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MACBA: This Spanish museum is opening its door to the neighborhood

MACBA: This Spanish museum is opening its door to the neighborhood

comunicat macba

At the heart of El Raval, Barcelona’s multi-cultural barrio, lies one of Europe’s most important museums, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA). Its modernist building sits on Plaça dels angels, which also serves as a passageway that connects several streets from Las Ramblas leading to the inner sanctum of Raval. Since its opening in 1995, MACBA has been home to renowned contemporary and modern art exhibitions and has established itself as one of Spain’s major art museums. 

I have visited MACBA a couple of times since I moved to Barcelona but it was my first time to be invited  as a representative of The Filipino Expat Magazine. And together with the other members of the Catalan media, we were meeting  MACBA’s  director, Elvira Dyangani Ose,

It was a sunny Monday morning in March, the day before the official arrival of spring. Outside the museum, young skateboarders were busy mounting and performing their flip tricks as they do everyday without fail. 

Song for Many Movements at MACBA
Song for Many Movements: Scenes of Collective Creation & [contra]panorama at MACBA.
Mon Llibre web 4
MACBA’s open house on 15 and 16 June 2024 for the Món Llibre festival.

Whimsical and absurd

My love for modern and contemporary arts didn’t happen right away when I moved to Spain. I only came to appreciate the world of modern and contemporary arts years later after giving in to the insistent prodding of a friend to check out the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. I remember how I hesitantly walked passed Richard Serra’s massive installation made of rusted metal sheets forming spirals and ellipses, muttering under my breath, “What in the world was the artist thinking?”

But as we were leaving the museum  an hour or so later, instead of whining to my friend about how I had wasted my time and money on whimsical and absurd creations, I heard myself exclaiming, “That was fun!”  Truth to tell, I really enjoyed the boundless sense of freedom of self expression and individuality, and the social focus that came with each work. 

“You see, for our kababayans in Raval, the only time they get closer to the museum is when either they cross the square or during the Philippine Independence day celebration which takes place on its grounds every year.”

Nats Sisma Villaluna, TFEM Editor-in-chief

The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA).
MACBA’s grounds is the venue for the yearly Philippine Independence Day in Barcelona.

Taking a new meaning

Elvira Dyangani Ose turned out to be unassuming and down to earth as she gathered us to  welcome her guests. In her speech, she emphasized the importance of  the relationship between the cultural and artistic institution and the media, “continuing with a type of these conversations that we have in a transversal way.”

“What happens in the museum, every small gesture, even one like this or a visit by children, are gestures that affect what we call the very “resignification” of the museum. That is why it is important that you (the media) are here, because you are synonymous with this new meaning,” she added. 

Under her leadership, MACBA will open itself to reality and countercultural projects that are happening in the city.


We want to open this house, the house of stories, this is everybody’s house, this possibility of imagining this through projects and programs that we will do together.”

Elvira Dyangani Ose, MACBA’s director
MACBA director Elvira Dyangani Ose with Nats Sisma Villaluna, Editor-in-chief of The Filipino Expat Magazine.
MACBA director Elvira Dyangani Ose with Nats Sisma Villaluna, Editor-in-chief of The Filipino Expat Magazine.

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Being a woman herself and a daughter of immigrant parents, she appreciates being  surrounded by diverse collaborators and colleagues, who are mostly women.  “We want to open this house, the house of stories, this is everybody’s house, this possibility of imagining this through projects and programs that we will do together.”

Of being here and now

When Elvira wrote the introduction for the Nancy Holt book, she wrote about the totalization of being present, the idea of ​​being here and now. With this sentiment, she envisions the museum as a dynamic organism present in culture, in the city and among its citizens, especially families.

So important are the residents living around the museum that MACBA is proposing a space for anyone on the street to sit, play or work. A real social space where everybody can participate in its activities.

“There will be collaborations with people from the neighborhood contributing a cultural, transversal, trans-territorial project to different institutions in Spain.”

Elvira Dyangani Ose, MACBA’s director
jordi colomer modena parade 2022 2048x1366 1

After her speech, we were divided into three groups to explore the museum’s ongoing and new collections: Corpus Infinitum an exhibition that brings together the collaborative film works of Denise Ferreira da Silva and Arjuna Neuman, Dialogue with Light by Josep Grau-Garriga, Bouchra,  Khalili: Between Circles and Constellations and Prelude to Poetic Intention. 

The tour took one hour to finish and by two o’clock I was already crossing Plaça del angels for my next class having to forgo the invitation to join the media group and the museum staff for some tête-à-tête over champagne and cava.

Crossing the Plaça dels angels, I took a quick glance at the glass facade of the museum with a  feeling of  delight and excitement. You see, for our kababayans in Raval, the only time they get closer to the museum is when either they cross the square or during the Philippine Independence day celebration which takes place on its grounds every year. With the future plans of MACBA, I hope to see them getting near the museum not only on independence day celebrations but also exploring MACBA’s collections and exhibitions as well as collaborating and participating  in its programs and activities. 

This article was first published in the 2023 Summer Issue of TFEM.
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