Postcard from Valencia, Spain: A metropolis in which to happily get lost

Cities are the spearhead of the most outstanding experiences and the most daring behavior, the places where the greatest development of the arts takes place. Consequently many artists choose life in the city as one of the central features of their work, with the city (often) being understood as a collage of a host of discontinuous, fragmented memories and experiences, a confused labyrinth in which the inhabitants cross paths with one another but remain immersed in their own thoughts.

Jose Miguel G. Cortes, director of IVAM

From the balcony of the apartment we are renting in Valencia, we have a personal portal into Valencia’s Institute of Modern Art, better known as IVAM. Unfortunately, all this portal permits us to see is one of the museum’s stairwells; we have to walk around to the main entrance and pay to enter.

But “Lost in the City,” an exhibition drawn from IVAM’s extensive permanent collections, was a worthwhile place to begin our stay in Spain’s third largest city. Organized around themes, the show portrays more than a century of artists’ positive and negative reactions to the growth of metropolitan areas. The snapshots below capture a few of the included works, but I was derelict in recording many of the artists’ names.

IVAM also introduced us to the works, “Corpus,” of Helena Almeida, a Portuguese artist renowned for her performance and conceptual art.

The original core of the institute’s huge collection of sculptures are by a Spaniard, Julio Gonzalez (1876-1972). Born into a family of craftsmen working in metal in Barcelona, Gonzalez yearned for more artistic expressions than construction projects allowed. Traveling to Paris to immerse himself in the thriving art community, he collaborated with Pablo Picasso in the 1920s on a series of metal sculptures that involved a mutual exchange of their creative expertise.

The harsher depictions of metropolitan scenes captured in many works in “Lost in the City” and our stark view of the museum’s portal stand in contrast to our current experiences in Valencia. The heart of this city is pedestrian and bicycle oriented. Our neighborhood is crisscrossed by a rabbit-like warren of winding narrow streets constantly interrupted by intimate plazas filled with lively cafes.

Despite its population of 800,000 residents, even strangers feel welcome in the warmth of such a walkable environment. Becoming lost under the stimulating spell of Valencia is an urban journey beckoning us daily.

Fortunately, the 1927 version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is not what life has become…. at least not here.

 

Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a Mediator, and this must be the heart.

Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, 1927

Postcard from Madrid, Spain: Mentioning a few more museums

A month in Madrid, and we never ran out of museums. Doing a round-up of a few remaining ones so you can see how inexhaustible the supply.

El Museo del Romanticismo is one of several house museums positioning art and collections as though the owners still were present. A glimpse into gender expectations was provided in the toy room: a display case of toy soldiers for boys, a dollhouse full of nuns for girls.

The ballroom of Museo Cerralbo is over the top even for extravagant residences of the 19th century.

A glimpse into an artist’s life and work is provided in the Museo Sorolla. Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) preferred to paint his subjects en plein air, trying to capture sunlight instead of artificial light.

Oh, and then there are Goya’s ceiling frescoes and his tomb in San Antonio de la Florida….

And a large collection of art resides in the Museum of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, or Bellas Artes, because one reason Spain has produced such great artists is the country offered them support. Velazquez painted the royals; Picasso and Dali studied at the academy; and Goya was a director of the Bellas Artes. No photographs were allowed here, but the museum’s labels clearly indicate the politics of art. A Napoleonic tradition of systematically looting art was in play. Many of the pieces hanging on the walls of Bellas Artes are listed as having been retrieved from France after the final eviction of Joseph Bonaparte and the restoration of Ferdinand VII’s rule in the early 1800s.