Barcelona day 5

Friday 31 May 2013

Today was taken up by a day trip to the Parc de Montjuíc. We caught the metro and then changed to a funicular railway which took us most of the way up the steep hill that overlooks Barcelona. The seamlessness and efficiency of Barcelona’s public transport system were again in evidence: there was no need to buy a second ticket for the funicular railway, and it seems that you never have to wait more than five minutes anywhere for a connection.

After alighting, we made our way to an art gallery dedicated to the work of Joan Miró. First we peroused a temporary exhibition called “Insomnia” relating to the use of moving images in art. This seemed to make much ado about what struck us a non-question: can the still image tell a story? We walked away from many of the exhibits with the thought that, had we wanted to see a film, we would have gone to the cinema.

Afterwards, we systematically explored the Miró collection. This was another great example of just how much Europeans love their great men, and how hard they work to construct their posthumous greatness. It was readily apparent, for example, that Miró had little to say in his art about the ravages of Fascism and war in Europe. It’s not as if other artists didn’t have a go: Picasso earned himself major masterpiece-points for painting Guernica, for example, and this work did not pull any punches. Miró seems to have been content to retreat into fantasy without any political commitment other than a statement of the obvious, i.e. “war is so awful that one is tempted to escape into fantasy”. That’s nice if you have the option! Miró’s family, who organise and maintained the museum, have done their best to make a virtue of this plainly banal position. Perhaps I’m being unfair, but when an artist’s oeuvre is presented by his descendants who profit from its exhibition (and the copyright, while it lasts—no photos please!), should we be surprised to find the work gift-wrapped in uncritical hagiography? The pseudo-documentary film about Miró’s life made me wince more than once. That  said, the building was especially designed to house his work, and it is an apt and beautiful setting in which to view it.

After soaking up all things Miró, we rode the Teleférico up to the top of Montjuíc. This was quite an experience. The panoramic views of Barcelona were breathtaking, and all the more delicious for being laced with vertigo. At the top of the hill we found a de-commissioned fortress with commanding views of the shipping and container terminals on one side, and of the city and suburbs of Barcelona on the other side. We mooched around, took photos, and generally behaved like gormless tourists in the sun, which we were very content to be. It certainly beats sitting in front of a computer.

As the light softened on the views, we rode the Teleférico back down the hill and wandered through several lovely parks until we found a Metro station. That evening, Susie cooked a delicious dinner of salmon with potatoes and beans.

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