A few years ago, when Málaga’s smart, elegant and architectural new ‘Muelle Uno’ (Quayside 1) port development opened, there was one part unfinished; a large glass structure, left empty in the north east corner. Even until recently, when one walked under the striking, undulating waves of brilliant white concrete of the pergola that defines the Palmeral de las Sorpresas quayside walkway, the glass cube would be there at the end to greet you, looking a little sad and abandoned. There was always talk about what it would be, from the mundane (‘…I think it’s going to be a Mercadona supermarket…’), to the more ambitious (‘…no, no, they want it to be a cultural centre…’).
Well today at noon, marked the opening of this glass structure, ‘El Cubo’ as the first ‘Pop-Up Pompidou’ outside of France – the Centre Pompidou Málaga . An exciting, world-class addition to the arts and cultural landscape of Picasso’s native city, Málaga.
Yesterday was the press launch inauguration, a private view for the members of the media to be given a ‘heads-up’ on the 90 or so works on loan from the Pompidou’s incomparable contemporary collection, and the cultural objectives of this new gallery. So I was lucky enough to go along yesterday and take a look. So here’s my inside track.
The first thing that struck me was that the cube, the empty, dusty glass structure that we had all come to know, had been given a new look. Polished and sparkling, the glass façade is now adorned with coloured squares alternating with the signature stripes of artist Daniel Buren who had been invited to create this temporary work, ‘Incubé’ (Incubated).
Strangely though the inside of the cube remains empty – I imagine it will become an interesting space dedicated to temporary exhibitions much like the turbine hall in the Tate Modern in London.
Once you enter the Centre Pompidou Málaga, you descend broad, shallow stairs to the subterranean exhibition spaces and that is where the surprises begin.
Firstly the 2,000 sqm space is much larger than I expected, with a cavernous triple height central gallery filled with works with the theme of ‘Body in Pieces’. Here the space is dominated by ‘Ghost’ by Kader Attia – hallow, vacant shells created from domestic aluminium foil, depicting Muslim women bowed in prayer. On the walls are works by Pablo Picasso, Georg Baselitz, Antoni Tàpies et al.
Adjacent, smaller galleries offer more surprises and explore the themes of ‘Metamorphoses’; ‘Self-Portraits’; ‘The Man without a Face’; and ‘The Political Body’. Each curated selection of paintings, sculptures, installations, films and video installations from international artists are intended to address us, the visitor, directly. I took a few iPhone pictures, but of course this is not the way to experience the art – take the time to visit.
I particularly liked the video installations – there was a video work by Rineke Dijkstra ‘I see a Woman Crying’ which is so good (Liverpool school kids looking at Picasso’s The Weeping Woman, giving such insightful observations); and also Tony Oursler, a selection of whose work is distributed around the galleries – very cool. I also enjoyed ‘It’s Really Nice’ by French video artist, Pierrick Sorrin – a form of 32 video portraits, each one a digital collage of features from people of different sex, age and nationality.
There is also a café and a 232 sqm theatre auditorium for presentations, debates etc. and a space dedicated to children and families with various programmes intended to engage the community.
With today’s opening (hot on the heels of Wednesday’s opening of the Russian Museum in the city’s beautiful old tobacco factory) Málaga has without doubt become Andalucía’s art hub, and a major cultural destination in Spain.
Things really started to change in Málaga with the 2003 opening of the Picasso Museum, which helped drive a renaissance in the city’s historic quarter. La Casa Natal is often overlooked, yet the foundation, in addition to conducting research and offering education into Picasso’s legacy, has over 4,000 pieces of his works.
Another recent addition to the city’s art scene is the Carmen Thyssen Museum, featuring 19th century artists from the Thyssen Collection. A little later this year The Fine Arts Museum will open in Málaga’s former Customs House – a magnificent building on the main Alameda.
Of course the city already had a number of established cultural and arts institutions, including the Centre of Contemporary Art (CAC) which is a real favourite of mine; it always has an innovative programme and attracts artists that normally don’t get exposure on the Iberian Peninsula. There is also La Termica, a cultural centre for resident artists, exhibitions and concerts.
With one of Spain’s busiest airports, a direct AVE high speed rail service to Madrid and beyond, and Spain’s second busiest cruise port, Málaga is well placed to share its cultural riches with the world.