An Epiphany in Madrid

Throughout the past month I have spent all of my free time exploring and enjoying Barcelona. While many students travel across Europe on the weekends, my goal is to see as much of the city and its surrounding areas as possible while I am here. However, this past weekend, February 7-9, I went on my first trip outside the city since I arrived here. I went to Madrid, the capital city of Spain!

The weekend trip was embedded in my program so all I had to do was sign up for a time to go. Some of my friends and I all planned to go on the same days. So it worked out that I go to spend my weekend with friends in a different city! We took the high speed train to Madrid. The train is called the AVE and it is how people who do not have cars get travel around Spain. We arrived in this beautiful train station, called Estación Atocha built in 1851. It also has a small botanical garden inside!

Me in front of the Atocha Train Station with a porra!

That afternoon we did a walking tour of Madrid where we got to see the Royal Palace, which is the official residence of the King of Spain however the royal family does not live there. Our tour guide also told us about the different types of architecture that is visible all over the city. In one plaza three different time periods and types of architecture were visible! We also got to see the Plaza Mayor which had this really cool mural on one side, which is never the same because it is always repainted.

The best part of the trip was the two art museums that I was able to visit. They are the home to various collections and pieces done by renown artists. The Prado and Reina Sofia. The Prado is home to thousands of classical art from artists such as Goya, Velazquez, and Reuben. And the Centre del Arte Reina Sofia is home to the many works of Cubism and other pieces of contemporary art.

I am a museum lover, I love going to museums of any sort and learning about new and interesting things. And while I love museums I never really understood the fascination with modern or contemporary art. I could understand the reason behind classical art, with reality as its root, there is an easier understanding to it. Contemporary art has always been a struggle for me until this trip.

My program arranged for us to go on tours in both of these museums. In the Prado my group has a wonderful tour guide who gave us great historical insight to each artist and painting. My favorite that I saw was Velasquez’s La Meninas. He created a piece of art that manages to include the audience in the painting as the King and Queen of Spain.

However the highlight of my trip to Madrid was me finally having an appreciation for contemporary art. This is the type of art that makes me think why is this worth so much when it looks like random shapes thrown together. Our tour guide prefaced the tour of the Reina Sofia by taking us to a sculpture inside the museum’s courtyard. The tour guide has us look at it while he gave us a brief biography of the artist. Then he asked us what we thought it was; we gave a variety of answer, but none of them were correct. He then went on to say that yes contemporary or modern art can often look like something we created as a kid, but it is why the artist is creating “childish” looking works that gives a piece it meaning. He said that modern art came out of the idea that human were creating art before any formative education began, that the creativity was ingrained is us. The artists pioneering modern art were looking to go back to the time where we felt free to create without inhibition. As a result we have art that looks like something created from the free expression of a child with the message and meaning of an adult who has lived life. And through that we can have an appreciation for how the artists are able to return to childlike freedom to create.

Me in Front of La Almudena Cathedral

That explanation was the one that I had been waiting for without knowing it. In that moment I got it! I got why people love contemporary art and why so many people flock to see it. From that point on I was able to walk through the Reina Sofia with a new found appreciation for the art that is housed there. While I still do not understand or get modern art, I do have an appreciation for what the artist is attempting to do.

So all in all my trip to Madrid was great! I got to try a porra (fried dough typical to Madrid) and spend time in a new place!


Noemi Cerritos Gatto

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