Must See Art Museums, A Tierlist

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Teach In Spain Program

Authored By:

Ryan P.

Tierlist Time!

Hello everybody today I am going to be talking about the must see art musuems that I have personally visited throughout Europe. I will be putting every entry into a tierlist where I will rank them based on my personal opinion. As you know, I live in Madrid so many of these musuems will be Madrid based or located in Spain, but I include several outside of the country, so without further ado let's jump into the list!

Museo del Prado

S Tier: To start off this tierlist we have El Museo del Prado located by Banco de España and Retiro. I am putting this museum in the S tier, and I have several reasons why. First, the permanent collection is massive. I have visited around 5 times and always discover something or someone new. Second, this musuem is home to some of the most "Spanish" paintings out there, depicting this country's rich history. As many of the works belonged to the Kings' personal collection, there are many works to see. The main artists to look out for: Velázquez and Las Meninas, El Greco and his portraits, Hieronymus Bosch and The Garden of Earthly delights (you won't miss it), and Goya with his portraits, nature scenes, May 2nd paintings and his dark paintings. Honorable mentions include a portrait by Rafael and a sneaky Picasso piece on the first floor. As many of the paintings are pre-modern, with many being in the classic style, it may not appeal to someone looking for a more modern musuem. In this case I would rank the museum an A, but as the collection is so rich I personally put it in the S tier. ​

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Reina Sofia

A Tier: The next museum in this list is the Reina Sofia located next to Atocha. This museum is the other big art museum Madrid has to offer, boasting a large collection of works by Picasso and Dali, including show-stopper "Guernica", it is a must see for anyone visiting the city. I find this museum to be more digestible compared to El Prado due to there being less exhibits to see overall. But this does not detract from the museum as a whole. The works here are more modern, with many being from the 1900s onward. This makes many of the works more relatable in my opinion and recognizable as well. The Reina Sofia is also home to many large temporary exhibits from around the world, many of which go into human rights. If this is your thing, this is the museum for you. Overall, I put this museum in the A tier as it is a quality museum to see and includes many modern works, but does not contain the same depth El Prado offers. Still highly recommend if visiting Madrid!

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Museo Nacional Thyssen

C Tier: The last art museum I have visited in Madrid is El Museo Nacional Thyssen. This museum is located very close to El Prado, right across the street. It boasts many modern works from people all over the world. Many of the paintings are done in acrylic paint, a departure from the more clasical mediums used in the previous two museums. While I enjoy the works in this museum and find them very relatable, they do not leave as much of an impression as the works in La Reina Sofia or El Prado. El Thyssen does include a work by Van Gogh and Picasso, as well as some early works during the pointilism period, so there are definitely paintings to be seen for every walk of life. But I will still have to put this museum in the C tier as it goes up against two very unique museums in this city.

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Picasso Musuem

A Tier: The Picasso Museum, located in Barcelona, is the first museum on this tierlist located outside of Madrid. Picasso is a household name and globally famous painter, so it is very interesting to go to this musuem where the works on display are solely his. The musuem starts off with his childhood paintings, showing his skill from a very early age in his painting titled, "First Communion". It then goes on to show his progress during his different stages of life, from his blue era to the birth of Cubism. The exhibit comes to a climax at the end where on display is the complete collection of his series of works over Velázquez's "Las Meninas". I found this very interesting as someone living in Madrid because it really shows how much Velázquez and Madrid as a whole had an influence on Picasso, even though he never returned to the country after 1934. For this reason, I am putting this museum solidly in the A tier. My reasoning for not putting it in the S tier is because the museum did not have many of his blue era paitings or cubism paintings. Still, I highly recommend for anyone visiting Barcelona as it can easily be done in 2-3 hours.

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Guggenheim Bilbao

B Tier: The next museum leaves Catalunya and brings us to the Basque Country, Bilbao to be more specific. The Guggenheim is a very unique musuem, with it being the twin of its New York counterpart. For starters, the building is crazy looking, with it having metal pieces winding in and out of itself. It is also situated right next to the river, with its famous spider statue being accessible for anyone visiting the city. This already scores it style points for me. Once inside, one can make their way around its three floors, which also wind in an out of each other. This museum contains mostly modern works, with many being abstract in some form. For this reason, it may turn off more classically oriented people, a valid concern. For these people, I recommend the Bilbao Fine Arts museum, though I have never been myself. Inside the Guggenheim, one can see works by Rothko, Basquiat, and Warhol, all famous artists from New York. Other notable works include an infinity room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, an entire exhibit dedicated to works by Joan Miró, and the famous sculptures titled, "The Matter of Time". I enjoyed my time in this museum when I visited, but ultimately put it in the B tier as the works are very modern and some people may not enjoy abstract works compared to more classical pieces.

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S Tier: The Louvre, likely one of the world's most famous if not the most famous museum in the entire world. With an impressive façade including several glass pyramids, a fountain, and plaza area for lounging, the Louvre makes strong impressions before you even enter. Once inside, a person could spend days looking at thousands of paintings, and not even get through the entire collection. This museum is huge, this museum is massive. It can be hard to digest it's so big, a similar characteristic to El Prado. To give an overview of famous works: you can find pieces by the artists of the Renaissance, works portraying the French Revolution, famous works from the Romantic period which have inspired countless other artists, impressive statues from Greek society, Italian frescos painted by masters of the craft, and so much more. The Louvre is one of those museums best experienced in the flesh, words cannot properly detail what is in store for newcomers. For this reason, I'm putting the Louvre in the S tier, it does not include many works by modern artists, but it is definitely a must see for both art enthusiasts and casual museum goers alike.

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Opera del Duomo

B Tier: To finish off this tierlist, we head to Florence, one of the capitals of the Renaissance and home to some of the most lovely sculptures this slice of the world has to offer. During this trip to Florence, we were unable to visit the Accademia Gallery, home of David, or the Uffizi Gallery, home of the Birth of Venus as it was New Years. However, we were able to visit the Opera del Duomo, a museum full of the history of Florence's Duomo,  the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Here, you can see many of the statues on display in the façade of the duomo. It also details much of the history of Florence becoming a cultural hub during the 1400 and 1500s due to their exports of high quality sculptures and new Renaissance styled paintings. I found this museum very interesting and easy to digest after a day of walking around. It also includes the body parts of famous saints for those interested in this. Overall, I would place this museum in the B tier as I believe the city has more influential museums to offer, but this museum details much of the history of the city and offers great views of the Duomo and its tower.

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This was a long one but there was a lot to talk about. This brings us to the tierlist! You may notice I didn't put any museums below the C tier, this is because I've enjoyed my time at every museum and haven't regretted any of them! Again, this list is my personal opinion of these museums, and if anyone disagrees or thinks I missed a key detail feel free to comment or send me a message! So, until next time!


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