Where the Prado in Madrid ends, the Reina Sofia National Museum: if the former is the temple of Spanish and European painting from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century, the Reina Sofía National Art Center Museum, often abbreviated to Reina Sofia Museum, is one of the most important collections in the world of modern and contemporary art, with works ranging from the late nineteenth century to today.
Opened to the public in 1990, it cannot boast the bicentennial history of Museo del Prado, but also the Reina Sofia has a collection of inestimable value.
The highlights of the museum are the masterpieces of the three great Spanish artists of the twentieth century, Picasso, Mirò and Dalì. The themes and trends of contemporary and modern art are explored with interesting and very popular temporary exhibitions.
Of all the 21.000 works owned by the museum, tourists from all over the world come here to see one in particular: just two years after its foundation, the Reina Sofia Museum managed to acquire Guernica, Pablo Picasso's masterpiece considered a manifesto against the violence of dictatorial regimes and wars.
In addition to being one of the main tourist attractions of Madrid, Reina Sofia is also a place of research and experimentation, equipped with a well-stocked library and a documentation center.
How long does it take to visit the Reina Sofia Museum?
One or two hours are enough to walk through the rooms of the museum and dwell on the main works. A thorough visit takes a minimum of two hours. Keep in mind that it is a very popular attraction, so allow for possible queues at the entrance.
Headquarters and history of the Reina Sofia Museum
La original headquarters of the Reina Sofia Museum was obtained from an ancient hospital dating back to the eighteenth century, the work of the Italian architect Francesco Sabatini. The decision to convert the Reina Sofia Art Center into a national museum dates back to 1988, with the aim of bringing together all the state collections of modern and contemporary art under one roof.
The original nucleus of the collection of the new museum derives from Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art, opened from 1894 to 1988. The collection then expanded thanks to donations, bequests and acquisitions, to the point that it was necessary to build a new building to house the ever-increasing number of works in the museum.
Il New Building, so called because it was designed by the architect Jean Nouvel, it was inaugurated in 2005. The museum includes two other locations, both in the Retiro Park (Glass Palace and Velázquez Palace), which are used for temporary exhibitions.
What to see at the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia
The museum collections
The immense heritage of the Reina Sofia museum is divided into three sections, which viewed in sequence will give you a historical overview of European art from 1900 to the XNUMXs. The historical excursus continues up to the present day with temporary exhibitions.
Chronologically, the first collection is The eruption of the twentieth century: utopia and conflicts, with works from the late nineteenth century to 1945 that explore the conflict between a modernity understood as progress and the questioning of this ideology on a social, political, cultural and artistic level. Avant-garde, cubism, dada and surrealism are the great artistic movements of this period.
It is in this section that you will find the works of the "big three" of modern Spanish painting, Picasso, Dalì and Mirò, and it is in room 206 on the second floor that you have to look for the famous Guernica.
The war is over? Art in a divided world it includes works created between 1945 and 1968, a period strongly marked by the contrast between the socialist bloc (USSR) and the capitalist bloc (USA).
You can admire the works of Spanish artists belonging to groups of Step e 57 team and international artists such as Francis Bacon, Lucio Fontana ed Henry Moore.
The third collection, From revolt to postmodernity, covers the years 1962-1982: decolonization, the feminist movement, the riots of '68, the economic crisis, the development of popular culture have made the history of these twenty years.
Art diversifies its proposals, reaching levels of eccentricity and crypticism that question the very definition of art. This is perhaps the most difficult section to understand, but the works of Luis Gordillo, Sol LeWitt, Pistoletto, Dan Flavin and Zaj group.
Made by Picasso in 1937, Guernica it is an extraordinary work that with its dramatic force manages to disturb even the shrewd contemporary audience, accustomed to seeing the horrors of war on TV.
Already at the height of his fame, Picasso accepted the invitation of the Spanish Republican Government to paint a work representing Spain to be exhibited at the Universal Exposition in Paris.
Completed in just two months, this monumental work tells the drama of the Basque town of Guernica, in northern Spain, which was razed to the ground by a Nazi air raid during the Spanish Civil War. With this work the artist has left us a testimony that is worth more than 1000 photos.
Some numbers and curiosities about Guernica:
- The raw jute canvas on which the work was made has a size of 28 square meters.
- The work should be read from right to left.
- A reproduction of Guernica is on display in the corridor leading to the UN Security Council room.
- After the Paris International Exposition, the painting was exhibited at the MoMA in New York for several years; it returned to Spain eight years after Picasso's death in 1973, but only since 1992 has it been exhibited at the Reina Sofia.
Guernica is a world famous attraction and most tourists visit the Reina Sofia Museum for the sole purpose of seeing this famous painting, which means that at rush hour it is impossible to admire it in peace: you will have to elbow between dozens of others tourists.
Visit the museum leaving this masterpiece for last: if you arrive during the closing hours you can share this marvel with a few other people.
5 masterpieces not to be missed
Guernica is undoubtedly the "star" of Reina Sofia, but on display at the museum you will find other masterpieces which, just like Picasso's famous work, are true pillars of the history of contemporary art.
Here are 5 works that you absolutely must see during your visit to the Reina Sofia Museum:
- The great masturbator: one of Dalì's most brilliant and at the same time delusional works, created in 1929. He blends with an extraordinary technical and visionary ability the themes and obsessions typical of the Spanish master: psychoanalysis, fellatio, phallic symbols, autobiographical elements, soft shapes, grasshoppers and cultured quotations (here the references are to Bosch and Dante Gabriel Rossetti). Another work by Dalì not to be missed is Girl at the window.
- Woman in blue: the “flop” of Picasso, who saw his work crushed by critics in 1901. Today it represents a precious testimony of the beginnings of the research that would have led the artist to develop his unmistakable style.
- Man with a pipe: created by Joan Mirò in 1925 during a stay in Paris, a period in which the artist came closest to surrealist poetics. This work is the one that best expresses the creative freedom granted by the surrealist movement.
- The Fall of Barcelona: the civil war inspired not only Picasso, but many other Spanish artists. Famous is the trilogy on the civil war created by Le Corbusier, which includes this painting from 1939 created following the news of the bombing of the Catalan city. Through the decomposition of the bodies this work effectively expresses the destructive force of war.
- Great prophet: not only paintings on display at the Reina Sofia but also sculptures, such as this extraordinary avant-garde work by Pablo Gargallo, one of the greatest Spanish sculptors of the twentieth century. While loving tradition, he knew how to be a great innovator, remembered above all for his inverse reading of reality in which the concave parts are transformed into convex.
Practical information for visiting the Reina Sofia National Museum
Here is all the useful information to organize your visit to one of the most beautiful museums in Madrid.
Il entrance ticket to the Reina Sofia Museum includes visits to the museum collections and temporary exhibitions; it is possible to buy admission to temporary exhibitions only. On some holidays, on Sunday mornings and in the closing hours, the entrance to the museum is free.
You can visit the museum on your own or participate in one guided tour.
How to reach us
It is possible to get to the museum by bus, metro (L1 and L3) and train (Atocha station); if you have hired a car you will find two public car parks nearby. From the main buildings you can reach the branches in the Retiro Park with a 20-25 minute walk.
The Reina Sofia Museum is equipped with numerous services designed to make the visitor experience more comfortable, including:
- two cafes and restaurants
- audioguide and radioguide
- disabled access