Unmissable art in Barcelona

Time Out's guide to must-see works of art in the city

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  • Slideshow: unmissable art

    Click on the arrow above to start exploring Barcelona's unmissable works of art

    They’re not in the Prado, the Louvre or the MoMA: they’re masterpieces of world art and they’re right here in Barcelona. Joana Hurtado and Ricard Mas have picked the works that no visitor to the city should miss.

    Click on the arrows above to start exploring.

    Slideshow: unmissable art
  • The Spanish Wedding, 1870

    Marià Fortuny (1838 – 1874)

    MNAC

    Though he died at 36, Fortuny is considered the greatest Spanish painter of the 19th century after Goya. The state funded his early studies in Rome, and commissioned large-scale paintings of the Spanish-Moroccan War of 1859. His travels in Northern Africa made a huge impact, turning him into one of Spain’s greatest Romantic painters of the Orient. After 1866 he turned to scenes of Spanish manners and customs, such as this one, set in a richly decorated 18th-century sacristy.

    The Spanish Wedding shows off Fortuny’s technical virtuosity, his mastery of light and his fascination with costume and period details. Considered the finest example of his mature style, The Spanish Wedding catapulted its author to international fame.

    For venue opening hours and info click here.

    The Spanish Wedding, 1870
  • Cactus Man I, 1939

    Juli González (1876 - 1942)

    MNAC

    A starkly dissected body erupts into spikes, as World War II breaks out in Europe. Juli González was a leading figure in the Parisian avant-garde, and a pioneer of the use of welding and cutting techniques to create sculptures in iron.

    This fragmented figure, undergoing its symbolic metamorphosis, breaks with traditional ideas of symmetry, creating an interplay of contrasting forms and suggesting a new concept of volume. In González’ cubist investigations he sliced and folded sheet metal, using iron bars to ‘draw in space’ and create the wiry artworks that won him international fame.

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    Cactus Man I, 1939
  • The Lark’s Wing..., 1967

    Joan Miró (1893 – 1983)

    Fundació Joan Miró

    Many of the works on display at the Miró foundation belong on this list. So why this one? Because few express so perfectly the artist’s desire to ‘achieve the maximum intensity with the minimum means’. In his later period, Miró painted enormous canvases, stripping down and simplifying his style, intensifying his use of colour, and condensing his personal visual language. As always with Miró, the subject of the painting is not represented literally: instead it is suggested by a constellation of symbols. The landscape genre provided a framework for many of Miró’s works, but in this case the format is vertical rather than horizontal, almost suggesting a bird’s-eye view.

    For venue opening hours and info click here.

    The Lark’s Wing..., 1967
  • The Wait (Margot), 1901

    Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881 – 1973)

    Museu Picasso

    For some a master, for others a monster, Picasso’s influence dominates the 20th century. His early years were characterised by his voracious appetite for new styles, which he assimilated and mastered with dizzying speed, before surging forward again. But who was Margot? Who is she waiting for, leaning on her elbows, her glittering eyes half-closed. Also known as The Morphine Addict or Pierreuse (slang for  prostitute), this is a vivid image of Picasso’s first contact with the bohemian nightlife of Paris. The brushstrokes modelling the face are curt and energetic; in the background they are looser, conjuring the kaleidoscope of the night. Mixing the influences of the pointillists, Toulouse Lautrec and Van Gogh, it’s the work of a young Picasso taking his first steps towards recognition outside Spain.

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    The Wait (Margot), 1901
  • Apse of St Clement, 1123

    Master of Taüll

    MNAC

    This outstanding Romanesque piece is arguably the most emblematic artwork in the city. The largest work in this selection, it is also the oldest, although it radiates a raw modernity. The raw power of these colours and geometric forms has influenced 20th-century artists from Picasso to Picabia. While contemporary viewers may struggle to identify biblical scenes, the image retains its aura of power.

    The jagged crack that crosses the main image like a lightning bolt, as if illustrating the inscription Ego sum Lux Mundi (I am the Light of the World), also suggests a root, and the physical uprooting of the mural itself, which was transported from the remote Valley of Boí in the Catalan Pyrenees.

    For venue opening times and further info click here.

    Apse of St Clement, 1123
  • St Mary Magdalene, 1470

    Jaume Huguet (1412 – 1492)

    Fundació Francisco Godia

    Virginal she may not be, but with her worldly and direct gaze, Mary Magdalene is here painted as a lady of the royal court, with the attributes of the Virgin Mary. She sits on her throne, resplendent in the robes of a queen, holding a rosary, within a gilded frame with fine fluted columns in the purest Catalan Gothic style.

    The painting confers an air of regal mystery beyond that of her simple halo. The light around her face and smooth folds of her robes show the influence of Italian naturalism, while the meticulous detail draws on the Flemish tradition. The elegance, fragility and refinement of his work have earned Huguet a place as one of the greatest Catalan Gothic painters.

    For venue opening times and further info click here.

    St Mary Magdalene, 1470
  • Sock, 2010

    Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012)

    Fundació Antoni Tàpies

    Antoni Tàpies made few public sculptures, but Sock is – or could have been – the exception. In 1991, as one of Catalonia’s most prestigious living artists, he  was invited to create a sculpture for the huge oval hall inside the museum. But the prospect of an 18m holey sock caused such a n outcry that the project was cancelled. In 2010, the Tàpies foundation presented a 2.85 metre version of a work that pays tribute to simple, everyday things. Turning a humble, functional sock into a monumental sculpture invites reflection on the hidden power of ordinary objects, but also on the artist’s experience of old age, a time when straightforward actions – like putting on a sock – become a reminder of mortality.

    For venue opening times and further info click here.

    Sock, 2010

Slideshow: unmissable art

Click on the arrow above to start exploring Barcelona's unmissable works of art

They’re not in the Prado, the Louvre or the MoMA: they’re masterpieces of world art and they’re right here in Barcelona. Joana Hurtado and Ricard Mas have picked the works that no visitor to the city should miss.

Click on the arrows above to start exploring.


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