Barcelona is a city with a wealth of public art, especially sculpture. Two of my favorites crown each end of Rambla Cataluña: Josep Granyer's Thinking Bull and Coquettish Giraffe.
Until June 15th these anthropomorphic forms are joined by 17 fantastic female figures created by the Spanish sculptor and painter Manolo Valdés for the outdoor exhibition "Manolo Valdés in Barcelona: Monumental sculptures." Yesterday a friend and I had the pleasure of strolling among these bronze beauties before and after a quiet lunch at one of the Rambla's many sidewalk cafés. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. .
No matter which end of the exhibition a visitor starts from, you are greeted by enormous heads of women: 'Lilie', a large head of a woman with a hat, looks out over Gran Via,one of Barcelona's busiest boulevards; and a few blocks away, at Consell de Cent Street, 'Irene I' and 'Irene II', their heads adorned by twisting metallic abstractions, welcome passersby. Valdés produced these three sculptures, along with a fourth one called 'Odalisca', especially for this exhibition. Other pieces on display include 'La Dama', 'Queen Mariana', 'Colossus' and 'Las Meninas'.
The series of sculptures called 'Las Meninas' (Spanish for Ladies in Waiting) were particular favorites of both my friend and myself. The five figures, named after and inspired by Velázquez' 1656 painting of a little Spanish princess and her attendants, are apparently among the most famous of Valdés' works. These particular statues range from life sized to larger than life, whereas all of the other works on display are quite huge.
Interestingly Barcelona's Picasso Museum currently has an exhibition of art works inspired by the same Velázquez classic. Called Forgetting Velázquez, it is a series of fifty-eight oil paintings by the artist that, according to the museum's website, explores, “Picasso's links with the tradition of Spanish painting, and with Velázquez in particular, while proposing new readings of the series Las Meninas, thanks in part to the numerous subsequent interpretations and contributions made by various contemporary artists.” Sounds like another good Sunday destination – indeed, any day, if you're a visitor instead of a weekday working resident like me. .
By the way, the Valdés Rambla Catalunya exhibition is part of the Arte en la Calle(Art in the Street) program funded by the non-profit arm of Spain's largest savings bank, La Caixa. Last year's Rambla Cataluña exhibition was an equally impressive show of gigantic works by Poland's Igor Mitoraj.