This week and beyond in Madrid
Culture in the capital
Located in the city’s former municipal slaughterhouse, this complex of 48 buildings is now a multifunctional space dedicated to art and contemporary culture. Although some of the buildings remain abandoned, the rest have been restored and now serve as an exhibition hall and theatre. Among the most important buildings at Matadero Madrid are the Music block with recording studios, rehearsal rooms and a small stage; the Spanish block, for the performing arts; the Reader's House, for literature; the Design Centre, where exhibitions and markets are held; the Cinematheque, which is the only one in the country dedicated almost exclusively to non-fiction films. The complex’s large square hosts concerts and festivals and there are also a couple of cafés with terrace seating and a bicycle rental shop.
Museo del Prado
Housed in a gigantic neo-classical building begun by Juan de Villanueva for King Charles III in 1785, the Prado is Madrid's best-known attraction. Charles originally wanted to establish a museum of natural sciences, reflecting one of his chief interests, but by the time it opened, in 1819, this plan had changed: the Prado was a public art museum - one of the world's first - displaying the royal art collection. Spain's 'non-king', Joseph Bonaparte, had first proposed the idea and it was taken up by the restored King Fernando VII (grandson of Charles III), who took on board the demands of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes and those of his second wife, María Isabel de Braganza, considered the museum's true founder. During the last few years the Prado has undergone a highly ambitious expansion programme, including the remodelling of the Casón del Buen Retiro, an annexe opposite the Retiro park. Behind the main museum, on the site of the San Jerónimo cloisters, the new and highly controversial cube-shaped edifice designed by Rafael Moneo, which hosts temporary exhibitions,was also unveiled. As for the collection itself, the core is still the royal holdings, so it reflects royal tastes and political alliances from the 15th to the 17th centuries: court painters Diego de Velázquez and Francisco de Goya are well represented. Political ties with France, Italy and the southern, Catholic Netherlands also assure the presence of works by Titian, Rubens and Hieronymous Bosch, among others
This cultural centre managed by La Caixa savings bank is located in Madrid’s Art Triangle, very near to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Museo del Prado. It stands in the former Mediodía power station, has a surface area of 10,000 square metres, and was designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. Its schedule of events is aimed at the general public and it boasts an extensive cultural and educational programme featuring exhibitions, workshops, conferences, courses and concerts. One of its attractions is the impressive vertical garden at the entrance. This 24-metre-high green space measuring 460 square metres has 15,000 plants of 250 different species that survive without soil, consuming only water and nutrients.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
This is a must for art fans and an essential part of Madrid's Art Triangle, together with the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. Occupying an immense, slab-sided building, the Reina Sofía boasts an impressive façade with glass and steel lift-shafts, designed by British architect Ian Ritchie. Now, though, the museum has just as impressive a rear, in the form of three buildings, principally built of glass and steel, arranged around a courtyard and all covered by a triangular, zinc-and-aluminium roof, the work of French architect Jean Nouvel. This ambitious extension project adds almost 30,000 sq m to the already vast art space in the patio to the south-west of the main edifice. It includes temporary exhibition spaces. The Reina Sofía's great jewel is unquestionably Guernica, Picasso's impassioned denunciation of war and fascism, a painting that commemorates the destruction in 1937 of the Basque town of Guernica by German bombers that flew in support of the Francoist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Certain art historians, sometimes encouraged by Picasso himself, have seen it more in formal terms, as a reflection on the history of western painting using elements from the work of the Old Masters. Picasso refused to allow the painting to be exhibited in Spain under the Franco regime, and it was only in 1981 that it was finally brought to Spain from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Guernica has been in the Reina Sofía since 1992, when it was transferred from the Casón del