It is one of the world’s most prestigious art museums, yet a lot less well-known than the Tate or Louvre. Perhaps it’s because of the long name or its proximity to the more famous Prado, but it’s definitely not due to the collection. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid is home to major names in the art world such as Picasso, Miró and Dalí.
The historical Hospital de San Carlos from 1776 was given an extensive facelift in 1989 by British architect Ian Ritchie. 3 towering lift shafts made of glass and steel were erected against the outer wall and, inside, the building was stripped and renovated in minimalistic style. French architect Jean Nouvel expanded it in 2005 to create even more room for the collection. After all, as impressive as the building may be, what really matters is the art.
Many of the Mirós in the Reina Sofía date from his later years in the 1970s, when the Catalan master embraced the cheerful abstract style in primary colours. ‘Hombre con pipa’, on the other hand, is one of his early works. It is a surrealistic, almost hallucinogenic portrait in subdued shades with a stripe of red, depicting what appears to be an extra-terrestrial with saucer-shaped penetrating eyes and a pipe that is open to all kinds of interpretation.