Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Museum of Ham

Museum of Ham / Museo del Jamón
02/24/12 – Carrera de San Jer
ónimo, 6

Bakery / Museo del Pan Gallego (Pl. de Herradores, 9)
On my quixotic journey to every museum in Madrid, I’ve come across a breed I’ll call the faux museum.  Rather than displaying fine paintings or jeweled snuffboxes, these establishments provide the necessities of earthly life.  For example, on a tiny plaza not far from Calle Arenal sits the Museum of Galician Bread.

Close to the touristy heart of the city hangs a sign for the Museum of Wine, though the entrance to this restaurant, if it exists, can only be accessed through a midnight incantation.

Calle de la Cruz, 14

According to the website, the art deco Museum Chicote (Calle Gran Vía, 12) has been serving cocktails to movie stars since 1931: Ava Gardner, Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra... all drank here.

Cocktail bar Museo Chicote--seen better days?

And then there is The Factory Beer Museum. If I read the web site correctly, the Beer Museum offers a literary prize of 2000 euros... for the best "beer fiction."

Calle Genova, 21
Here is another specimen of interest, the Museum of Tarot, an occult store just off Sol.

Calle San Alberto, 1

Finally, as seen in various locations around Madrid, the Museum of Ham

Carrera de San Jeronimo, 6

As if arranged by Busby Berkeley
The most expensive ham, jamón ibérico de bellota, comes from a free-range black pig that dines on nothing but acorns and herbs as it sashays through forests of oak.  After slaughter, the meat is cured for three years, sometimes four. On this trip to the Museum of Ham, our visitor from Wisconsin wants nothing but the finest: 9 euros ($12) for 100 grams--enough to line two rolls.  The Museum of Ham is both deli and diner, with a bread counter for good measure.  

A range of prices and types. Top r: 90 euros/kilo

100 grams of the best.

We’ve never tasted acorns, but now we think we know their essence, as filtered through a trotter from southern Spain, who rooted in the shade of mighty trees. 

Ham in the afternoon, Plaza de Isabel II

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chagall at the Thyssen: Two Venues, One Vision

The Rooster, 1929
Thyssen-Bornemizsa Museum / Museo Thyssen-Bornemizsa
02/16/12 – Paseo del Prado, 8
Fundación Caja Madrid
02/17/12 – Pl. de San Martín, 1

The “golden triangle” of Madrid museums refers to the magnificent three: the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, all within walking distance of one another.  The Thyssen-Bornemisza could use a bit of name re-branding—those are six syllables many of us can’t begin to pronounce.  How about a monumental, sparkling “T” in the courtyard of the Thyssen?  On a gray day, the courtyard needs some perking up anyway.

Bland courtyard of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (entrance at left)

But for now, just pronounce it “TEE-sun,” and go!  Until 20 May 2012, the Thyssen is hosting a retrospective of the twentieth century Russian-Jewish artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985) that will leave you weak at the knees.

Bouquet at Window, 1959

Actually, the Chagall exhibit has been split into two locations.  The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (8 euros) covers the first half of the artist’s life, from his early years in the village of Vitebsk, through stints in Paris and New York, until WWII.  The continuation of the exhibit--Chagall settled in the south of France and died in 1985--continues across town at the Fundación Caja Madrid building (free of charge).  Both halves will make you happy. 

Entrance, Fundacion Caja Madrid (free exhibit)

Window in the Country, 1915
In addition to major paintings, bronzes, ceramics and stained glass, the exhibit presents Chagall’s original illustrations for the novel Dead Souls, for the Bible, and for La Fontaine’s fables. A great many of the works have been gathered from private collections: it's likely that you will never see them again in your lifetime.  

There is something very satisfying about retrospectives. Presented this way, the works themselves tell a far better story than a book on Chagall ever could--unless it’s the exhibit catalog, a hefty 39 euro door-stop you will be sorely tempted to acquire.   

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eighteenth Century Dream Kitchen

National Museum of Decorative Arts / Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas
02/08/12 – Calle Montalbán, 12

Something truly fabulous resides on the top floor of the National Museum of Decorative Arts. As you make your way through the other rooms and floors, everyday objects of extraordinary beauty—used by commoners, or by Kings—help illustrate the past four centuries of domestic life in Spain.  Here are a few examples from the many on display: The buttery yellows and Mediterranean blues of Talavera tiles…

Whimsical animals painted on household dishes….

Look closely.  The wild boar is peeing on a tree.

Over-the-top rococo mirrors…

Newt and Callista, this one's for you.

Plush stools…

Hand carriages…

Excess giving way to order, in the form of a neo-classical bassinet…

Finally, a feast for the eyes: an entire kitchen from Valencia, circa 1775-1800.  All 1,604 painted tiles were transported from the original palace, which was pulled down after the Spanish Civil War.  During the eighteenth century it was fashionable to cover every inch of the kitchen walls with trompe l’oeil decorations.  In this lofty kitchen, servants and lords mingle, while hungry cats nibble on whatever they can reach.  

(Tourist has coordinated purple shoes and jacket. Me gustan).

Bad cat.

More bad cats.

Servant with broom appears to be African.

Real items on shelves mix with painted items.

Spilling the chocolate.

Unwitting focus on Spanish docent. I just like this photo.

As an added bonus, the ground floor of the museum has a visually stunning exhibit on Spanish Graphic Design 1939-1975 (Diseño Gráfico Español 1939-1975).  The temporary exhibit runs through 29 April 2012.