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What I Sort of Planned (Malaga, June 21, 2011)

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She looked at us all radiantly. "Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it."
"We ought to plan something," yawned Miss Baker, sitting down at the table as if she were getting into bed.
"All right," said Daisy. "What'll we plan?" She turned to me helplessly: "What do people plan?"

-- The Great Gatsby


With only a few days left in Malaga, we're getting into checklist mode, although this last week is especially stretched because I'm cramming two weeks' worth of Spanish lessons into one. Nonetheless, today was a good day for checking items off the list: visiting the Museo Picasso~Malaga; hanging out at the beach; trying some recommended paella.

Even with the checklist as reassuring organizational tool, however, I forgot two important things:

(1) The Museo Picasso may be one of the least-known Picasso-related sites in Malaga, at least among locals, because the building has no relationship to the artist. It's a lovely 16th century palace with marble columns and railings, built over some interesting archaeological ruins from both the Roman and Islamic eras, but its only connection to Picasso is that the museum opened there in 2003.

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View of the second floor of the Buenavista Palace, which houses the Museo Picasso.


In contrast, the rest of the city center is dotted with plaques proclaiming that here is where Picasso's father was born, there where Picasso was baptized, over thataway where Picasso pere did some artwork of his own... I specifically asked my taxi driver to take me to the Museo Picasso on Calle San Agustin, to which he agreed and then tried to drop me at the house where Picasso was born, on an entirely different street. After repeatedly insisting that this was the Musee Picasso, he finally condescended to type "Musee Picasso" into his GPS, and discovered that my destination really was not Casa Natal.

(2) Malaga's city center is one of the best places I've found on this trip for strolling around on a sunny afternoon. Unfortunately, part of what makes it so nice for pedestrians is that cars aren't permitted in large sections of the area, and the taxi driver declared that the Museo Picasso was in one such area and that he couldn't get any closer. This was technically untrue, as there were roads closer to the museum. But since I lucked out finding the most direct walking route from where he dropped me, it almost certainly would have taken longer to coax him to take me to a nearer drop-off than it took to hurry to the museum by foot.

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Sol y sombra in the Buenavista Palace's courtyard.

Over the last decade, I've been to the Musee Picasso in Paris and to the Museo Picasso in Barcelona.[1] I like the Paris museum more because it's human-scale, in the kind of house where regular people might live, and all kept very simple as a background to the art, though the sculptures outside have to compete with a pretty garden. The core of the collection supposedly comes from Picasso's estate paying taxes to the French government in the form of his art. It's also cleverly curated; since it can't compete with the Guggenheim types for the most famous paintings, the Musee Picasso instead tends to highlight influences that can be seen even in lesser works. I still remember the exhibit I saw in 2001, which showed how African masks and statuary shaped Picasso's view of faces and bodies. The Barcelona museum was almost oppressively grand and despite having seen it more recently, on a rainy day in 2004, I don't remember it well.

The Museo Picasso in Malaga hits a halfway point between Paris and Barcelona. It's in a building large enough to afford high-ceilinged, spacious galleries, but of only two stories along with a basement that displays some of the columns and amphorae excavated when the Palace was renovated as a museum.

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And there are interesting views from the roof.


The permanent exhibit holds mostly early and late works -- i.e. the mid-1920s through the 1940s are not much in evidence -- but seems to have a greater concentration of familial representations than in other collections. In particular, there are more paintings of Picasso's first son Paulo than I remember seeing anywhere else. I didn't detect any obvious theme to how the permanent collection is displayed; they're mixed chronologically and in subject matter and style.

The temporary exhibitions that had opened just the day before were worth the extra couple of euros for admission to them. One was of photographs taken by an American photojournalist who befriended Picasso after the Korean War, when Picasso was living in the south of France with his young children Claude and Paloma and his second wife Jacqueline. The other was really interesting in a political rather than personal way, being a presentation on cartoons drawn as propaganda during the Spanish Civil War. While Picasso's Guernica is his most famous work from that period, he also created a limited edition set of cartoon-style drawings that were sold to raise money for the Republican (aka Communist) cause and its sympathizers.

After resting at home from the heat for an hour, I joined Tony again down at the beach. The apartment we're renting is not far from the beach, and my classroom at the language school even has an ocean view, but I still wanted to get a little more time by the seaside.

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View while sipping drinks and working on our projects.


The last checkmark of the day went to getting decent paella at a place recommended by a local after I was seriously disappointed by a tourist-oriented joint in the town center. I'll review both restaurants in a separate post, and note here only that the good one is typical of the beach restaurants in focusing on local seafood freshly grilled.

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Boat grill at a different boardwalk restaurant.


It gave us a nice perch from which to watch dogs play and the sun go down on the longest day of the year.

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[1] I've never been to Berlin and would like to go sometime, but I don't know if I'd quite like to visit the Picasso museum there. It seems an odd site for such a museum, as Picasso had little connection to Germany, and indeed would have felt some reason for resentment toward the country, as it was the origin of the warplanes that devastated Guernica.

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