THE BALEARIC REVIVAL
Menorca an axis of the contemporary art world? It might seem unlikely, given its conservative reputation, but Swiss art magnates Iwan and Manuela Wirth have a habit of disrupting expectations. Best known for turning a Somerset farm into a multi-purpose destination, the couple have chosen a windswept islet in Mahón harbour for their latest addition.
The gallery opens in July with a show by LA-born painter Mark Bradford – whose US pavilion for the 2017 Venice Biennale was a powerful rumination on slavery and the American Civil War – housed in the sustainably repurposed outbuildings of a former naval hospital, alongside a restaurant run by pioneering local winery Binifadet.
‘Isla del Rey is completely immersed in nature and has been a place of contemplation for millennia,’ says Manuela, referring to the ruins of a sixth-century basilica which can be visited along with a sculpture trail with works by Louise Bourgeois and Eduardo Chillida set in gardens designed by Piet Oudolf.
Menorca’s scene currently comprises a few commercial galleries and municipal art spaces. Whether H&W Menorca will galvanise this modest ecosystem remains to be seen, though it will surely boost the island’s growing conservation-focused profile, and fresh places to stay continue to follow 2019’s Experimental and Fontenille, with just-opened hotelito Cristine Bedfor in Mahón exactly the kind of bolthole to attract a blue-chip collector.
THE RURAL UPSTART
Two things happened in recent years to put the small Extremadura city of Cáceres on the map. One was the success of Atrio, a two- Michelin-starred restaurant-with-rooms in a mansion reimagined by architects Luis Moreno Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón.
The second was the Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear. German- born, Spanish-based collector De Alvear was looking for somewhere to house her haul of 20th- and 21st-century art when she chanced on Cáceres and, in 2010, unveiled the first phase of her HQ.
The new wing, opened this spring, has astonished locals with its elegant modernism (also the work of Tuñón) and the unerring quality of its contents. Entrance is free and cacereños have taken to posing for selfies among large-scale pieces by Olafur Eliasson and Katharina Grosse, while Ai Weiwei’s Descending Light, made of 60,000 glass beads, has become its poster child.
With Cáceres rubbing the provincial sleep out of its eyes, an art route of sorts is developing, with stops at the Museo de Cáceres for its modern Spanish masters and at the space devoted to Fluxus artist Wolf Vostell a few miles out of town, where his post-industrial work punctuates the landscape.
The down-at-heel areas around De Alvear’s museum are still ripe for improvement, but Julián Gómez’s Kernel gallery on Plaza Marrón (and L’Avenir, his tapas bar nearby) shows what might happen when a new wave of art-savvy visitors pitches up.
THE CITY ENCLAVE
This salt-of-the-earth barrio in south-west Madrid was never a name to conjure with, known mainly for its factories, hard-rock gigs and the capital’s biggest prison. But a recent influx of creatives has given it a jolt of energy.
Driven out of the centre by a lack of affordable studio space – and drawn in part by the proximity of Matadero, a cultural hub in an old slaughterhouse beside the River Manzanares – artists have been commandeering Carabanchel’s rich supply of garages, printworks and textile workshops.
The main nexus is around Oporto metro station, where collectives such as Mala Fama and Nave Oporto have rooted; another hotspot is in the Comillas quarter. Here, French-Algerian gallerist Sabrina Amrani runs one of the area’s visitable art spaces, and designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón, whose recycled-PET lamps are made by indigenous communities across the world, has a spectacular converted factory where he holds under-the-radar concerts.
If natural-wine bars, artisan bakers and hipster hotels are so far absent (a craft brewery, Patanel, is an exception), that’s just how the residents like it.
‘Let’s hope Carabanchel doesn’t become another version of New York’s SoHo,’ says painter and singer Alberto Acinas, an early arrival in 2005.
Acinas points out that gentrification was exactly what he and his colleagues were fleeing from in the first place. ‘And also, with any more distractions, you’d never get any work done.’
Like this? Now read: