Last night, Andrew and I went up to the MNAC (the palatial museum on top of Montjuic, just steps from our apartment) for one of the last “Open Doors” nights of the season. A few times each summer, MNAC stays open until midnight and offers free admission along with wine, cava, beer, tapas, and live music on the plaza in front. Last night a New Orleans-style jazz band was performing—an odd but festive backdrop to the spectacular view of the Font Magica and Barcelona at our feet. They sang “The Saints Come Marching In” in English.
Inside, young, hip-looking Barcelonins wandered around the galleries. Andrew and I walked through the rooms with Catalonian art from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. So much of the style from that time is distinctive: firmly outlined figures; lots of black, gold, ash-green, and gray; a general aura of hardness or defiance among the street scenes and portraits. Much of it is strange but compelling, like Barcelona itself.
I always like museums at night—like going to the Met on Friday evenings, when the crowds are sparser and you can find an empty chamber here and there. There’s a sense of secrecy, of trespassing, like walking through someone else’s house when the owners aren’t home. Seeing objects and paintings in their natural, unviewed state—unposed.
There weren’t many people at the MNAC—it was near closing when we left—and I had the eerie sense of how the art would remain there, even when we move from the neighborhood, even when we move from Spain; just like this, just as it always had been, with the Font Magica leaping and singing outside, the city sparkling beyond it, and the mountain of Tibidabo a distant glitter.