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what type of art is barcelona known for

Updated: Apr 18

A Romanesque Masterpiece from the MNAC - Museum National of Art of Catalonia

People who visit Barcelona often remark on the artistic spirit in the city, art seems to come out of the very pores of the stone. A wander through the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter and you're always certain to stumble into a cool boutiquey design store with locally crafted items. But what is the art that puts Barcelona on the Art Adventurers map? In this article, we will explore what type of Art is Barcelona known for.

Although Barcelona shines in the Modern Art stage, from its Art Nouveau architecture and once being the home of Pablo Picasso, it also excels in a more niche age of art- Romanesque. Romanesque was the style that was popular in Europe pre-Gothic, that is 11th-13th centuries. This was a time of expansion and consolidation in the County of Catalonia and the Art reflects this. The Museu Nacional de Art de Catalunya- MNAC boasts a collection of Romanesque art that is made up of an exceptional set of mural paintings and a rich collection of panel paintings, it is in fact the the biggest and oldest in Europe.

The Palau de la Musica is one of the most important pieces of the Catalan Modernist movement

Moving on into the Modern Age, the area in which the city shines on the World stage is in its rich Art Nouveau architecture, known locally as Modernism. In the 19th century, in the heyday of the Industrial Revolution, the city saw the rise of an architectural style which sought to communicate Catalonia's age-old ambition to be an independent state. Now you will find no political opinion in this humble article on art, but it would be impudent to separate the political and cultural influence on this art style. As you explore the city you will find a treasure trove of buildings that are highly decorative and borderline gaudy. A thriving artisan industry at that time meant that stained glass, ceramic, sculptural detail and decoration of every nook and cranny would become the norm. And certainly, the most famous perpetrator of this was the mad genius architect- Antoni Gaudi.

Whereas Gaudí was part of the Art Nouveau movement, many art critics, including the author, would argue that Gaudi was in a class of his own. Having earned the title 'God's Architect' as he sought to recreate what he called God's architecture- that is Nature, in his works. His buildings look like they come from a Dr. Seuss' novel and feel like an LSD trip. His crowning achievement, La Sagrada Familia, (spoiler alert it is still under construction) is the most important piece of art in Barcelona, as well as the most visited site in Spain.

Thirty years after the birth of Gaudí, an artist was born who would leave an indelible mark on the world of Art, one Pablo Picasso. He worked with a close friend and Barcelona resident while he was still alive to help curate arguably the most famous art museum in Barcelona, the Picasso Museum. His love for the city and his consequent donation of works is the second largest collection of Picasso in the world. As such, one has to mention Picasso as a singular artist that the city is famous for. At Artspace Tours we host a walking tour where we explore the life of Picasso in Barcelona, find out more here.

Menu designed by Pablo Picasso for one of his favourite hangouts in the city- The 4 Cats Café

Finally, Barcelona is famous for the contemporary art phenomenon that is graffiti. Wander through the streets of the city at night and you will find layer upon layer of paint on the various shutters. The thing that makes Barcelona famous for its graffiti scene is that this is the headquarters of the largest spray paint brand in the world- Montana Cans. Established by the Barcelona-born Jordi Rubió and a handful of graffiti bandits in the 1980's, Montana Cans is widely regarded as the definitive spray paint brand. If you want to find out more about the Street Art/Graffiti scene in Barcelona come and check out the definitive Street Art tour in the city with our tour- Explore Barcelona's Hidden Street Art.

Exploring one of the most famous Graffiti zones in Europe on the Barcelona HIdden Street Art tour

So from Romanesque Murals to spraypainted ones, Gaudí to Picasso, this is the type of Art that Barcelona is known for. Keep an eye out in this series as we will explore more artists from the city not mentioned in this article, but that should be on every art enthusiast's radar- the likes of Joan Miró, Antoni Tápies and Josep Maria Subirachs.

Adiós and keep Arting!

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