Back to the museums!

During these crazy times when this world has been turned upside down, we look for some moments of distraction from this new ‘reality 2.0’ that we live in nowadays. After living in another city for four years and in the Netherlands this past year, I moved back to my hometown, Madrid, in July. It’s astonishing seeing how fast a city changes. And it felt even more weird being back with the world upside down. For me, being able to go to museums after they re-opened became a big way to reconnect with my city, my new reality, and with the life we all had before the pandemic.

two framed, hand-lettered artworks

Mel Bochner’s pieces resonate with this year, It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This, 2013 and I’ve Had It Up to Here, 2012. Part of the exhibition “The american dream” in Caixaforum Madrid.

I didn’t really plan it but going to exhibitions became almost a weekly ritual — mask and security measures included. It became something to look forward to, a glimpse of the new normal based on the premise, “Let’s make the best of the time we can be outside!”. And so it became a great experience every time. Each one was different: Going to a collective or solo exhibition, with or without knowing the work from the artist previously, going alone or with friends.

a painting of a woman and two drawings of figures standing in odd poses

Left: Discovering Mondrian’s early paintings. Piet Mondrian, Devotion, 1908. From the exhibition Mondrian and De Stijl in Reina Sofía Museum. Right: Discovering Robert Longo’s work. Untitled (Eric and Cindy). Pieces from the series “Men in the Cities,” 1981. Part of the exhibition “The American Dream” in Caixaforum Madrid . Photograph courtesy of my friend, Rosa Martí.

Most of the museums in Madrid have special times to visit them for free or offer discounts for young people so I would take advantage of these opportunities, looking forward to seeing the pieces exhibited. I enjoy some little things of museums, like the sound of the footsteps on the floor, passing behind you and shattering the silence while admiring a piece or, on the other hand, hearing people thinking out loud when considering an artwork. If it gets too loud and I’m visiting the exhibition alone, I like to plug in my headphones and play unknown music, finding a pairing between an artist I am discovering and the random song that pops in my headphones.

an abstract painting and a black and white photograph

Left: Joan Miró, Oiseaux des grottes II (Cave birds II), 1971 (from Mapfre Foundation’s permanent collection) pairing with Bright beginning by Clouchord.
Right: Lee Friedlander, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 1992 (from Lee Friedlander’s exhibition in Mapfre Foundation) randomly matching with Nostalgic by junior state.

Museums became a way to travel— given the current circumstances —, a way to step out of everything happening and have an isolated and ephemeral experience in a determined time. The beauty of going to different museums and exhibitions is to be transported somewhere. Some exhibitions brought me back to the Netherlands, where I was living earlier this year, others brought me to a dark and reflecting (almost meditative) place too. I went from the shock of pop art to the simplicity of neoplasticism; from a calming photography landscape to politically charged pieces that pierce you like a bullet; from viewing pieces that I was familiar with to discovering the work of artists like Kara Walker, Willie Cole, Glenn Ligon or Lee Friedlander, among many others.

Going to museums fueled a different dialogue in my head, escaping from the everyday and following an artistic discourse like a story. It made me focus on the present time passing in that room with a friend, leaving behind everything that was going on outside those walls for a few hours.

Bette(r) Days celebrates the things that did not suck in 2020. Each day in December, we’ll be posting about the highlights of our collective garbage fire of a year, type-related or not.