Who leaves Paris without paying a visit to the 'Mona Lisa'? And yet plenty of people pass through Barcelona without seeing the great 'Pantocrator' by the Master of Taüll. Barcelona may not have anything on the scale of the Louvre, but its many museums and foundations contain works that bear comparison with the best in the world, and attract visitors from all over.
The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) has one of the finest collections of Romanesque art anywhere, centring on spectacular mural paintings dating from the 11th to the 13th centuries. The murals were removed whole from churches around Catalonia between 1919 and 1923, to save them from damage or looting, and carefully reconstructed in the museum. The MNAC’s stunning Gothic and Modernista galleries, representing two of the region’s richest and most interesting artistic periods, are no less impressive. If the MNAC’s Gothic galleries leave you wanting more, the Fundació Godia’s small but remarkable medieval collection comes highly recommended. To bring the story up to date, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) specialises in Spanish and Catalan art created since 1945. There’s also Can Framis, a brand-new museum given over to the Vila Casas Foundation’s collection of contemporary art. In combination, these provide a general overview of Catalan art from its roots right up to the present day.
For those who want a fuller appreciation of 20th-century art, four of the greatest artists of the period – Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Antoni Tàpies and Joan Brossa – have strong connections to Barcelona, and each is represented by significant collections in the museums and foundations that bear their names. So as not to overwhelm you, we’ve narrowed down this ample field, focusing on painting and sculpture on display in permanent collections. Barcelona’s museums concentrate on Catalan art, and this selection reflects that. These are the most representative works of artists who have left their mark on the region’s culture.