The Art Lover’s Guide to Malaga

pompidou gallery malaga

In 2017 art storms onto the agenda for Malaga because the city now ranks among the best art destinations in southern Europe. From true Old Master tradition to cutting-edge performance, Malaga’s art galleries offer almost anything that has ever left the artist’s palette.

Picasso Museum

picasso museum malaga

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881, a city he left forever ten years later. The Picasso Museum in Malaga is housed in a beautifully restored 16th century palatial mansion, the Buena Vista Palace. With its intricate wood-inlaid ceilings, a smooth columned patio and a deliciously peaceful courtyard, it’s one of Malaga’s finest buildings and galleries. Feast your eyes on all this before you move on to the other masterpieces.

The Picasso Museum has just had a revamp and rung the changes on its permanent collection. Many of the artworks now on display are newbies for everyone except Picasso’s family so there’s a really intimate feel to the galleries. The collection takes you on a journey through the artist’s entire creative lifetime from the lifelike portraits he painted as an early teen to some of his latest works of surrealism in the 1970s.

Something else the museum excels at is combining Picasso with his contemporaries. Louise Bourgeois and Jason Pollock were some of the big names in 2016 and starring in 2017 are Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. See their take on the delicacy and vitality of the human condition and life until 17 September 2017.

Need to know – the Picasso Museum opens daily 10am to 7pm (8pm July and August). Tickets cost €7 for the Picasso collection, €5.50 for the temporary exhibition and €10 for both. Entrance includes an audio guide and you can take a guided tour in English on Wednesdays at noon. The Picasso Museum is also the busiest museum in Andalucia so time your visit very first thing or at Spanish lunchtime (so 2-4pm).

Don’t miss – the museum shop for a browse; the café’s quiet courtyard for a coffee and just the church bells for company; and a trip back in time in the basement with its Phoenician and medieval walls.

Address: Palacio de Buenavista, Calle San Agustin, 8, 29015 Malaga; phone: 952 12 76 00;  Museopicassomalaga.org.

Russian Art Museum

russian museum malaga

Take one of the largest art collections in the world bring it to one restored tobacco factory and you’ve got Malaga’s Russian Museum. A relative newbie in the city – it opened just a couple of years ago – this museum already flexes its muscles in Spain. It houses a cherry-picked selection of art works on loan from the Russian State Museum in St Petersburg where the catalogue runs to over 400,000 pieces. To say there’s plenty of choice is understating it.

This year’s main exhibition focuses on the Romanov saga from the first Ivan the Terrible – judging by the paintings in his section he more than lived up to his name – to the family’s unfortunate finale at the end of the World War I. Feast your eyes on royal portraits, dramatic war scenes, Russian landscapes and some sumptuous porcelain.

The current temporary exhibition showcases one of the best-known Russian painters who also turns out to be an absolute master of colour. The 78 pieces in the Kandinsky exhibition feature his influence from Russian icons – the opening pieces are exquisite – to his later abstract signature style.

Need to know – the Russian Museum opens Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am to 8.00pm. Tickets cost €6 for the Romanov collection, €4 for Kandinsky and €8 for both, and include an audio guide. There is free parking next to the Museum.

Don’t miss – the fun gift ideas in the museum shop; the tasty tapas and decadent desserts in the café; and a visit to the vintage car museum next door.

Address: Edificio de Tabacalera, Av de Sor Teresa Prat, 15, 29003 Malaga; phone: 951 92 61 50; Coleccionmuseoruso.es. 

The Museum of Malaga

The newest art museum in Malaga also took its time to arrive. Decades and decades in fact, but the wait was certainly worth it. The Museum of Malaga, housed in the elegant Customs House flanked by Malaga’s tallest palms, is by far the biggest museum in the city (it’s the fifth largest in Spain).

The museum brings together the Provincial Museum of Fine Arts and the Provincial Archaeological Museum. There are just over 2000 pieces of historical fine art held and the majority of the museum is taken up with pieces of archaeological importance. Trying to see it all in one go will tip even the world’s greatest art lovers over the edge so choose your floor – first for art, second for archaeology and leave the other one for another time. Your eyes, mind and feet will thank you for it.

That said, do the floor of your choice properly and make sure you see the highlights. On the art floor these include lots of 19th century paintings by Malaga artists who show a bias for seascapes, local customs and portraits of the then A-list celebrities. A big favourite and icon for locals is Enrique Simonet’s ‘And she had a heart!’, a stunning take on a forensic table. Unsurprisingly, Picasso pops up in the final section where you’ll also see some familiar sculptures.

Upstairs sits a veritable treasure trove of archaeological finds. Even if stone pots and iron spears aren’t your thing, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the vibrant green Corinthian warrior’s mask or the giant Roman mosaics. The museum is beautifully curated throughout and the English translations are second to none in Malaga.

Need to know – the Museum of Malaga opens Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 8pm and Sunday 9am to 3pm. Entrance is free for EU nationals, €1.50 otherwise.

Don’t miss – the interior patio that gives you an idea of the true scale of this giant; the unique roof tiles all imprinted with images of Malaga – see them on the top floor; and look out for the top-floor restaurant opening later this year. 

Address: Plaza de la Aduana, S/N, 29015 Malaga; phone: 951 91 19 04.

Pompidou Centre

centre pompidou malaga

The newest of the trio with its iconic multi-coloured cube graces the end of the pergola on the port. The Pompidou Centre, the only branch outside France of its older Parisian sister, is actually underground although the clever lighting means you’d never know it. It houses a collection of some of the best and quirkiest modern art. Just about anyone who was anyone gets their space – Magritte, Chagall, Léger, Tapies, Bacon, Kahlo and of course, Picasso.

This museum is big on installations. David Bowie chats to you in a Tony Oursler video, 150 aluminium foil human silhouettes make up the chilling Ghost installation by Kader Attia and you can also pop into a cinema ticket office. Pop-up performances take place regularly too – check the museum website for information on what’s popping up when – and there are good temporary exhibitions. In 2017 Philippe Starck whose drawings and designs take over the exhibition space from 10 May.

Need to know – the Pompidou Centre opens every day except Tuesday 9.30am to 8pm. Tickets cost €7 for the permanent collection, €4 for the temporary and €9 for both.

Don’t miss – the kids’ area at the museum entrance (currently a Calder Circus exhibition for children aged 5 to 12); the fab shop where you could literally do all your birthday present shopping; and the view of the cube from inside the museum.

Address: Puerto de Malaga, Pasaje Doctor Carrillo Casaux, s/n, Muelle 1, 29016 Malaga; phone: 951 92 62 00;  Centrepompidou-malaga.eu.

CAC Malaga

Unlike the other art museums in Malaga who can shout loud about their architecture, the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) in the old wholesale market, built in the Modernist style in 1939 is starkly plain.

Since it opened in 2003, the CAC has played hostess with the mostest to the biggest names on the contemporary art scene. The likes of Damien Hirst, Miquel Barceló, Anish Kapoor, Mark Ryden, Gilbert & George, Ai Weiwei, Tracy Emin, Peter Doig, Cristina Iglesias and Marina Abramovic have all shown work here. The permanent collection has an interesting mix of pieces but CAC is best at temporary exhibitions with four dedicated spaces including the largest showcasing visiting artists.

Currently in house is Chinese artist Jia Aili with his largest exhibition ever in Europe (on until 18 June 2017). He’s joined by Scottish Peter Doig with a fun collection of posters he painted for his film club in the Caribbean (until 25 June 2017) and the semi-permanent Neighbours exhibition of paintings and works by Malaga artists.

Need to know – the CAC opens Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 8pm (21 June to 6 September 10am to 2pm and 5 to 9pm). Free entry.

Don’t miss – the guided tours, occasionally in English – if not, be sure to pick up the information leaflet at the entrance to each exhibition space, well worth a read; Óleo restaurant next door serving lunch, dinner and cocktails on the riverside terrace; and a stroll round the neighbouring Soho district where street art comes into its own.

Address: Calle Alemania, S/N, 29001 Malaga; phone: 952 12 00 55; Cacmalaga.eu.

Carmen Thyssen Museum

carmen thyssen gallery malaga

The Thyssen name needs little introduction to art lovers and carries the weight it merits into the Palacio de Villalón in Malaga. The modern art is beautiful curated and presented in this Palace, a late 15th century – early 16th century noble home which is now the Carmen Thyssen Museum. The gallery focuses on Spanish painting, especially that of the 19th and early 20th centuries. From old masters to romantic landscapes you’ll see Hermen Anglada-Camarasa, Gonzalo Bilbao Martínez and Valentín de Zubiaurre.

Need to know – Opening times are Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00am to 8.00pm. Monday closed (except public holidays). Ticket cost Permanent Collection €6, Temporary exhibitions €4.50 and combined entrance €9.

Don’t miss – More gift shop fun and another pleasant coffee shop. Also, if your trip allows the Juan Gris exhibition which is on from 6th October 2017 to 25th February 2018.

Address: Calle Alemania, S/N, 29001 Malaga; Phone: 952 12 00 55; Carmenthyssenmalaga.org.

As always, we work with the best guides who can pick you up at your villa and show you the best of Malaga’s art scene. Do contact our Concierge team and ask about the Art in Malaga Tour which offers special insight into the life of Pablo Picasso.

Enjoyed our pick of the best Malaga art galleries? Find out what else the city has to offer.

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