First of all, if you have never been to Madrid, you must know and learn and learn and know that there are three major art museums in Madrid. That’s not bad. I recommend that you visit all of them if you come. Not all at once. That would be a trial.
One is the Prado, which covers most of Spain’s classical and traditional art collection, and other delights of unspeakable depth and width; the other is the Reina Sofía which features the modern Spanish masters, which are numerous as you may well know, and the third, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, kind of does both and neither at the same time. That’s the one I went for. The Thyssen, as it is known for short for obvious reasons, was one of the world’s largest private collections when it turned semi-public. It opened for the first time in 1988 as a temporary exhibition, and became permanent about five years later. It’s located basically across the square of Neptuno from the Prado, so you can’t beat that. And the Reina Sofía is about a quarter mile down the road making for what many people call the Triangle of Art.
I descended upon the area from the Retiro Park, into the lime green canopy of the trees in the Paseo del Prado. This was where the baroness, a former Miss Spain winner, chained herself to one of those trunks to avoid them being cut down. She is certainly a person who knows what she wants.
I chose the Thyssen because of the Antonio López exhibit. It was open until 11:00p.m. I could have bought my ticket online, but that would have been planning far too far in advance, and we are supposed to do that. That would have been against the rules, it would have been. Plus, I had just forgotten, most like I had, just…forgotten.
But you could still buy at the desk. The earliest time for me to get in would have been at 9:30, but I got lucky because a man approached me from behind and offered me one of his tickets because the woman who was going to join their group couldn’t make it. Their tickets were for the 8:15, so I accepted it. He was a nice man, a man who liked to laugh and make others laugh, one of those Spaniards who introduced you to everyone with them, some eight in all. “This is Richard, everyone.” “Hi Richard!” They all chirped. The man insisted I go with them until we got in just to prove that the tickets weren’t fake. I didn’t think they would be, people don’t normally counterfeit entrances to Antonio López exhibits, but it was a nice gesture on his part, it was a nice…gesture…on his part.
I thought they were going to invite me to spend the whole visit with them but once we got through, we went our own ways. López is one of Spain’s finest painters and a master of realism. He garnered fame over the past few decades for his portraits of Madrid. His most famous is of the Gran Vía. I cannot think of anyone who has so effectively captured the light of this city. I kept looking at it and said to myself I have been there, I have seen that, to places I had never been to nor seen. But I had at the same time. That’s what disturbed me so much.
The exhibit took us downstairs and to his portraits of people, his depictions of food and flowers, and of interiors. I left troubled and overwhelmed. López seems like a very humble man whose vision silently rips into you. I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to have the chance to meet him.
I departed and needed a few blocks to clear my mind and shake off the impact the images had on me. I walked up Madrazos and then over to Alcalá, then up the Gran Vía until I was nearly by Callao. I cut in right down Ballesta, once and still a brewing brothel zone which is rapidly turning into block of upscale fanciness which people find fancier and cooler because there are still aging and drooping hookers in the doorways and corners, because, as I was saying and telling you, because there was a cuisine place I wanted to check out and I did, I did, but I didn’t go in. I went on until then and up another street to the Calle Colón in Tribunal. From there I turned right down Espiritu Santo to a small bar-bookstore near the end called J & J’s, to talk to a friend of mine who worked there.