By Lauren Klarfeld
“Give me a museum, and I’ll fill it…” (Pablo Picasso)
Or so were the words of Pablo Picasso when challenged to come up with a new idea for an art exhibition. But when given a museum to fill, the possibilities are endless. And in the case of Picasso, he produced no more than 3000 different art works of different techniques - between paintings, drawings, collages, ceramics and even sculptures. Because of the high variety of works, his art was then spread out in different museum all over Spain and Europe.
But Madrid has been said to be the “capital of art” counting at least 42 museums of different styles and contexts. However, while Madrid houses some of the worlds most famous art works – we often forget that art is not only found in a canvas. In fact, sometimes art is also found in underground tunnels, hidden houses and even in the outdoors - deserving the title of museum nonetheless.
1) La Tabacalera Museum – a rundown Factory of Graffiti Art:
This old abandoned tobacco factory got taken over by artists in the 1980’s when most of Madrid was undergoing the effects of the economic crisis in the consequences of Post-Franco Spain. Operating since the 80’s as a self-managed art and social center, it is open for anyone who wants to spend an afternoon tucked away from the tourist bubble of Madrid. Impressive graffiti art is plastered from top to bottom in a series of colorful underground galleries. Be aware though, that this is not your typical museum and in most cases, it will take you a while before feeling comfortable in it as most people do not expect the galleries to be so open access to all. At the back of the factory you’ll find a small garden with skateboard ramps, and during the day a couple of people having a smoke and some beers. The whole place has a vibe that is very reminiscent of the underground berlin scene. (Learn more)
2) Museo del Ratoncito-Pérez – fairy tales coming to life!
I only heard of the small museum during a walking tour in the city center. Once I got there I found myself entering a small house dedicated entirely to the animal that took our milk teeth away and placed a coin under our pillows. The museum is small, somewhat old looking and mostly for children, but weirdly enough holds a couple famous people’s milk teeth in exhibit that one wouldn’t expect like Isaac Newton or even Beethoven. (Learn more)
3) “Desert City” – A Museum about the Cactus
A walk through the Malasaña neighborhood will quickly show you which is Madrid’s favorite balcony plant. What I didn’t expect was to see it have its own museum in a beautiful outdoor setting that in no doubt could and should be used for a movie setting. The project was started by a collective of architects placing the botanical garden in a unique urban setting outside of the city and only uses sustainable elements of energy consumption as the numerous solar panels indicate. You don’t need to be a cactus fan to go to this museum, but what you do need is a thirst for eerie places. (Learn more)
4) Anden 0 - The “Ghost” Metro Museum
Not all museums are visible to the public eye – as is the case of this underground museum dedicated to Madrid’s Metro service that one can only see if you do the effort to go down under. In fact, the whole museum is placed in what used to be an abandoned Metro stop that until not so long ago was still used by hobo’s as a sleeping spot. Few commuters realize that they pass in front of it between stops daily but only for a second as their wagon speeds though it. Hence, why it is worth an actual lengthy stop. Inside the station you get offered a free guided tour and get to see some of the original adds dating all the way from 1919 making it a definite worthy stop for students and aficionados of graphic design. (Learn more)
5) El bosque encantado – a fantasy park:
I used to love Edward Scissor hands and the enchanted sculptures he made. Which is why I got even more excited when I learned there was a forest in Madrid that sprouted with human sized sculptures of the animal kingdom and more. The museum of sculpted bushes or as one says, dedicated to the art of topiary – is unusual not only because of its content but also because of its access. Basically, to get there one needs to call a small mini van for a pick up and you will then be led to the magical forest. Some of the works could use some better upkeeping but all in all it is one of my tops on the unusual and authentic things to do in Madrid. (Learn more)
6) The Robot Museum
A year ago, Spain became the only country in the world to introduce its very own cyborg artist – a half man, half robot that goes under the name Neil Harbisson. Since then robotics and Spain have been in a tight knitted relation making it no surprise that Madrid received its own robotics museum. The small museum is situated in one of Madrid’s biggest robotics stores – which already is a museum in a way. Visitors can enjoy viewing different robots, learn about the history of robotics and participate (though it is mostly for children) in magic shows. Bear in mind though that the visits are done only on specific hours as it needs to be done by a guide to make sure children don’t over manipulate the sophisticated machinery. (Learn more)
7) Museo Cerralbo – how to feel rich in Madrid:
I was told that if I ever wanted to know what it felt like to feel like a guest into a rich Spanish mansion of the 19th century– I should invite myself into the former home of the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo. I never considered myself a fan of fine art, but I came out flabbergasted as I spent an hour wandering into 52 different rooms, climbing royal staircases and admiring portraits of some of the marquis himself and friends. The museum is small and allows only for a certain number of visitors, so it is less crowded than all the other museums, making it easier for the visitor to really live an atmosphere of richness and culture. It is best to be combined with a stroll in the Chamberi neighborhood up north to really get a feel of Madrid's classical and walloping version of high-end architecture. (Learn more)
Joaquin Sorolla is for the Spanish, what Monet was for the French – an impressionist painter who knew how to bring light to his work. Having lived in the city of Madrid, his home is now a museum that only experienced travelers know about when they know where to look. When you walk into the main room, it is like walking into the Meninas painting of Velasquez – huge paintings adorn the walls, and in the middle of it his old work table is set, where we somehow feel that any minute he is going to come in and finish a portrait. But, the real reason why Museo Sorolla is such a hidden gem is because of its indoor patio. The sun carpets the Andalusian tiles with a layer of reflective light while the lack of crowds and the noise of the fountain make for a silent place of thought. And here is where most of us wonder if perhaps this is not where Sorolla himself sat collecting inspiration for his future paintings…(Learn more)
Did you like what we found? Have you encountered an unusual museum in Madrid? Let us know in the comments below !