The Golden Triangle of Art in Madrid is an assembly of three art museums, comprising the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum. While the collections of the first two focus on historical and classical art, the Reina Sofia Museum, or simply “the Sofia”, is all about contemporary art, especially of Spanish origin, including masterpieces of Dali and Picasso in particular.
Established in 1992, the museum is housed inside a former hospital building. It was commissioned by King Ferdinand VI as a replacement of the old hospital of the 16th century; since the facilities of the latter were no longer sufficient for the growing city.
The original design belonged to José de Hermosilla (who also contributed to the construction of the Royal Palace); however, it was his successor, Francisco Sabatini, who executed the larger part of the job. The Hospital opened in 1805, still half-finished, and functioned until 1969. The major renovation works took place between 1980 and 1989; including the addition of three panoramic glass and steel lifts – making the historic building look dashing and catchy.
By the early 2000s it became evident, that the old building did not cover enough area to hold the entire collection and accommodate wide range of facilities, such as lectures, workshops, special exhibitions, etc. The new extension, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, was inaugurated in October 2005.
The gem of the museum’s collection is Picasso’s Guernica, arguably the artist’s most renowned work. It was celebrated at various art institutions and exhibitions before being displayed on a permanent basis at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in New York. The painting was Picasso’s way of protesting against fascism and in particular, the bombing on the Basque town of Guernica. In 1937, German and Italian nationalist forces attacked the civil population following the orders of the Spanish nationalist government. The bombing took thousands of innocent lives. Picasso himself forbade the transfer of the painting back to his homeland until democracy was established there. Thus, it was only in 1981 when Guernica made its way from New York’s MoMA to Spain – firstly, to the Prado, and finally, in 1992, to the Sofia.
Other famous works include Mujer en azul, also by Picasso; Dali’s El gran masturbador, and surprisingly realistic Retrato de Luis Buñuel and Muchacha en la ventana. Also a protagonist of the Sofia’s collection is Joan Miró, sculptor and painter from Barcelona and one of the most influential names in Spanish surrealism movement. While his paintings (La casa de la palmera, Femme et chien devant la lune, La sonrisa de alas flameantes, to name a few) brighten the gallery halls, the museum’s courtyard holds some of Miró’s enigmatic sculptures.
Some of the lesser known, but still names worth mentioning are Juan Gris, a cubism representative, another Barcelona-born master Antoni Tàpies, abstract works of Equipo 57 – founded in Paris by a group of Spanish artists in exile, and sculptors Basque Jorge Oteiza and Eduardo Chillida, and Pablo Cargallo – who is particularly famous for his bronze bust of Picasso.
Not to be missed is the museum’s library. There is no entrance fee, so the general public is welcomed to browse through thousands of art-related books, newspapers, records, and videos.