Top 5 draws for art aficionados in Malaga, Spain

The Andalusian city of Malaga is finally beginning to gain the respect it deserves after decades of investment in development of infrastructure, culture and the arts. Malaga is not so much of a well kept secret as a place that has seemingly struggled to overcome an underserved, tainted reputation thanks to the negative connotations attached to the Costa del Sol and less cultured and elegant places such as Torremolinos to the city’s west.

With some thirty museums, a raft of reoccurring cultural celebrations throughout the year, surprising “golden-age” architecture and an important musical heritage, Malaga in fact boasts cultural assets on par with Madrid and Barcelona – an impressive statement for a city of just 600,000 residents. The food scene in Malaga is also emerging to rival even that of the Basque country and Catalonia, and with long beaches and a newly redeveloped port area chock-full of fine dining and shopping establishments, it feels reminiscent of the Riviera.

As an example of the cultural standing of the city of Malaga, consider just five of the world class museums to be explored in this city.

1. The Picasso Museum and Casa Natal

As the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, it is somewhat surprising that there was no Picasso Museum in Malaga until only 11 years ago. The opening of this specialist museum, however, was an important leap for the city and is now one of Malaga’s top attractions. The museum houses twelve permanent exhibitions and includes many sketches and ceramics not as frequently associated with the master. Additional temporary exhibitions relating to the artist’s works and time also prove very popular. It is entirely possible to also visit the Casa Natal (Picasso’s birthplace) in the same day as it is only a few minutes walk through Malaga’s bustling pedestrianised streets.

2. The Carmen Thyssen Museum

The Thyssen Museum also came late to the city of Malaga, opening in 2011, but has similarly had a profound impact on the cultural scene here. The artworks come from the private collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, gathered over thirty years by the renowned art collector. The 230 permanent pieces feature a majority of Andalusian themes and scenes from mainly 19th-century Spanish artists, and temporary exhibitions also feature the elite of 19th and 20th century Spanish artists. Indeed, the Baroness herself intended the museum to convey a sense of Andalusia and its rich history, which it certainly does. Even the palace in which the museum is housed is undeniably Andalusian, complete with a cool white internal patio.

3. The Contemporary Art Museum or CAC (Centro de Arte Contemporaneo)

Opened around the same time as the Picasso museum, the CAC quickly gained international recognition as one of the most important modern art museums in Europe. Some 400 works comprise the permanent collection, all loans from private collectors, with a focus on eminent works from the 1950’s onward featuring such notable artists as Lichtenstein and Stella. Again, the CAC also has rotating temporary exhibitions, which attempt to focus more on contemporary Spanish artists. The layout of the museum is very engaging and almost interactive, brilliant for children as well as knowledgeable adults and everyone in between. Plus the Japanese influenced restaurant is top notch and entry to the museum is free.

4. The Alcazaba

Reminiscent of the magnificent Alhambra in Granada, the Alcazaba is less well preserved but still strikes awe into visitors nonetheless. The Romans initiated the building of this old fortress sitting above the city, and the Moors added to it grandly in the 11th century. One can still gleam something of the Moorish way of life here by the gardens and courtyards, as well as the strategic positioning of the fortress and its parapets. A small museum attached fills in the blanks left by the imagination. Sitting even higher up is the Gibralfaro, offering unrivalled views of the city, while at the base of the Alcazaba and sitting right at the edge of the old centre of Malaga is a well preserved Roman amphitheatre.

5. Municipal Museum of Malaga

Another museum with free entry thanks to the city of Malaga, the Museo de Patrimonio Municipal is part art museum and part natural history museum, all with the intention of sharing and celebrating the history and artistic heritage of the city of Malaga. Here you find artifacts, historical documents and even furniture in addition to paintings and sculptures, all dating back to at least the 15th century and continuing on into the 20th century. The collection tells the story of the transition of the city through the ages, from that of a Moorish city to a Catholic and modern Spanish one.

Art for all tastes

Surely there is a museum for every interest in Malaga. Unmentioned here are such galleries as a Flamenco Art Museum, the Museum of Glass and Crystal, an automotive museum and maritime museum, a museum of the grand cathedral of Malaga, a wine museum and even the Doll’s House Museum. The most exciting news on the artistic front of Malaga now, however, is the installation of a satellite museum from the French Pompidou Centre scheduled to open doors in 2015.

Alan Hazel is Owner and Director of Cortijo El Carligto.

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