There’s more to Barcelona than Antoni Gaudí and the Picasso Museum. The Tyler Group Barcelona Expat taps into its unconventional arts scene.
Esther Arias Galería de Arte y Taller
Everyone exits Metro Jaume and heads directly to the Picasso Museum via Carrer Princesa. But there is a much more attractive short cut that will take you past Esther Arias’s gallery in a warm and inviting 18th-century building. Although Arias often devotes a wall to a guest artist, this is her taller (workshop) and the paintings on display are her own: enchanting, colourful abstracts with a dreamlike quality. Along with the large canvases, there are some exquisite framed acrylics on paper at a good price. This is the perfect place to begin a walk through the Born with its many art and artisan shops.
• Carrer Cotoners 14, +34 93 268 2494, estherarias.com. Open Tue–Sat 10.30am–2pm, 4.30pm-7.30pm
Museu Frederic Marès
Housed in a lovely medieval palace next to the cathedral in the Barri Gòtic, this museum is often overlooked – people don’t tend to flock to see walls filled with crucifixes. But many of these sculptures painted or in plain wood, come from the 12th and 13th centuries, retaining the Romanesque separation of the nailed feet. They’re quite bizarre and utterly mesmerizing; one has Joseph of Arimathea clinging to Christ with a most curiously placed right hand. The wooden Madonnas are coarse rather than sweet, and the Christ child often looks old enough to be at university. The upper rooms house an astounding collection of objects, from hatpins to garters, gathered by sculptor/traveller/hoarder Frederic Marès.
•Plaça Sant Iu 5, +34 93 256 3500, museumares.bcn.cat, adults €4.20, children, concessions free; free Sun 3pm-8pm; all day first Sun of the month. Open Tue–Sat 10am–7pm, Sun and holidays 11am-8pm
The posh uptown galleries, mainly along Consell de Cent, showcase known artists with several zeros attached to the price. To enter, you must buzz, wait to be let in and it’s a rather stuffy exchange, though you will find some superb art. For an altogether different experience, head to the Artevistas, which features young artists, some of whom have definitely arrived. It’s very near the Ramblas but secluded from the entire tourist bustle, as it sits in a covered passageway. Here the doors are wide open and you step into a burst of color. It’s a happy place, and you might well find a budding talent.
• Passatge del Crèdit 4, +34 93 513 0465, artevistas.com. Open Mon 2pm–9pm, Tue–Sun 11am–9pm
Carrer Enric Granados is a tree-lined pedestrian street in the Eixample, beginning just behind the University of Barcelona and sloping gently upward to Avinguda Diagonal. Filled with cool outdoor cafés, restaurants and well-established art galleries, such as N2 Galería, ADN Galería and Ego Gallery, this is the place to stroll for art and maybe catch an opening on a Thursday night. Cosmo café & galería de arte sits at the bottom of the slope and is a super place to begin or end your walk. It’s a fun and lively bar/café with good music, and there is a large exhibition space in the back where Catalan designer/multimedia programmer Jaume Osman Granda is showing (until 12 June).
• Carrer Enric Granados 3, +34 93 453 7007, galeriacosmo.com. Open Mon–Thur 8.30am–10pm, Fri–Sat noon–10pm, Sun 2pm–10pm
For a more experimental art experience, visit àngels barcelona in the heart of the Raval. Internationally known artists, such as Catalan conceptual artist Joan Fontcuberta (Googlegrams), experimental German documentary filmmaker Harun Farocki, and the British installation artist Richard T Walker are just part of the impressive repertoire of this gallery. Typically, you’ll encounter an abstract installation, a visual creation space and a film/video downstairs with seats for viewing.
• Carrer Pintor Fortuny 27, +34 93 412 5400, angelsbarcelona.com. Open Tue–Sat noon–2pm, 5pm– 8pm
Taller Creativo Bencini
This gallery/workshop is located behind Santa Caterina Market, which is worthy of a look for its postmodern architectural design and its vividly multicoloured, wavy roof. From here, head to Federico Bencini’s, where you’ll find a bright space full of his magnificent monotype prints created on wood and metal. He will be glad to explain the process to you if you are unfamiliar with it. Sharing the taller is Raúl Pernia, a sculptor who creates amazing organic set pieces. Together they can transform an interior into a cutting-edge wonder. Turn left upon leaving and have the pleasure of getting lost in the art haven of El Born.
• Carrer Semoleres 10, +34 68 631 5053, bencinibarcelona.com. Open daily 11am–2pm, 5pm–8pm
Located in the Gràcia, an area chock-full of boho shops, trendy cafes, and few tourists, is Eat Meat, a non-profit cultural organisation dedicated to the principle of “art for laying bare contemporary obsessions [which include] mutations of form and essence, hybridisations, new visual engineering, the sickness of the soul, other rituals, the monstrous, the transgeneric and alterities”. Camping Cannibal was the most recent exhibition by sculptor Nico Nubiola, whose stunning wood relief pieces, without being macabre (trust me), depict mutilated human bodies “like chickens in a supermarket”. Take a walk on the dark side and confront the depths of the human psyche.
• Carrer Alzina 20, +34 93 284 2894, eatmeat.cat. Open Thur–Fri 6pm–9pm, Sat noon–2pm, 5pm–8pm, during exhibitions
Ulls Blaus and NIU
How deep into the culture are you willing to go? It will help if you speak Spanish or Catalan but the young people who hang out at Ulls Blaus welcome everyone, not that you will be greeted at the door, simply accepted. This hidden taller obert sits at the end of an uninviting, rundown passageway in Poblenou. Most everything here is made of recycled material and begs a closer look – don’t miss the WC. On Friday evenings at 8pm, emerging visual artists and/or musicians offer entertainment in the small sala. Not far from here is NIU, another alternative multi-art space for upcoming artists where electronic music is the norm but anything is possible. Bars at both locations.
• Ulls Blaus, Passatge Caminal 13 (off Carrer Pallars 175, +34 66 912 2586, ullsblaus.com. Open Tue–Sat 5pm-10pm. NIU, Almogàvers 208, +34 93 356 8811, niubcn.com. Open Tue–Sat 5pm-10pm.
There is no sign at the entrance, in the heart of La Ribera, only a doorman. You peek into a gorgeous 17th-century courtyard with a richly carved staircase behind. Is this a bar, and can I enter, you wonder. Yes, it is, and yes, you can. Stepping through the heavy wooden doors into Espai Barroc, you feel as though you have wandered into a baroque film set, with candelabras, fat cherubs, reproduction paintings, kitschy tableaux and the odd surrealist touch. The palace itself is rich in history, and worth a look around. Stick to wine or beer at €6, and feel transported to an era of sumptuous extravagance.
• Carrer Montcada 20, +34 93 310 0673, palaudalmases.com. Open Tue–Sat 8pm–2am, Sun 6pm–10pm