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The modern art guide to Spain

Spain has long been an artistic powerhouse – the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. Pioneers of contemporary art movements such as cubism and surrealism, Spain has enshrined their legacies into the country’s identity. When in Spain, modernist and contemporary enthusiasts should make these destinations an essential stop.*

González and sculptures in Valencia

The Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe is styled as a whale's skeleton

The Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe is styled as a whale's skeleton

Spain’s third-largest city and once dubbed the ‘City of Joy’, Valencia is home to a collection of modernist buildings and one of the country’s most iconic museums. The Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM) – Valencia’s premier modern art centre – was the first of its kind in Spain and still paves the way for its discipline. Housing a 10,000-strong permanent collection, the museum is organised into eight central themes that range from urban cartography to dadaists and surrealists. Muse over Julio González’s twisting constellation of sculptures and Kurt Schwitters’ patchwork of surrealist paintings as you immerse yourself in the museum’s distinct personality. Beyond the IVAM, many of the museum buildings and centres are worthy of attention too – the Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe is a jagged behemoth of a building, styled in the fashion of a whale’s skeleton. Part of the wider, arguably even more impressive City of Arts and Sciences, stay close and revel in the modern architectural glory at the bright Valenciaflats Ciudad de las Ciencias.

Barceló and Balearic art in Palma de Mallorca

Stop by the art nouveau Can Casasayas in Palma de Mallorca

Stop by the art nouveau Can Casasayas in Palma de Mallorca

While usually a destination for nightlife, the Mallorcan capital is equally deserving of a visit for its modern art scene. Es Baluard is Palma’s leading museum of modern and contemporary art, even though it’s housed in a 16th-century building. With a focus on the latter half of the 20th century, it’s a celebration of Balearic artists and those who are (in some way) associated with the islands. Works by Joan Miró, who lived and worked in Mallorca, can be found here alongside the swirling watercolour paintings of Miquel Barceló. Beyond simply paintings, you’ll find sculptures, three-dimensional exhibits and photography pieces throughout the museum – notably Marina Abramovic’s musings on the presence of war in today’s society. Elsewhere in Mallorca, visit The Miró Mallorca Fundació, the buildings dedicated to the work of Miró, and the art nouveau Can Casasayas building before calling it a day at the contemporary Boutique Hotel Calatrava.

Picasso and colour in Málaga

The Pompidou Centre is housed in a massive kaleidoscopic cube

The Pompidou Centre is housed in a massive kaleidoscopic cube

The birthplace of Picasso, Málaga pays tribute to the Spanish icon but its ties to modern art extend beyond him. The Museu Picasso Málaga in the heart of the old town houses a permanent collection of Picasso’s paintings that span every period of his rollercoaster career. It’s a lovely gallery to languidly stroll through, especially when you finish your visit in its leafy internal courtyard. Equally, you’ll find a range of Picasso’s art on display at the Museo del Patrimonio Municipal. Contemporary art lovers however, should make both the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Málaga (CAC) and the Pompidou Centre a mandatory stop. The CAC is geared towards international artists from 1950 onwards, including the likes of Damien Hirst and Frank Stella, so expect punchy pop art to play a central role. At the Pompidou Centre – an outpost of its sister in Paris – it’s colour galore. Housed in a vast kaleidoscopic cube in the city’s port, it’s a riotous journey through the experimental art of Francis Bacon and Marc Chagall. Immerse yourself in the swirl of colour for the day – Soho Boutique Museo is nearby when you’re done.

Miró and minimalism in Barcelona

The Woman and Bird statue was another of Miró's masterpieces

The Woman and Bird statue was another of Miró's masterpieces

Like any global city, Barcelona excels on multiple fronts – modern art included. Home to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), the Museu Picasso, the Fundació Joan Miró and the Joan Miró Park, expect to find galleries dedicated to specific artists and ones with a broader appeal. MACBA is a tour de force in glacial minimalism, while Museu Picasso is a permanent collection of near 3,800 pieces that track Picasso’s evolution from adolescent sketcher to world-class artist. As for Fundació Joan Miró, it’s worth visiting simply for the architecture of the museum itself; perched on Montjuïc Mountain, ivory-white rectangular blocks are stacked together like squat jenga-towers, that gives the building angularity and statement appeal. It’s a design built out of a dialogue between artist and architect, where the space reflects and enhances the art within. Wander through and admire Miró’s whimsical sculptures and brightly-coloured scrawls before a short walk to the modern Hotel Brummell, decorated with furniture and artwork by young European designers.

Dalí and surrealism in Figueres

The Teatre-Museu Dalí is a truly whimsical experience

The Teatre-Museu Dalí is a truly whimsical experience

For Salvador Dalí fans, Figueres should feature as part of any itinerary. Once upon a time after a world-conquering career, Dalí decided to find a way to further celebrate his work. And so the Teatre-Museu Dalí was born; an exemplary showcase of his surrealist legacy that hijacks every sense you have and lures you into its wonderful theatrics. Paintings, three-dimensional sculptures and custom installations can all be found, each a curiosity in its own right and inspired by Dali’s unpredictable imagination. Approaching the museum itself is an experience too – its bold red facade, egg-shaped installations and unusually-shaped trees give the appearance of something out of Alice in Wonderland. It’s worth spending a good portion of the day here, but give your imagination a break at the restful Museum Apartments.

**The data scientists at Booking.com used internal data to uncover the top destinations for ‘modern art’ and ‘museums’ according to Booking.com customers.