Our first visit for the day was to Madrid's modern art museum, the Reina Sofia. From the outside, it looked like quite the dump, a bland front building covered in its share of graffitti. After consulting Rick Steves, I learned that it is actually an old mental institution, and that the bars covering the upper story windows are to keep people from throwing themselves out. Okay, then!
The interior, on the other hand, was great! We first spent some time with these Richard Serra sculptures...
and then enjoyed one of the more kookie retrospectives I have seen. It was about the artist Yayoi Kusama, and it was awesome.
I think that this exhibition had one of my absolute favorite experiential art pieces called Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life (2011). This was a room that Kusama created specifically for the museum. The ceiling and the walls were mirrored, the floor filled with water (and just a small path left for the viewer to walk through) and about a thousand individually hanging lights.
I took several photographs of the room from various positions and it was neat to see people gasp as they walked in to the doorway and then hesitate, since the effect of all those reflections create the feeling that you are walking out in to empty space.
It was one of those moments that just take you by surprise and leave you happy to be alive.
Kusama is famous for her objects covered in, ahem, protrusions and/or polka dots. Interestingly, the artist voluntarily committed herself several years ago to a mental asylum in Japan and she is still there happily working on her art and leaving for art shows as she wishes.
The Reina Sofia lays claim to what is considered the national painting of Spain; Picasso's Guernica. I was so very excited to see this painting, however, the museum does not allow photography of any of its permanent collection, so the closest I can get you is that sign above. Sigh. I learned so much about Picasso on this trip, mostly at the Picasso museum in Barcelona, but what a way to begin!
After relaxing in the courtyard of the muesum grounds, we made our way to the Royal Botannical Gardens, located next to the Prado Museum. Leanne worked at the Missouri Botannical Gradens last summer for an internship, so she was in a particular position to enjoy the grounds.
Spain's museums are not on speaking terms with cameras, even ones without flash. So I am sure you can imagin my chagrin when I had to muzzle my little buddy while standing in front of some of the world's most famous paintings. At the Prado we saw some truly beautiful paintings by Botticelli, Goya, El Greco, and Velasquez. But it was Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights that really wowed us!
Let us take a short break to enjoy Mr. Croissant stuffed with Chocolate and his best friend Sir Chocolate Pudding Cake. They were great company and departed all too soon.
After visiting the Prado, we hopped our way over to Retiro Park, the quintessential Madrid hangout spot. I was very excited to see the grounds and they did not dissapoint.
Full of families, ice cream, romantic boaters and dogs this park was a people watching dream. It reminded me quite strongly of Tuileries Gardens in Paris, with its neatly trimmed trees, and casual cafes dotting the park.
Doesn't Caroline look great? This is my favorite picture of her from the trip.
As we were making our out of the park, I remembered that I had forgotten to visit the Crystal Palace located further inside the park. Caroline, being ever patient with me, let me hike it all the way back in so I could photograph this building.
It was just as lovely as I read it would be. I was very anoyed however, to see this large ramp/slide set up inside the structure. It totally got in the way of some good photos. I learned later, as I was looking up an artist on the Reina Sofia website, that this was a public art installation funded by the museum. Oh well.