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Madrid's Newly Renovated Museums

Last summer, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza inaugurated a new building by BOPBAA, a Barcelona-based architectural cooperative, to house more than 200 works loaned by the Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. The five-floor addition runs alongside the original structure containing the renowned collection of old masters and major 19th- and 20th-century works that belonged to her late husband, Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, and that landed in Spain in the early 1990's. The baroness's collection puts on view more paintings by non-Iberians, among them Hopper, O'Keeffe, Kirchner, and Kandinsky; Spain has had relatively little exposure to such art. The museum's exhibition program looks abroad as well: "Corot: Nature, Emotion, Souvenir" opens on June 7. To accommodate Spanish schedules, the museum remains open until midnight (yes, midnight) all summer, as does the terrace of Paradís, its see-and-be-seen restaurant. The Reina Sofía may have the biggest and best selection of art publications, but the shop at the Thyssen offers the best collection of design objects, especially luxury items like jewelry, as well as fans and sumptuous silk textiles based on works of Paul Gauguin, Franz Marc, and Piet Mondrian.

Sometimes, the old can be forgotten—almost. Next year, the Prado will unlock the last of those attics to which d'Angiviller referred. Because of limited space, the museum's collection of 19th-century Spanish canvases—unrivaled in quality and scope—has been out of view for more than a decade. When the Moneo expansion opens, these treasures will be the first to go on display. It's impressive: the museum that has lately made headlines with its groundbreaking series of exhibitions of foreign painters—Vermeer, Titian, Manet—will surely make even more when it once again digs into its own storerooms to display the richness of the art of Spain.

Not surprisingly, the Spanish government has thrown itself into promoting Madrid's Big Three; it has dubbed the culturally dense zone along the grand boulevard Paseo del Prado the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk). Joint admission tickets for the three museums are being made available. Plans call for the elimination of vehicular traffic and the creation of a pedestrian promenade to link the museums, allowing visitors to appreciate the spectacular Baroque sculptures adorning the Paseo's dozen or so fountains.

It seems as if Nouvel's soaring new wing really is one: Madrid's cultural life is finally taking off.

ANDREW FERREN lives in Madrid and writes for Artnews and the New York Times.

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