Reina Sofia Museum: For serious art lovers

Surrounded with old buildings in the square of Sta Isabel , the four-story Reina Sofia museum stands out among its neighbors particularly because of its two very modern elevators. The glass elevators give a short treat of more old buildings around the area but makes someone like me dizzy.

From where I come from, the appreciation of arts is very limited and sometimes even exclusive to those in the academe, the moneyed and the educated. Common people do not normally go to museums, not that there are many in the country. There are only three good museums in the Philippines, two of which are owned by two rich families in the country, the Ayala’s and the Lopez’s. Only in the latter part of life had I’ve been exposed to art, most of which are contemporary.

In Madrid while walking around the halls and rooms of the huge Reina Sofia Museum, my eyes opened to a whole new world that I promised to explore more while in Europe, the center of the old world arts and culture. I couldn’t possibly define each and every single painting, photograph, film, sculptures, drawings and other items that are otherwise called art. Not everything impressed nor would I pretend of understanding how the artists tried to convey their messages, but some things stick to mind.

Are Animals People?
Exhibition by exhibition by Peter Fischli (Zürich, 1952) and David Weiss (Zürich, 1946)

I was fortunate to visit Reina Sofia Museum during the exhibition of  Peter Fischli (Zürich, 1952) and David Weiss (Zürich, 1946) (from April to July 2009). The video above is entitled Rat and Bear, a series of short films played by the artists themselves. It showed the everyday life of three bears and a rat. Watching these films, on a dark room with its creepy soundtracks, gave me goosebumps.The eerie soundtrack, the weird depiction and the beautiful angles provides an captivating appeal. It will make you linger in that room for a very long time. Taking videos is forbidden but I cant help documenting this very strange encounter with the works of Fischli and Weiss.

Further researched yeilded the following description about Rat and Bear.

“Bear and Rat stand in as projections of their roles in their own artistic practice. Through this distancing device, Fischli/Weiss ironically manifest an idea of art as an alternative system of knowledge that creates manifold ties between reality and fiction; these roles also embody the conversational style undergirding their collaborative work.”

If you happen to know of any exhibition of these two artists, I strongly suggest that you see it. You will be introduced to a very different form of art. Here is another famous videoof them Der Rechte Weg or The Right Way. You will enjoy them enormously.

Salvador Dali
A close encounter

Gran Masturbador

Back in university, my most treasured and most expensive fashion accessory was a canvass bag with the face of Salvador Dali (the famous mustache) etched on the front. Sadly I left it in the Philippines when I moved to Holland. Intrigued up to this day, by the world famous Spanish painter, you can imagine my joy when I came into the room full of Dali’s works. Actually, Dali is one of the reasons why I visited the Reina Sofia Museum, because at that moment, I cannot yet afford to go to Figueres and visit his home.

Salvador Dali lived a very colorful life, from his student life in Residencia de Estudiantes ,where his eccentricity and talent for art was first recognized, to his life in Paris rubbing elbows with Picasso and to his affairs with the Surrealists and his venture to films.

I imagined Dali was good but I was stunned by his work. His colors are vivid, his imagination is untamed, his images are haunting, his talent incredible. Before this visit, my relationship with Salvador Dali is only of a fan admiring his idol from a distance, without any wishes of actually exploring his life. But after viewing the Dali’s paintings, I felt a responsibility to get to know him better and try to understand how his life and ideals were, through his paintings.

The Invisible Man
El Angelus

His works show so much passion, a rebellion of some sort, a portrayal of the dark side of human beings using intense colors. His sexual interpretations in the paintings actually strike me as hilarious more than titillating. I don’t know how long I’ve stayed in each painting but half the time of my visit was spent in front of Dali’s works. His images have a hypnotizing effect on people and it would not be possible to feel this effect unless you are a few inches away from them.

I particularly liked the painting above entitled The Enigma of Hitler. It is so dark and enchanting. I learned that Dali is particularly fond of portraying Hitler in his works. There was even one entitled Hitler Masturbating but I did not see that one in museum.

And he is Picasso

Those things they say about Picasso, that his works are too easy, too simple that it can be drawn by a 1st grader? Well, to be honest, my initial reaction was the same when I saw his paintings. I still could not grasp how a drawing like below can earn a man the title, one of the greatest painter of all time. But as the cliche goes – there is beauty in simplicity. Maybe because he was different, that is why he gathered so much recognition. Or maybe because others couldn’t really understand him thusinstead of looking ignorant, they proclaimed him a master.

Well at least I was amused by Picasso’s works and did not get bored. Maybe research and more viewings will take me closer to this so called “genius”.

In addition, feast your eyes in other works of art above. This first one is called Living in a Shoe Box by Juan Munoz. His other collections includes Hanging Figures (2nd photo) and the Seated Figures with Five Drums made of polyester resin (3rd and 4th photo).

Meanwhile below are very tiny figures called Stuttering Pieces. This has a voice accompaniment. To see how small they are, I took a photo with my friend with it. I already forgot what they were saying, but it’s pretty funny.

There goes my first real encounter with real art pieces. I am now planning to explore more museums around the world, starting in the coming month in Prague. And since I am currently in the Netherlands, home of some of the great masters, my weekend itinerary will include visiting the museums in the country. It is a real pity that I’ve missed Museum Week last week.

Coming soon are more of my travel stories. Enjoy.