The National Museum of Art of Catalonia (MNAC)

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) is the Barcelona's main art museum, which collects works by Catalan artists or artists related to Catalonia. The museum is located in the Palau Nacional, and was built for the 1929 Universal Exposition in a privileged position: at the foot of the Montjuïc hill, it is part of a complex that includes the Font Màgica, giving a wonderful perspective up to Plaça de Espanya , and is also within walking distance of the CaixaForum. The museum was opened in 1934, bringing together in one place all the medieval collection, until then dispersed in various places. In 1995, the new rooms of Romanesque art were inaugurated, and in 2004 those relating to modern art.

The museum contains a very extensive and varied artistic collection, ranging from the largest collection in the world of Romanesque mural painting, to the most expressive works of Catalan modernism, such as furniture by Gaudí or the illustrations by Casas. Important the Gothic art collection, as well as the collection of Renaissance and Baroque works, with the likes of Titian o Velazquez. Also noteworthy is the photographic section of the MNAC, with about 40.000 photos, ranging from the dawn of photography to journalistic photography, and gathering practically all the major Catalan exponents.

The museum collection is divided into a series of thematic itineraries, able to offer a complete overview for each single period examined. The collections of Romanesque art, and those relating to modernist architecture, are among the most important in the world, and alone are worth a visit to the MNAC.

MNAC: temporary exhibitions for 2021

MNAC has a rich calendar of temporary exhibitions throughout the year, so there are always at least 2-3 exhibitions inside the museum.

  • Lluïsa Vidal (from 23 September 2016 to 15 January 2021). Lluïsa Vidal (1876-1918) formed part of the young generation of Catalan modernist artists. Painter, draftsman and illustrator, she was a great portraitist, highly valued for her empathic ability to understand the emotional state of her subjects. The exhibition offers a collection of his most representative portraits, in which one can perceive the clear influence of the great Spanish masters of classical painting. the artist dedicated many of his works to women, of which he portrayed various scenes of daily life: the female world was observed and masterfully portrayed by this painter, who left us genuine testimonies of considerable artistic value.
  • Marianne Breslauer (from 26 October 2016 to 31 January 2021). Despite her short photographic journey, which lasted only 11 years, between 1927 and 1938, the legacy of Marianne Breslauer is a singular example of the so-called “new photography”. Since its discovery in the 1980s, this photographer's work has been the subject of important individual exhibitions. Marianne Breslauer is part of that generation of young photographers who knew how to take advantage of the new freedoms offered by the German Republic of Weimar to exercise her business. Part of an important bourgeois family of Jewish origin, his career was interrupted with the coming to power of the Nazis, in 1933, when he chose exile.
  • Ismael Smith, beauty and monsters (from 3 November 2016 to 12 February 2021). A personal exhibition on Ismael Smith, a multifaceted Catalan artist with a remarkable versatility who worked above all in the first twenty years of the 900th century. Famous for his transgressive production with a grotesque character, he became well known in the United States as a graphic artist, draftsman and engraver. The exhibition displays 70 sculptures, 150 drawings, about fifty engravings and a collection of ex libris, one of his most appreciated specialties.
  • Picasso and Romanesque art (from 17 November 2016 to 19 February 2021). The exhibition focuses on the two dates that mark Pablo Picasso's relationship with Romanesque art. In 1906 the artist moved for a few months to the village of Gòsol, in the Catalan Pyrenees. Almost thirty years later, in 1934, Picasso visited the collections of Romanesque art currently contained in the MNAC, a fact widely commented on by the Barcelona press of the time. Starting from these two events, the exhibition follows the common thread of three themes typical of Romanesque art: the image of the Virgin, the crucifixion and the skull, taken up over several times by the famous painter.
  • The exhibition, organized in conjunction with the Picasso museum in Paris, has 40 works, arranged in the permanent room of Romanesque art, which also contains the Virgen de Gòsol, the painting present in 1906 in the small village church frequented by Picasso , and which is now part of the museum's collection.

  • Pere Torné Esquius (15 March - 9 July 2021): for various reasons, the work of the Catalan painter Pere Torné Esquius was neither among the modernist proposals nor among the twentieth century artists. His work, with its apparent simplicity, responds to a certain naive primitivism, focusing on internal or enclosed spaces: however the absence of the human figure and the protagonism of inanimate elements manage to produce a disturbing effect on the viewer.
  • Ramón Pichot (21 September 2021 - 7 January 2018): emigrated to Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, Ramón Pichot lived in the lively atmosphere of Montmartre, the center of international art of the moment. Among the few Spanish painters to have portrayed the horrors of the Great War, he explored both modernism and decorativism of the XNUMXs, placing great emphasis on the use of color. It will be Pichot himself who introduced a very young Dalí into the world of art, advising his father to let him take a painting course.
  • William Morris and the Art & Craft movement in Great Britain (22 February - 20 May 2018): the Arts & Crafts movement, linked to decorative art, was born in Great Britain around 1880 and developed until the First World War. Its greatest exponent was William Morris, capable of condensing all the dominant themes of this movement: the return to traditional craftsmanship, the concern for the effects of industrialization in design and the improvement of everyday household objects.
  • Gala Dalí (7 July - 14 October 2018): the exhibition focuses on Salvador Dalí's wife, Gala. Known for being Dalí's muse, as well as the protagonist of some of his paintings, over time she undergoes a transformation into a complete artist, starting a real artistic cooperation with her husband, until she becomes co-author of some works.

Useful Information

Allow at least a couple of hours to visit the museum's main collections and even half a day for a more in-depth visit that includes temporary exhibitions.

How to get to the MNAC

The MNAC is located at the foot of Montjuïc: it can be reached by metro from the Plaça de Espanya stop (lines 1 and 3): once you leave the station just follow the signs, the MNAC will immediately appear in view. By bus turístic you just need to get off at the MNAC stop on the red line.

Working Time

The winter hours of the MNAC are from October to April: the museum opens from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:00 to 18:00. On Sundays and public holidays it opens from 10:00 to 15:00.
The holiday schedule extends from May to September: the opening from Tuesday to Saturday extends until 20:00, while on Sundays and holidays it remains unchanged. The museum closes on non-holiday Mondays, as well as on January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.


Buy tickets for the MNAC

The general ticket costs 12 €, and also includes admission to temporary exhibitions. Access to the lookout terrace alone is € 2. Admission is free for children under 16 and over 65, as well as for holders of the Barcelona Card. Barcelona Card holders can also take advantage of the dedicated queues, allowing them to enter without queuing. The MNAC opens free to all every first Sunday of the month, and every Saturday starting at 15:00. Students and holders of the Ruta del modernisme Card are entitled to a 30% discount.

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