Art Galleries & Museums

Discover the artists of the Catalan capital

By staff writer

Tapies, Miro, Casas, Dali and even Picasso himself have all strutted their creative stuff on the streets and showrooms of Barcelona. We investigate some of the best places to both and admire art in the city, be they independent galleries to the best exhibition spaces and museums.

Some would say the whole of Barcelona is an art gallery: and they would have a good point. Almost the entire city comprises a living museum to the ebullient Modernista style of architecture, championed in the late 19th/early 20th century by the likes of Antoni Gaudi and Lluis Domenech i Montaner and replicated in the vast grid-patterned Eixample district that now comprises most of the Catalan capital. Virtually every street in Barcelona boasts a noteworthy building although undoubtedly its Gaudi’s curvaceous La Pedreraorganic Casa Batllo and otherworldly La Sagrada Familia Church that leave the strongest impressions.

And, if that wasn’t enough, the forward-thinking Catalan powerhouse has never been shy when it comes to ordering ostentatious works of public art to be erected for all and sundry to admire. The 1992 Summer Olympics saw a raft of colourful commissions land in BCN, such as Roy Lichenstein’s Barcelona’s HeadMistos by Claes Oldenburg, Rebecca Horn’s Homage to Barceloneta and of course Frank Gehry’s famous fish – the glittering Peix in the Port Olimpic. In other words art and creativity are an integral part of the fabric of this great city: traditions are always respected but time never stands still, as if the Mediterranean breeze itself was responsible for blowing in new ideas… for example the latest trend amongst street artists has been to paint and make sculptures out of the every day rubbish residents leave on the pavements. Often this work is cleaned up within hours of being completed! Talk about transient!

The purpose of this article is to inform our readers on the best traditional and contemporary art museums for viewing sculpture, paintings, and photography, as well as a selection of some of our favourite art galleries and exhibition spaces for collectors looking to buy art in Barcelona, created by Catalan, Spanish and international artists. There’s certainly a wealth of talent out there, and you may well find more than one work that would look good above your mantelpiece.

Barcelona Art Galleries

If it’s art for sale you’re after, then check out these private/commercial galleries below, where you’ll find some of the city’s most exciting artists exhibited in every creative sphere.

Base Elements
Barcelona’s urban art gallery is a temple of pop art, graffiti and contemporary creativeness in a rather enviable location in the Barri Gotic. The American owner knows his Banksy from his Blek Le Rat, so if you want the lowdown on famous street artists like Pez, Chanoir and El Xupet Negre, as well as seeing what the next generation of thinkers are creating then pop along for a chat and a browse.

Paella Showroom
You’ll need your hip radar on full power to find this little gem, tucked away underneath the porticoes of an unassuming, but rather lovely, square in Raval. Once you’ve found it you can alternate shopping for vintage threads with admiring the work of local and international artists on their exhibition wall. The concept here is to showcase up-and-coming painters and make their work accessible and affordable for all. Indeed, you should be able to go home with a remarkable painting for less than the price of a few tapas! Their website is in development, but for now you can check out their Facebook page.

Barcelona Art Museums

Most of the below also feature on our Barcelona museums guide, so check that out if you want a full list of archives to explore. Or head to our culture section to search for almost any highbrow pursuit in Barcelona. Below you can also click on the individual museums’ names for more info, contact details and location map (hint: you’ll also find them all on our free Barcelona travel app for iPhone).

The most famous of Barcelona’s contemporary art museums, the MACBA no doubt owes part of its fame to the iconic Richard Meier building it occupies. The spacious environs, flooded by natural light, allows plenty of room for the type of ambitious art installations it was designed to host.

National Museum of Catalan Art
A firm editorial fave, the MNAC (short for Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya) houses some wonderful works from the city’s golden era of Modernisme. Dazzling paintings by Picasso, Ramon Casas and Camarasa that at once signalled a sea change of intellectual thought, but did so with beauty and grace that few modern works seem to capture. There’s also some furniture on display by the man Gaudi. Just skip the boring religious iconography if we were you!

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