If you're used to being soft-soaped by eager-to-please art centres, you'll have to adjust to the cryptic minimalism of the MACBA, where art is taken very seriously indeed. Yet if you can navigate the fridge-like interior of Richard Meier's enormous edifice, accept that much of the permanent collection is inaccessible to the uninitiated, tackle shows that flutter between the brilliant and baffling, and, most important, are prepared to do your reading, a trip to the MACBA can be extremely rewarding.
Since its inauguration in 1995, the MACBA has become a power player on the city's contemporary arts scene. Its library and auditorium host an extensive prgramme that includes accessibly priced (or free) concerts, conferences and cinema, while two floors of exhibition rooms offer a showcase for large-scale installations and exhaustive, multidisciplinary shows.
The permanent collection sits on the ground floor of the main building, and is rooted in the second half of the 20th century. Media, sound and performance art experimentalists of the 1960s and 1970s, including Bruce Nauman, Joan Jonas and John Cage, are well represented, as are Spanish and Catalan artists such as Antoni Muntadas, Antoni Tàpies and the Dau al Set group.
La Capella, a former medieval convent across the square, is free to enter, and provides a project space for specially commissioned works. And the MACBA's bookshop is fantastic for quirky gifts and artist design objects.