We obviously know Barcelona very well, however when we heard about a new Barcelona art tour lead by experts at ArtSpace Barcelona, we were keen to discover more about the city’s behind-the-scenes creative style.
Wandering through the maze of narrow medieval streets in El Born, we were lucky to find the low key starting point of our Barcelona art tour. Knocking on the black hobbit-style doors, we were welcomed by a smiling Kat into ArtSpace Barcelona. Kat, switched the industrial city of Manchester in the UK for Barcelona seven years ago, and with her new venture, is looking forward, not back.
Before the tour began however, it was time to start with – like most Barcelona activities do – with a bite of tapas. On a table laid out before us were traditional bites of Spanish jamón with bread and cheeses, as well as glasses of Cava and orange juice, which at 9:30am in the morning were an indulgent and welcome kick. More people arrived at the and we all sat and chatted amongst ourselves whilst sampling the fresh tapas. It was a small group consisting us us, two Americans a Filipino-American and Danny, the photographer who runs ArtSpaces’s photography tours. The size of the group was a comfortable, and we chatted about the pros of living in Barcelona and shared tips between bites.
Suitably loosened up by the snacks and warmed up by the Mimosa, we made our way out to the cobbled streets once more. We knew the area well, but with Kat as our guide, we discovered small independent galleries we’d never even noticed before. Our first stop was a workshop called Tweemuizen, where walls were splashed with colourful and pleasingly bizarre creations. Made from colourful stuffed faux-leather-like materials, the faces and animals on the walls were a unique treat for the eyes. We even got the chance to peek into the studio where the original artworks were being made.
Next stop – Galeria Senda, an art gallery that hadn’t even opened yet – our guide Kat really had her finger on the creative pulse. Inside, we dodged the installers as they put the final touches to the exhibitions which were to be shown at the gallery’s opening that same night, for which we were all invited!
Stepping out again after enjoying the descriptions of the artists’ eclectic works, this time we headed into one of the area’s cute plazas, where we stopped at a colourfully-decorated fountain. We had walked-by these fountains many times before, but were interested to learn that shop keepers actually built these fountains during the Franco era to have access to water, when the authorities would turn it off in their shops, in order punish them for having names which were too Catalan.
Next we arrived at a squatters’ allotment, which happened to be in the middle of a plaza and residential buildings. It amused us that people were able to take this land for their own to grow plants on.
Continuing on, we passed through a tunnel, plastered with black and white portraits, which we had often wondered about, whilst enjoying a coffee at the cafe next door – Espai Mescladís. Looking at the portraits framed by boxes, we listened to the story of how it started as just one or two portraits of the local residents. As time went on, the number of portraits expanded and now the walls are completely covered.
Having taken a peek at the Barcelona residents pasted against the ancient walls, we made our way to look at the undulating and colourfully patterned roof of the Santa Caterina Market. One of our favourite markets for this reason (and the cheap €1.50 fresh juices), we had often wondered why its roof is so unique. Kat explained that the coloured hexagons were actually coloured pixels enlarged from the photograph of fruit and vegetables.
Next we went around the back of the Barcelona Cathedral, away from the crowds, where we looked up agape at the gargoyles staring back down at us – Kat showed us some interesting ones that we’d never spotted before. We had often walked around here, but without without the insight of an expert like Kat on a Barcelona art tour, there were so many things we would have never known. One example of this were the very public displays of affection by a local artistic couple, who create wall art from tin cans to announce their love for each other in a profound way. Passing by these without a guide, we would have no idea what they were about.
Next stop was an eclectic studio in which every surface seemed to be decorated with an art piece. From street art brought indoors and various urban paintings, to a robot made out of junk, this gallery gets the head fizzing just like the Cava in the morning.
Heading next into Raval, it was time to look at the local street art scene. Passing by a steel-panelled fence with barbed wire we happened upon a somewhat bizarre art and living space. Stretching the camera above the fence was the only way to get a good image of this fenced off scene – another huerto that we wouldn’t have found without ArtSpace. A somewhat eccentric mixture of conceptual art and vegetable gardens, this is definitely something we had definitely wanted to find out more about.
We ended the tour next to modern building of the MACBA, where Kat showed us a mural with another interesting story behind it. Repainted and maintained each year, the mural brings attention to the fight against aids by American artist Keith Haring.
This brought us to the end of the tour, where we left feeling more enlightened, inspired and more in touch with the local Barcelona culture we love so much. We had learned so many new things on our Barcelona art tour and are keen to find out all about ArtSpace’s other artistic tours in the city.