I visited two art galleries today - the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and the Caixa Forum.
The modern art in the Reina Sofia often left me cold, but there were some really amazing pieces, and I learned quite a bit from renting an audioguide. The museum is best known for housing Picasso's Guernica - a depiction of the horror of war. It depicts the people and animals of Guernica fleeing and dying after being bombed during Spain's civil war. Ironically enough, as I moved on to the next exhibit, I glimpsed Atocha train station out the window - the sight of another horrific bombing approximately 60 years later.
There was a wonderful temporary exhibit of the work of Juan Munoz (two piece ares shown above - I took the outdoor photo, the other is from online information about the exhibition). Munoz' work explores the concepts of being inside vs. outside, of no man's land where you are neither in nor out, and of observing but not being able to participate in a conversation. In one room, he turns the inside into the outside by placing balconies and a hotel sign on the wall. Balconies are a recurring theme as they are both inside and outside/observer and observed. And hotels, as I am currently very aware, are transitory environments. Another room is full of figures smiling and greeting each other. You walk among them, but you are never part of them and can never participate.
The area around Reina Sofia has lots of restaurants - ones obviously aimed for tourists in the immediate vicinity, but if you go just a couple of blocks away to Calle Argumosa you'll find a wide range of cafes for the local population. There are Indian restaurants and a great vegetarian restaurant - El Granero de Lavapies.
After lunch, I walked over to the Caixa Forum (Paseo de Prado, between Reina Sofia and the Prado museums), a newly-opened building run by the Caixa Foundation. They show art exhibits and host musical events. It's worth going just to look at the building, which is a converted 1899 power station (this website has some interesting information and photos). The photo above attempts to show the 24 metre-high living wall, which is thickly covered with shrubs and plants. There are whole bushes - hydrangeas, fuschia, ferns and so much more. It's gorgeous. The Forum has a cafeteria/restaurant on the top floor, which is a pleasant quiet spot.
The current art exhibit is on the work of Vlaminck from 1900-1915. There were over 70 works from just the first half of his career, along with excellent interpretative material. It was interesting to observe how his work blended fauvist and cubist trends along with the influence of Cezanne and Van Gogh.