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Culture vultures, locals and tourists alike, have somewhere new to queue and swelter outside this summer. The European Museum of Modern Art (MEAM)opened its doors last month to take its place alongside Barcelona’s other leading cultural attractions.
MEAM’s distinguishing feature is its focus on contemporary figurative art, as described by it’s bold mission statement to “find a new contemporary language that does not deny tradition but which comes from it to leap forward into the new century.”
It is part of the Arts and Artists Foundation which was founded in 2005 by the architect José Manuel Infiesta. The following year, Infiesta started the Figurative Painting Awards and also purchased the building which was to eventually become the home for the figurative arts museum, the splendid 18th Century Palau Gomis in the Born district, a stone’s throw from the Picasso, the Textile and the Barbier-Mueller museums.
The unadorned building alone would be worth a visit. Originally the 1700m² home of the merchant Francesc Gomis, it lies on the axis of calles Princesa, Montcada and Barra de Ferro and would go on to become the residence of the French general Lechi after the Napoleonic invasion of the city. It remained something of a hidden and somewhat grubby gem until it was rehabilitated in 2002 as the Comtemporary Art Exhibition Centre, winning awards for the tasteful conservation of its original decorations.
After the Arts and Artists Foundation purchased the property, the opening of the museum was delayed several times due to various circumstances — mainly funding issues as a result of the economic crisis — but the end result looks to have been worth the wait. Check out the virtual view of the current exhibition to get a taste of what’s on offer.
The goal of the museum is to allow visitors to see that there is more to contemporary art than the abstract and experimental. By providing a showcase for figurative art, often ignored by other museums, it is hoped that visitors will connect with it who might otherwise see art as a mere curiosity.
To emphasise the contemporary nature of the museum, the first exhibition, titled “Contemporary Art in the 21st Century” features only works by artists who are still alive. The 200 paintings and 30 sculptures will be on view for a year.
At only €7 a ticket it is certainly good value for money and is an exciting addition to Barcelona’s art scene. If nothing else, the queues should be a bit shorter here than outside the Picasso museum but that situation might change as the fame and reputation of the MEAM grows. Our advice is to make the most of the museum’s relative anonymity and go there before word really gets out.