Friday, August 29, 2003

June Thomas from Slate has continued with her week-long series of articles on the Basque Country. They're very good, and she does discuss ETA terrorism, though perhaps not as much as some of us would prefer. See, when most people in Spain think of the Basque Country, the first thing that comes to mind isn't "the food is great" or "the people are friendly" or "the coast is lovely" or "the countryside is pretty" or "the culture is unique". It's "ETA has killed more than 800 people and wounded thousands more."

One minor complaint: she doesn't like the Jeff Koons statue "Puppy" out in front of the Guggenheim museum. It is, simply, an enormous puppy made of a wire screen (I suppose) that is completely covered with flowers. I love it. It's a perfect living contrast to the metallic museum building. Sure, it's kitschy. It's also far superior to any of the works of "art" inside the museum except for the three small rooms of mediocre Picassos and Kandinskys and Klees and Grises and Mondrians that they stuck in seemingly as an afterthought. The rest of the place is filled with contemporary conceptual crap.

If you look carefully, near the giant puppy off to the left, there is a small bouquet of flowers left there every day. It's in homage to a Bilbao policeman who was killed on that spot on opening day of the museum by the ETA.

One problem with these huge new museums--Barcelona spent millions of dollars on an enormous white lump of a building that's called the MACBA (Museu d'Art Contemporari de Barcelona?)--is that they don't have anything to put in them. There are only so many good works of art. The Macba, I believe, doesn't even have a permanent collection, though I wouldn't know because I've never been inside.

If you want art in Barcelona, go to the Romanesque / Gothic museum in the Palau Nacional on Montjuic, which is unique in the world, or the Museum of Modern Art in the Parque Ciutadela, full of 1860s-1920s works by Catalan artists, or the Thyssen collection up in Pedralbes (not nearly as impressive as the one in Madrid but well worth a visit) or the Miro Foundation, also on Montjuic (only if you like Joan Miro, of course; I don't, but if you do, this is THE place) or the Picasso Museum in a 16th century palace on Calle Montcada. The thing about the Picasso is that it's full of mediocre works that he did before he was famous and mediocre works that he did after he was famous, but all the works that actually made him famous are in New York or Paris. Also check out the galleries along Calle Petritxol; you might even want to buy something if you have some bucks.

Dumbshit thing I saw in Kansas City: We have an excellent art museum, the Nelson-Atkins, strong on American, Expressionist, and especially Oriental art. I suppose the pride of the collection are the Van Goghs. They have a Miro, though, and on the little sign next to the painting telling you the title and the artist, they identified Miro as French. Jesus Christ. Any professional art historian or curator ought to know that Joan Miro was from Montroig del Camp right here in Catalonia and that he lived for most of his life in Mallorca. Remei and I complained and they corrected it. But that's a really basic and just plain embarrassing, provincial mistake.

Anyway, though, go read Ms. Thomas's series.

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