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The Biddington's Bentley Takes to the Road

Sonia Delaunay painting

Barcelona Winter 2000: Museum Art Exhibitions, Restaurants and Clubs

Editor's Note: Frederick Fieldhouse Biddington refuses to venture abroad without the Bentley. So, Jake Biddington takes over as travel correspondent for this Barcelona issue.

How do Catalans juggle the demands of late dinners and later clubbing with the regrettable necessity of making an appearance at the office during daylight?

As a visitor, the pace is somewhat less taxing: The trick is to arise early enough to enjoy a museum show and still slide into lunch before the 4:00pm drop-dead time. This frees evenings for shopping which, if you're traveling with a certain type of woman, is non-optional.

Sonia Delaunay painting "Dubonnet" 1914

Any art or architecture fan visiting Barcelona will know to follow the trail of Barcelona's own art nouveau architect Antoni Gaudi. The renovations underway on the interior of Gaudi's magnum opus, Temple of the Sagrada Familia, are so extensive that it's like watching a cathedral being built from scratch. You can see the fabrication of the elements, and the workmen essentially building the structure by hand. And the project is open to the public. Motivated visitors will find Gaudi on their own. My report focuses on three temporary small museum shows.

The Fauve Years 1904-1908 at La Pedrera--through January 7, 2001

About 10 minutes walk from the Sagrada Familia, the exhibition space at La Pedrera, a Gaudi apartment building (Passeig de Gracia, 92), currently houses a nice, bite-size show of Fauve paintings. It includes works from private and small public collections in addition to items from major museums. For me, seeing a painting that usually graces the mantel of an elegant flat rather than a museum corridor is always a treat. (It tweaks my acquisitive streak. Maybe if I have a really good year...)

The Pedrera show includes some of the lesser known Fauve painters such as Van Dongen, Valtat and--a personal favorite--Camoin. Charles Camoin (1879-1965) was a relatively conservative Fauve who appears to have been intent on integrating the new ideas about color within a framework of Impressionist light; the result is both lively and luminous.

Within the exhibition space at La Pedrera is a reading area with tables of this show's catalogue as well as ones from other significant Fauve shows. Invitingly at hand, the easy access to reading materials gives an opportunity for quick review of the major Fauve exhibitions of the past several years. This is a modest, worthwhile show with no admission fee.

Sonia Delaunay painting

Robert and Sonia Delaunay at the Picasso Museum through January 21, 2001

The Picasso Museum is a gem of a museum located in the old section of Barcelona--the Barri Gotic. It includes a permanent exhibition of works by Picasso, but also a second building devoted to temporary exhibitions. The current exhibition produced in conjunction with the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris is a dazzling one: Robert and Sonia Delaunay.

Sonia Delaunay painting "Yellow Nude"

Robert Delaunay painting This is an extensive and fascinating exhibit of a very modern husband and wife team who anticipated and reflected many of the contemporary art trends of their time. Sonia Delaunay especially is a stand-out. She represents an early sighting of an artist working with an eye simultaneously tuned to both creativity and commerce. Sonia covers all the bases from superb Futurist paintings, to package design (works with a conceptual feel), to costume design (early examples of the art deco aesthetic), interior design, textile design and clothing design. (Don't miss her painted car: a Matra 530; Sonia did a Bugatti as well--alas not included in this exhibition.)

Robert Delaunay painting "Eiffel Tour"

In general, Robert played vain and handsome grasshopper to Sonia's ant. However, there are moments when he, too, shines. Robert Delaunay's Eiffel Tour and cathedral interior series remain wonderful. The real surprise is a small group of Robert's works from the early 1930's called "The Kiss". Based on cinematic close-ups of lovers nose to nose, the resemblance to Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein's comicbook paintings is spooky. This is a wonderful show with an extensive catalogue. My only quibble is the billing. It ought to read: Sonia and Robert Delaunay.Mark Rothko painting

Mark Rothko at the Joan Miro Foundation through January 28, 2001

Do yourself a favor and grab a taxi to transport you up Montjuic to the Joan Miro Foundation--getting there on foot is a schlep. In addition to the permanent exhibition of works by local art star Joan Miro, the Foundation holds regular temporary exhibitions covering all aspects of contemporary art. The current temporary exhibit consists of 80 paintings and drawings by Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970).

Mark Rothko Painting

Most of what I had known about Rothko centered on the endless legal battle over his estate after his suicide in 1970. Rothko's name brought to mind only an image of two areas of color floating over the canvas in a landscape-type structure. Having seen this exhibit, I now have a sense of the depth of the floating color fields and the subtle surfaces of the canvases. Still, I find his work runs the gamut from A to B. Critical writings talk about Rothko's work as a visual consequence of the paintings of Pierre Bonnard. True Rothko does handle color transitions beautifully, but I see not further resemblance to an artist as rich and varied as Bonnard. Locking himself into a repetitive, formulaic structure, Mark Rothko went the way of most purists: he painted himself into corner from which he could find neither aesthetic nor emotional escape.

Barcelona Hotels, Restaurants and Clubs

The definition of a good hotel in Barcelona is one with an available room. I found myself rather unwillingly at the Astoria in the bourgeoise, xic neighborhood called Eixample. It turned out to be well-located for upmarket shopping and convenient to the club scene. If you're furnishing a flat or loft, the design aesthetic in Barcelona is clean and colorful with just enough chrome to give it an edge. Also, furnishings are scaled for less-than-gigantic urban dwellings.

Barcelona's trendy restaurants are large, open brasseries with a focus on new adaptations of Catalan cuisine. Two well-designed spots with the same ownership, El Trobador (Enric Granados near Paris Ave.) and Tenori (Ramblas near Disputcio Ave.), draw attractive crowds. La Flauta (Balmes Ave. near Corsega) is an older variant on the brasserie theme drawing large groups for celebrations like birthdays and office parties. El Mussol (Ave. Diagonal near Balmes) features grilled meats beautifully displayed. If you are weary of trying to decipher the ubiquitous "x" in Catalan food terms, Jose Luis, a wonderful tapas bar (Ave. Diagonal and Enric Granados) is the answer to your prayers: just point to what you want. (The caviar sandwiches alone are worth the visit.) With the Euro at $.85, price is simply not an issue. A meal of tapas and several rounds of cocktails costs less than a two mega-martinis in any hot Manhattan spot.

Thus fortified, you can continue until morning exploring the myriad clubs--live music, disco, rock, jazz, salsa--that fill the Eixample neighborhood in the blocks above Ave. Diagonal near cross streets Balmes, Enric Granados and Mutaner.

Barcelona Maps

More Art & Antiques Destinations with Jake Biddington:
Art Tourism New York City 2005: Christo's Gates
Art Museums, Neighborhoods & Dining in Buenos Aires
Art and Touring along Italy's Amalfi Coast
Art Museums & Restaurants in Amsterdam
Cultural Touring along Spain's Costa del Sol
Art Touring in Lisbon
Art Touring in Milan
Art Touring in Antwerp
Art Touring in Barcelona
I-80 Park City to New York City Art & Antiques
Art Tourism New York City 2003 (Archive)
Art Tourism New York City 2002 (Archive)
Art & Antiques in Hudson, New York (Columbia County)
Art & Restaurants in Rome 2002 Update
Hartford & Wilton, Connecticut
San Francisco Jackson Square
New Hampshire Route 1A
Morris County, New Jersey

Jake Biddington's 2005 Art Collecting Series:
Art Appraisals and Valautions
Investment Grade Contemporary Art

Jake Biddington Art Investing (Archives):
PPP Test: Judging Quality in Contemporary Art
Art, Time and Technology
American vs. European Paintings
Jake Biddington's Art as Entertainment
Jake Biddington's Vetted Antiques & Art Shows
Jake Biddington's Patent Numbers as a Dating Tool
Jake Biddington's Hard Assets as Portfolio Diversification
Jake Biddington's Buying Fine Jewelry at Auction
Jake Biddington's Long Term Investing
Jake Biddington's Short-Term Investing
Jake Biddington's The Craft of Art


Here at BIDDINGTON'S, our work is also our play. When we're not exhibiting and discussing art & antiques online, we're learning about wonderful objects in shops, at great shows and in museums all over the world.

In this article, Jake Biddington offers suggestions and descriptions of interesting art tourism destinations. Some of these venues are always in open; others revolve around special or seasonal events. These are art travel excursions we at BIDDINGTON'S--upmarket, online art & antiques auctions and Contemporary Art Gallery--have enjoyed making. We hope you'll like them, too.

Contact Jake Biddington about His Travels

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