January 3, 2018

Arts & Beliefs in Barcelona, Uno

When I first started adjusting to life in Europe, a grand castle in the distance only meant one thing: "I get to pretend to be a princess!"

Soon, I learned that more often than not, European castles tended to display more museum qualities than royal family lifestyles, and I was disappointed.

I also learned that being a princess was actually a horrible curse where you get to be super rich and never make any of your own decisions. Thanks, but, no thanks.

After I dabbled a bit in the Parisian museum scene, a new perspective came to light.

Instead of seeking out castles and mansions that were purely for "playing house," I began to wonder what kind of art these grand buildings hosted.

The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona has definite curb appeal. Crowning the southeastern rim of the Pla├ža d'Espanya, the MNAC only gets larger and more magnificent as one approaches.


My first moments in Barcelona were during my pre-museum-liker phase in 2014. I wandered through the plaza, made my way up to the building, and was able to appreciate it from the outside.

A really poor-quality photo from a really poor-quality camera, 2014.

Upon returning last summer: it was summer. I don't really plan on museum time when the weather is nice!

Then there we were, right before Christmas, with decent winter weather, but, winter weather, nonetheless.

Kathleen, ever the travel buddy ready and excited for anything European, and I started our walk through this museum with an open mind. I didn't remember anything special about the artwork from my research in the previous months, and Kathleen was mostly along for the ride.

(P.S. Marc was thrilled that Kathleen came with us because it meant I had a museum pal and he got to relax in the really nice apartment while we marched around.)

We started to our left inside the main entrance toward the Romanesque collection. It consisted of art preserved (read: permanently borrowed [stolen?]) from Romanesque churches, and was arranged to make the visitor feel like they were actually walking through a long and winding cathedral. Most of the displays were arched and concave, creating the impression that it was being viewed in its original state inside a chapel along the walls of a huge cathedral.

The next collection we walked through was the Gothic Art section. This does not mean everything was in black and covered in eyeliner, please do a little bit of Google research. I couldn't help but begin to wonder about religious perspectives while being in the midst of the Romanesque churches and the Gothic art depicting Christ and various Biblical scenes. Those thoughts (and there are several) are detailed in the second half of this post: Arts & Beliefs in Barcelona, Dos.

We wandered into a huge ballroom at this point and enjoyed being lost in a giant space for a few minutes. I didn't feel too keen on visiting the Modern Art collection, but Kathleen was like, "Why not, we've already paid for it!" Good point.

That ended up being the second best decision of the day! Apparently "Modern Art" in Catalonia is what the rest of the world calls "Impressionism" and "Art Nouveau." I was in art museum heaven. I loved every painting, every sculpture, every piece of wavy and flowery-detailed furniture, and so on. I was particularly taken with three pieces: Rest, Dream, and Pursuing the Dream. I must confess that I have a very specific focus on what I want to feel when I'm looking at art! These three phases may also signify the way my life cycles, but that's for another post.

Since that was the second best decision of the day, it's now time to elaborate on what was the very best decision of the day. We had exhausted all corners of the artwork and exhibits, meandered around the museum cafe until we realized our money was in our bags in the museum lockers, and we saw a small door with a sign off to the side.

"ROOF ACCESS."

(OK, I don't remember exactly what the sign said, but this was the gist of it.)

We walked through said door, got on an elevator, and were whisked up, up, and away to the top of this magnificent castle museum building.

Why was this our best decision of the day? Because not only were the views awesome and it was fabulous to be that close to the architecture, but because we just happened to time everything so perfectly that we had the whole roof to ourselves and the sunset over Barcelona.

We ooh-ed and ahh-ed our way around the different pathways cut between the towers and turrets, and enjoyed every second of that fiery pink sunset.

There was, of course, more to our nine days in Barcelona than just one day at an art museum, but I feel like this time at the MNAC really summed up all the great moments of thoughts, feelings, and experiences together.

I hope you think about and comment on the dialogue I open in Arts & Beliefs in Barcelona, Dos.

All in all, the best description of our trip to Barcelona this Christmas can be defined by the titles of those artworks I mentioned above: we rested, we dreamed, and we returned ready to pursue the dream again.

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