Nay and yay: classical vs modern art in Madrid – episode 2, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Note: this is part 2 of my Match of the Madrid Museums feature, pitting classical art against modern art in the city’s two star museums. You can read part 1 on my visit to the Museo del Prado here.

After a rather underwhelming visit of the Museo del Prado – or rather, overwhelming in a bad way -, I was glad to go back to what I enjoy most with a visit of the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid’s main modern art museum… and enjoy it I did!

Originally housed in the grand Sabatini palace, the museum was extended recently with a second building by famous French architect Jean Nouvel (called, appropriately, the Nouvel building), and the two buildings are linked by external elevators which reminded me of the ones at Paris’ modern art museum, the Centre Pompidou, also known as Beaubourg.

This makes for a lot of square inches of art to explore, and one visit is certainly not enough to see it all.

The Centro de Arte Reina Sofia – the Sabatini building from outside (with external lifts perhaps slightly copied on Paris’ Centre Pompidou?)
Reina Sofia Museo Nouvel building
Between the two buildings…

The key attraction, and the top priority on most visitors’ lists, is Picasso’s Guernica, which occupies its own room and takes up an entire wall. It was great to see the full-size original at last, after studying it both in Spanish and history classes at school.

Beyond that, the museum has a large collection displaying the best that twentieth-century and contemporary art have to offer, including a focus on Spanish painters such as Dali and Miro, with a judicious selection of pieces, and completemented with a number of temporary exhibitions.

Among my highlights were a recently-acquired installation by a Brazilian artist, which recreated the Amazon (including live parrots!) and punctuated it with poetic signs, and the temporary exhibition of architecture-inspired Cristina Iglesias’ work. But my favourite might have been the very randomly titled Packing the Hard Potatoes by Öyvind Fahlström, a collage of illustrations of various poems – mainly because I was very pleased with myself for recognising Sylvia Plath’s and Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry at first glance!

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica is the museum’s centrepiece…
…but I also enjoyed Cristina Iglesias’ architectural explorations of the interplay between nature and nurture…
…and this poetry-based piece called ‘Packing the hard potatoes’, supposedly a commentary on the Pinochet coup but with seemingly nothing to do with either potatoes or politics!


So all in all, from my very biased point of view Reina Sofia wins hands down… but I guess what matters in the end is that Madrid caters for all tastes! And if you want more, the city is also home to many other museums, including the equally lauded Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and an open-air sculpture museum…


Did you enjoy this post? I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below!



Hey, I'm Camille! I quit my life to travel the world in 2013 – and I haven’t stopped since! I have visited 40+ countries as a location-independent travel/lifestyle writer and digital marketer. I like hammocks, scooters, eating, and scaring my mother trying adventure sports! I was chosen as a top travel influencer by, and have co-founded Helipad Marketing to help travel & lifestyle brands soar with killer online marketing.

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