Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Barcelona Museums and Buildings

Aahh, Barcelona... the land of Gaudi, Miro and Picasso. For anyone with even a passing interest in art and/or architecture, this is the place to be. What I did not fully appreciate until this week was that these artists have an ability to capture the imagination of not only us, but also our children, who stayed engaged far longer than Suzanne and I had expected. Perhaps Gaudi has made the largest imprint on the city, with his unmistakably unique architecture which can be seen many places throughout the city. Perhaps the most famous - and certainly the most controversial- is his "Sacrada Familia" cathedral which was started in the early 1900's, partially destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and to this day seems to be forever under construction. Not all that much has changed since I saw it 20 years ago. While a symbol of Barcelona, people enjoy debating whether it is a) a hideous monstrosity or b) the work of a genius (or perhaps a little of both). Either way, there is no doubt it generates passionate conversation. We told our kids that, at the current pace of construction, they could bring their children here someday and it still wouldn't be finished! For me, this is an interesting metaphor for modern spain - lots of construction and change, but nothing ever seems truly completed. Gaudi's next big hit in Barcelona is La Pedrera apartment, which looks like a wavy sand castle with bizarre rooftop chimney structures that resemble something out of Easter Island. Gaudi was an astute observer of nature and many of his most creative breakthroughs were gleaned from observing natural structures, such as the pillars inside La Sagrada Familia which resemble large tree trunks. The Picasso and Miro museums were also outstanding, with their distinctly characteristic styles. The kids in particular enjoyed Miro's quirky, cartoonish and colorful paintings (with just a touch of eroticism thrown in for the adults!). While initially turned off by Miro's often childlike simplicity, I gained a new appreciation for the depth of his work on this visit. Had the little ones not started to meltdown towards the end, Suzanne and I could have easily lingered there much longer. Another museum we really enjoyed was the Maritime museum, capturing the history of Barcelona through the ships that sailed from/to this port town over the years. Very well done, with stunning replicas and many original ships and figureheads. And that was pretty much the extent of our museum experience. Any more would have likely generated mutiny from the children and most certainly pushed their parents to the brink of exasperation/insanity.

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