Most visitors arriving by air take a right turn outside Malaga Airport and head along the Costa del Sol or inland to Andalucia’s famed white villages. This is a shame, because a left turn takes you into the city of Malaga, which has retained its authenticity despite the tourist hordes along the coast and has an art scene worthy of Picasso’s birthplace. The beautiful museum dedicated to the life and work of the city’s most famous son is the main visitor attraction, while his birthplace museum offers an insight into his early years. Apart from Picasso, Malaga has a broad range of public and private galleries and museums, most of them a short walk from each other in the compact city centre.
Housed in the former Palacio de Buenavista, with its Renaissance courtyard and Moorish ceilings, the Museo Picasso Malaga (MPM) presents virtually the entire range of the artist’s output from 1892 to 1972 with a collection created from over 220 works which remained in his possession until his death in 1973. The works are organised thematically (still lifes, portraits of women, bulls and bullfighting, etc.) to reflect Picasso’s enormous versatility and prolific output. Poignantly, there’s the first painting he kept, made when eight years old, ‘The Small Yellow Picador’ (1889-90). The MPM is particularly celebrated for its collection of nearly 70 graphic works, including rare woodcuts, drypoints, aquatints, lithographs and linocuts. The museum stages a series of exhibitions throughout the year focusing on various aspects of the artist’s oeuvre, accompanied by films, education programmes and lectures by international Picasso scholars. www.museopicassomalaga.org
The Fundacion Picasso, the artist’s birthplace museum, attempts to recreate his surroundings in the early years of his life. The family’s former living room has been staged as a 19th century studio room of a middle class family. An important collection of his works includes a group of ceramic pieces (Picasso made over 2,000) featuring animals, birds, fish and mythological figures on reliefs, vases and jugs. An 1878 painting by Picasso’s father, the only one he ever sold, hangs on one wall. There are also a number of personal items, including Picasso’s christening robe. www.fundacionpicasso.es
Housed in a former wholesale market next to the Guadalmadena river canal (normally dry) in an area with a growing reputation as the “Soho of Malaga” is the council-funded Centro de Arte Contemporaneo (CAC), which has been credited with bringing to Malaga work of a type never seen in the city before. Just into its second decade, the museum has a permanent collection of around 400 works which have been loaned by private collectors for between three and five years. It is particularly notable for its works created between the 1950s and the present day with an emphasis on North American artists of the 1960s such as Lichtenstein and Stella. There is also a regular programme of temporary exhibitions dedicated to up and coming Spanish artists. www.cacmalaga.org
Just off the Plaza de la Constitucion, the Ateneo de Malaga is one of the few venues in Malaga where emerging artists can exhibit for the first time in the free to use lobby area. The impressive building used to house the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Malaga, where Picasso’s father taught art and where the young Pablo had his first contact with the art world (www.ateneomalaga.es).
A few streets off the beaten track, but well worth finding is the Museo del Vidrio y Cristal (Museum of Glass and Crystal). A private museum named the best new cultural development by Malaga writers when it opened in 2009, it houses a gorgeous collection in a lovingly restored 1760 building, where it “tells the story of glass” over the past 2,500 to 3,000 years (www.museovidrioycristalmalaga.com).