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Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Queen Sofía Art Center)

Un capolavoro di Picasso

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Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Queen Sofía Art Center) Review

Madrid's museum of modern art was once a hospital, but today the classical granite austerity of the space is somewhat relieved (or ruined, depending on your point of view) by the playful pair of glass elevator shafts on its facade. Three separate buildings joined by a common vault were added to the original complex in 2005—the first contains an art bookshop and a public library, the second a center for contemporary exhibitions, and the third an auditorium and restaurant/cafeteria. The latter, although expensive, makes an excellent stop for refreshment, be it a cup of tea or coffee, a snack, or even a cocktail, and in summer they also set up a popular snack bar in the gardens.

The permanent art collection features 1,000 works on four floors (the second and fourth floor of the Sabatini building and the ground and first floor of the Nouvel annex) and, despite concentrating on painting, puts a much higher emphasis on other art forms such as photography and cinema. The new collection breaks from the traditional habit of grouping works by major artistic movement and individual artist: instead, the current director has chosen to contextualize the works of the great modern masters—Picasso, Miró, and Salvador Dalí—and of other big local names, such as Juan Gris, Jorge Oteiza, Pablo Gargallo, Julio Gonzalez, Eduardo Chillida, and Antoni Tàpies, into broader narratives that attempt to explain better the evolution of modern art. This means, for instance, that in the first room of the collection (201), you'll find a selection of Goya's Disasters of War engravings (the proto-romantic and proto-surrealist great master serving as a precursor of the avante-garde movements of the 20th century) next to one of the first movies ever made, "Employees leaving the Lumière family," by the Lumière brothers. And you will find that the Picassos or Dalís are not all displayed together in a single room, but scattered around the 38 rooms of the permanent collection.

The museum's showpiece is Picasso's Guernica, in room 206 on the second floor. The huge black-and-white canvas—suitably lit and without distracting barriers—depicts the horror of the Nazi Condor Legion's bombing of the ancient Basque town of Gernika in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. The work, something of a national shrine, was commissioned from Picasso by the Republican government for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 World's Fair in an attempt to gather sympathy for the Republican side during the civil war—the museum rooms adjacent to Guernica's now reconstruct the artistic significance of the Spanish participation in the World's Fair, with works from other artists such as Miró, Josep María Sert, and Alexander Calder. Guernica did not reach Madrid until 1981, as Picasso had stipulated in his will that the painting return to Spain only after democracy was restored.

The fourth floor in the Sabatini building is devoted to art created after World War II, and the Nouvel annex displays paintings, sculptures, photos, videos, and installations from the last quarter of the 20th century.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Santa Isabel 52, Lavapiés, Madrid, 28012 | Map It
  • Phone: 91/467–5062
  • Cost: €8, free Mon. and Wed.–Sat. after 7, Sun. 3–7; €21.60 combined Paseo del Arte (Art Walk) ticket for the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza
  • Hours: Mon. and Wed.–Sat. 10–9, Sun. 10–7 (after 2:30 only the temporary exhibition can be visited)
  • Website:
  • Subway: Atocha
  • Location: Rastro and Lavapiés
Updated: 07-10-2013

Fodorite Reviews

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    Very good modern art museum

    Like most modern art museums, the collection is uneven, but the highlights are well worth it. Picasso's "Guernica" is fabulous, surrounded by preliminary sketches and studies. Also some choice Miro and Dali works as well as other good stuff. Definitely worth a visit.

    by bachslunch, 1/31/08
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    Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Review

    Visited the Sofia with 3 generations of family (ages 70 to 7); all found more than a few exhibits and installations to enjoy. Guernica (the "must-see") was overrun by viewers when we visited at opening (perhaps closer to closing the crowds might've been thinner). One thing about viewing Guernica..., we needed to secure a separate paper ticket at the main entrance to enter that specific exhibit. No extra cost; just extra waiting in line (note: we learned this the hard way, that is, the Madrid Card does not help you avoid this Guernica line [unlike many others, like the general admission line!]). Don't miss the garden/courtyard. Nice greenry, fountains and sculptures! Also try to keep in mind that the Sofia was a large, functioning hospital: such a mindset can help one appreciate the exhibit spaces/lay-outs/renovations.

    by kcaJ, 10/29/09

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