Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Art for the People, and It's Free

Museum of Public Art / Museo de Arte Público

Jose Maria Subirachs, Al Otro Lado del Muro, 1972
I’ve heard that Madrileños don’t go trick-or-treating, but they must throw Halloween parties--the stores in October are stocked with bloody scythes and devil horns.  Today I ambled through the tony neighborhood of Salamanca, enjoying the scent of privilege and luxury.  Imagine a soothing melange of bath soap, cake shop, and new-car leather.  I like to think I’m wearing my own disguise, the “frumpy American,” and that someday soon I’ll take it off and find my true self revealed: that woman who just walked into Prada, with matching bag and heels, and statement jewelry.  Dios mío, on these streets, even the seriously gravid are camera-ready.  

People-watching is a bonus at the Museum of Public Art.  The thoroughfare, located in an underpass and dotted with abstract bronze, cement or limestone sculptures, connects the busy Paseo Castellano to Calle Serrano. 

The overpass with part of the Museum of Public Art

Business people in smart suits hurry through on their way to important meetings.  A stately older man has taken refuge behind Pablo Serrano’s bronze Unidades-Yunta (Unities-Yoke).   

Unidades-Yunta, 1972

All sculptures are from the early 1970s, when the idea for converting the urban space to an open-air gallery was conceived.  The artist Eduardo Chillida created the seven ton La Sirena Varada (The Stranded Siren) to hang from four massive supports of the bridge overhead.  After extensive debate and technical study, the sculpture was finally hung in 1978.

La Sirena Varada, 1972

Juan March Foundation / Fundación Juan March
Aleksandr Deineka (1899–1969): Avant–Garde for the Proletariat
Further east in the Salamanca neighborhood stands another 1970s landmark: the building of the Juan March Foundation (1975, architect José Luis Picardo).  

Juan March Foundation at Castello, 77
A fantastic exhibit on the Soviet artist Aleksandr Deineka opened in the Foundation’s art gallery earlier this month.  It’s free, and runs until January 15, 2012.  If you have any interest at all in Stalin era history, art, politics, socialist realism or the avant-garde, this show is worth your time.  In addition to supporting materials and a video presentation, over 80 of Deineka’s works from Russia, Europe and the U.S. are on view, covering his entire career from the 1920s to the 1950s.  For more information, see the Foundation web page.  The gift shop carries a nice selection of inexpensive posters from this and past exhibits, as well as art catalogs and books.  


  1. Love the frumpy American disguise. Yes, I know what you mean...and there are actually serious discussions on TA whether sports shoes are OK for mature adults. I can't even imagine a madrileño/a over the age of 35 (being conservative) wearing anything like frumpy Americans wear to be "comfortable" while traveling...baggy shorts, t-shirts, baseball caps and sports shoes. OMG..is all I can say, and I know it shows my age. BUT I should add...I have no reason to talk. Although I don't wear the above, I don't look as good as the locals usually do.

  2. This is a good link to a description of the sereno's job.


    In Spain, his former job was to light the street lights (before gas? Spain had electric street light in the 60's so that part of his job had past. However, milk was still delivered in some parts of the city by horse!

  3. Your blog is awesome. I really hate to say something at trite as: Keep up the good work...and esp. the wry remarks.

  4. Kay, thanks for your comments. I will ask about the "sereno"! That's the kind of info it would be nice to see at the Museum of the City...