Barcelona’s sleek contemporary art museum stands in bold contrast to its surroundings. The Museu d’Art Contemporani (MACBA), together with the Centre de Cultura Contemporània (CCCB) nearby, has provided a focal point for the city since 1995 and has played an integral part in the rejuvenation of El Raval. MACBA’s permanent collection includes big-name Spanish and international artists, while the CCCB serves as a cutting-edge exploration of contemporary culture.
MACBA: Pl dels Àngels; 93 412 08 10; open 11am–8pm Mon, Wed & Fri, 10am–9pm Thu, 10am–7:30pm Sat, 10am–3pm Sun; adm €10 (all exhibitions and Experience MACBA); free for under 14s and over 65s; www.macba.cat/en
CCCB: C/Montalegre 5; 93 306 41 00; open 11am–8pm Tue–Sun; adm €6 for 1 show, €8 for 2 shows; concessions €4 for 1 show, €6 for 2 shows; free for under 12s; free every Sunday 3–8pm; guided tours in English Jul & Aug: 11:30am Tue, 5:30pm Wed; www.cccb.org/en
Although they share the Plaça Joan Coromines, MACBA and CCCB have separate entrances. Both multilevel galleries have flexible display spaces. MACBA has rest areas dotted among the galleries on all floors, allowing you to take breaks as you explore.
American architect Richard Meier’s stark, white, geometrical façade makes astartling impression against the backdrop of this dilapidated working-class neighbourhood. Hundreds of panes of glass reflect the skateboarders who gather here daily.
The raison d’être of MACBA is this flexible area showing the best in contemporary art. Past exhibitions have included Zush and acclaimed painter Dieter Roth.
The permanent collection comprises over 2,000 – mostly European – modern artworks, 10 per cent of which are on show at any one time. All major contemp-orary artistic trends are represented. This 1974 work by Eduardo Arranz Bravo is titled Homea.
Space and light are omnipresent in the bare white walkways that hover between floors. Look through the glass panels onto the Plaça dels Àngels for myriad images before you even enter the gallery spaces.
One of the few surviving Renaissance chapels in Barcelona has been converted for use as MACBA’s temporary exhibition space. It is located in a former convent across the Plaça dels Àngels.
This courtyard off Carrer Montalegre forms part of the neighbouring CCCB. An ultramodern prismatic screen acts as a mirror reflecting the medieval courtyard, giving visitors a magical juxtaposition of different architectural styles.
The contrast between the modern MACBA, the University building, the Tuscan-style CCCB and the 19th-century mock-Romanesque church make this square one of the city’s most enchanting. It is home to the terrace restaurants of MACBA and CCCB.
One of the only pieces of art on permanent display is Antoni Tàpies’ deconstructed bed (1992–3), with its bedding flung across the wall in disarray. Its presence to the right of the main entrance underlines the late Tàpies’ importance in the world of Catalan modern art.
Pleasant and unusual features of MACBA are the white leather sofas between the galleries. Usually next to a shelf of relevant books and a set of headphones, these quiet spaces provide the perfect resting spot to contemplate – and learn more about – the art.
Exhibitions at the CCCB tend to be more theme-based than artist-specific. It hosts the World Press Photo exhibition in spring and numerous literary festivals throughout the year. Home to avant-garde art exhibits, the CCCB is always at the forefront of the latest cultural trends.