posts, I needed a volunteer. Reservations are recommended in this small, narrow casual restaurant popular with a young crowd of locals. Vegetable sides are a bit more creative than many places, and on weekends the kitchen turns out a variety of quite respectable paellas.

More food later….