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Madrid's must-see art exhibitions

Paintings, photography, sculpture... these are the art exhibitions you won't want to miss in Madrid's museums and galleries

Calling all lovers of painting, photography, sculpture, and art in general: this is your selection of art collections, exhibitions and shows on in Madrid's museums, galleries and cultural centres. Whether they're on for just a few weeks or you have months to check them out, don't miss these top art exhibitions in the city.

Sentido del olfato (Sense of smell)

The Elvira González gallery hosts this collective exhibition with works by three artists – Olafur Eliasson, Ernesto Neto and Pae White – who have used the sense of smell as a common element in their works. Each artist's work occupies one room in the gallery, and the structure of very piece is directly linked to smell or aroma that comes from them, as if it were just another part of the make-up of the piece, like the material, shape or colour. The scent shapes the perception of the work and emphasises each artist's message.

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Elvira González , Recoletos Until Sunday May 7 2017

Donna Huanca. Lengua de Bartolina Sisa

This is the first exhibition in Spain by American artist Donna Huanca, who explores the territory of the human body in its double condition of surface and matter. Her work employs a cosmetic that has a lot of gestural painting and functions as an instrument for transformation. Performers painted from head to to move around in a trance-like state following a glacial choreography in her performances. Huanca resorts to aesthetic forms such as camouflage, simulation and fusion in a poetry that links painting, sculpture and performance art to represent the fragmentation of identity.

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Travesía Cuatro , Malasaña Until Saturday April 29 2017

Barbie. More than just a doll

Take a look at Barbie through the ages, via a collection of 438 pieces that illustrate unknown and surprising facets of the first doll that looked like a woman. Barbie was born in 1959, marking the first time girls would no longer only play at being mommies to babies. Barbie's motto 'I can be' inspired girls to imagine themselves doing whatever they wanted, taking on often unreachable roles in society and teaching them that the only limits they have are those they create for themselves. For decades Barbie has represented values of gender equality, racial integration, respect for diversity, culture, friendship... And all this without forgetting she's still a doll, as well as a fashion icon and a figure of femininity.

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Fundación Canal de Isabel II , Plaza de Castilla Until Tuesday May 2 2017

Bruce Conner. It's All True

The Reina Sofía brings to Spain for the first time the work of one of the most relevant American artists of the late 20th century. This exhibition features more than 250 works that span the 50 years of the Kansas-born artist who established himself in San Francisco. Bruce Conner's work came out of the California art scene and addressed diverse questions concerning American society in the post-war era: from the burgeoning consumer culture to the dread of nuclear apocalypse. In his work he cultivated alternate mediums – now the hallmarks of 21st-century art – adopting different techniques and often creating hybrid pieces midway between painting and sculpture, film and performance, drawing and printing.

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Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Lavapiés Until Monday May 22 2017

Francis Bacon. La cuestión del dibujo

Francis Bacon said he didn't draw. Nevertheless, after his death in 1992 not only was his great talent for drawing discovered, but it was also uncovered that the British artist drew prolifically. And it's precisely on this facet of the artist that this exhibition at the Círculo de Bellas Artes focuses, bringing together drawings, pastels and collages that the owner of the collection, Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino, received as a gift from Bacon himself between 1977 and 1992. The exhibition is organised across four different typologies according to what Bacon painted: popes, crucifixions, portraits and seated figures. The drawings in the exhibition, of great quality and technical execution, seem to belong to the last period of Bacon's artistic activity. They're creations made on the fly, with agility and precision, and from which reflection of his work and recurring themes emerge.

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Círculo de Bellas Artes , Centro Until Sunday May 21 2017

Masterworks from Budapest

For the first time in Spain, you can see a carefully selected group of 90 paintings, drawings and sculptures from the permanent collection of the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery. Among them are works by Dürer, Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Velázquez, Tiepolo, Cézanne and Manet, as well as by Hungarian artists, giving visitors an idea of both institutions’ collections. The exhibition is divided into seven sections: Renaissance in the North, Renaissance in the South, the Baroque in Flanders and Holland, the Baroque in Italy and Spain, the 18th Century in Europe, the New Image of Women, and Modernity: from Pisarro to Bortnyck.

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Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza , Centro Until Sunday May 28 2017

Return to Beauty. Masterpieces of Italian art from between the wars

Following the Great War, and holding radical avant-gardism responsible for historical, moral and cultural disorder, the trend throughout nearly the whole of Europe was toward a return to order, going back to the security and serenity offered by classicism. De Chirico, Carrá, Morandi, Casorati, Donghi and more are artists who represent the standard of a large group of artists who immersed themselves in some of the memorable periods of their historical past to develop the theme of beauty as a central axis, together with other qualities that were needed and absent at the time, including balance, peace and eternity.

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Fundación Mapfre , Chueca Until Sunday June 4 2017


Staircases that have no beginning and no end, impossible rooms, surreal perspectives... The dream universe created by Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher comes to madrid in one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year. Organised by the Arthemisia Group, headquartered in the Gaviria Palace, and The M.C. Escher Foundation, the show brings some 200 works to the Spanish capital, including the famous 'Hand with Reflecting Sphere', 'Relativity' and 'Belvedere'. Not only that, the exhibition is also accompanied by scientific experiments, games areas, and more educational resources to plung visitors further into the bewildering images and unique realities of this extraordinary artist.

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Palacio de Gaviria , Sol Until Sunday June 25 2017

Lewis Baltz

This is the first exhibition in Spain of the work of American photographer Lewis Baltz and the first international retrospective of his photos since his death in 2014. Baltz's images reveal the suburbs that proliferate in the outskirts of cities, and the landscape as occupied territory. Not for nothing, the California artist belonged to the generation of the New Topographics, which questioned the idea of the landscape as a beautiful and existential, almost sacred, image, and instead showed it as factual, a reality that is nearly always the result of unfortunate acts of humans.

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Fundación Mapfre , Chueca Until Sunday June 4 2017

Women of the Congo

Barcelona photographer Isabel Muñoz, winner of the 2016 National Photography Award, presents the struggle of Congolese women against the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. For decades the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been involved in conflicts over the control, extraction and distribution of natural resources such as coltan, diamonds and oil. This exhibition is a series of portraits and testimonies of women from Bukavu, in the province of South Kivu, in east Africa. It aims to bring visibility to the plight of these women and the violence they suffer, while at the same time inviting viewers to reflect on the way the women act in the face of suffering, in many cases refusing to be victims and trying to find ways to survive with dignity.

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Museo Nacional de Antropología , Retiro Until Sunday June 18 2017