Spain is not exactly well known for its contemporary art… Velazquez, Goya, Sorolla; these are the names that come to mind when I tell visiting friends which artists’ works to see if they come to Spain. But this summer, the city of Madrid Is Pop. The Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza, two of Madrid’s most prominent (and, it just so happens, my favorite) museums picked the ironic and critical pop art as the main theme of their current exhibits.
Pop Art Myths is the title of the Thyssen museum’s temporary collection, as it seeks to break away from the nationalistic labelling of pop art and look at the art form as a whole. The exhibit focuses less on period and place, and more on the sources of influence that affected all pop artists in one way or another. Each room is dedicated to a specific theme, from emblems and comics, to Hollywood myths and urban eroticism. Besides the big American greats, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, the museum sought to give equal prominence to European artists, such as Italian Valerio Adami, Sigmar Polke from Germany and, two of my favorites (with plenty of work exhibited at the Tate Britain) Peter Blake and David Hockney.
Richard Hamilton takes centre stage at Madrid’s largest contemporary museum, the Reina Sofia. Though I sadly missed this exhibit while it was in London earlier this year, I was lucky enough to still get a chance to see it here in Madrid. Said to be the last project he directly designed and participated in before he died, the exhibit features over 14 sections that reveal the wide array of mediums the artist used. Most interesting is the analysis of Richard Hamilton’s appropriation of pre-existing images in his own work, and the dialogue he sought to generate with other artists’ works via his creations. A number of the installations also portray Hamilton’s view of “exhibit as art form” where the set-up and layout contribute to the overall experience just as much as the piece of art itself.
And since everything is about Pop this summer, the Reina Sofia is also hosting a film series titled ‘Seduction and Resistance. At the Limits of Pop’, narrating the story of Pop Art from the time it was forged until the decline of the punk era. With screenings every Wednesday and Thursday evening throughout August, entry to these is free, and highly recommended for anyone with a fascination in the way consumption has changed culture and society.