The most famous museums in Malaga

Malaga has a very large number of museums. This subjective blog presents some of the best known of these.

Carmen Thyssen Museum: Museums in Malaga

Malaga’s best-known boutique museum always has plenty to interest visitors. In addition to the permanent exhibition of mostly Andalusian paintings, there are also high-quality temporary exhibitions. The museum was converted from a 16th century building and opened to the public in March 2011.

The museum’s founder and namesake was born Carmen Cervera in Barcelona in 1943. In 1961 she became Miss Spain. (Pictured after winning the Catalan beauty contest.)

She started collecting art in the 1980s, apparently with great success.

“Of course”, as almost all museums in the world do, the museum has a Hungarian aspect. The founder – the widowed Baroness – is now officially known as ‘María del Carmen Rosario Soledad Cervera y Fernández de la Guerra, Dowager Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon et Impérfalva’.

Translated with (free version)

Her husband, who died in 2002, was a truly interesting citizen of the world.

Hans Henrik (Hans Heinrich “Heini”) Ágost Gábor Tasso Freiherr Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon et Impérfalva was born in the Netherlands on 2 April 1921. He became a Swiss citizen in 1950, in exchange for which he had to give up the title of “baron”. For tax purposes he was a permanent resident of Monaco, with a registered address in England, but spent most of his time in Spain.

His father, Heinrich (1875-1947), founded the Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza (Austro-Hungarian) noble family name after he left Germany and arrived in Budapest in 1905. Here he married the daughter of the royal chamberlain, Margaret Bornemisza of Kászon. Since Margit’s father had no sons, he asked Emperor Franz Joseph for permission to “adopt” his son-in-law, so that the noble name Bornemisza from Kászon would continue to exist. The Emperor granted the request in 1907, and from then on the elder Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, who lived with his wife in Rohonc until the Soviet Republic, could use the still disputed title of baron in addition to his Hungarian citizenship. Then they went to the Netherlands, where in 1921 their son “Heini” was born.

After this brief detour, let us return to the museum. Here are two previous temporary exhibitions:

Matisse: Jazz (2018)

The French painter began creating paintings from coloured paper cut-outs in 1943, in a style aptly reminiscent of jazz improvisations. These unusual but evocative works were published in book form in 1947.


The firebox

Francisco Iturrino: La Furia del Color (The Fury of Colour….) (2018.)

The Basque painter, who lived between 1864 and 1924, is probably unknown to most of us, but according to the Literature, he played an important role in the development of modern trends in Spanish painting.

Iturrino was born in Santander in northern Spain and by the end of the 19th century he was already working in Paris, where he became friends with Matisse and Picasso, among others.

Between 1910 and 1912, he and Matisse travelled with him throughout Andalusia and even to Tangier. This friendship and the Andalusian light changed his painting style completely: he ‘threw away’ the post-impressionism illustrated on the following page and instead created something quite different.

1913 was another turning point in his life: his wife fell ill and he sought and found refuge in the Finca de la Concepción in Malaga, then owned by the Echevarria family, also Basque. Here, too, he paints a lot and his pictures beautifully capture the lush greenery of nature and the sharp Andalusian light.

Andalusian Women (Garden of Lesbos)

Waterfall in the garden of Finca de la Concepción

Perversidad – Mujeres Fatales en el Arte Moderno (2019.)

It is said that “the smoke is bigger than the flame”! The temporary exhibition could be visited safely with underage children. The director probably wanted to commemorate the more enlightened, liberated and sometimes perhaps frivolous lifestyle of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Toulouse-Lautrec and the circus (2020.)

In 1899, the bohemian French painter spent several months in a sanatorium in Neuilly and during his stay there he produced 39 circus-themed prints. The paintings are both a testament to the artist’s excellent draughtsmanship and an insight into the unique atmosphere of the circus. Here are three examples:

Sorolla in Java (until 16 January 2022)

Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923) was a renowned Spanish painter, essentially an Impressionist, who painted more than 2,200 catalogued pictures in his lifetime.

His first visit to Jávea, a charming seaside town in the north of the province of Alicante (Valencia), was in the autumn of 1896. At the end of the 19th century it had 6,700 inhabitants, which had grown to 27,000 by the present day. Impressed by the rocky coastline and the kindness of its inhabitants, a one-off visit turned into a lasting “love affair”. The chamber exhibition features around twenty of his paintings made here.

Paul Strand: pure beauty (until 2022)

This is the first time that the Carmen Thyssen Museum has “dedicated” a temporary exhibition to a photographer. Strand was born Paul Stransky in New York in 1890 to Czech parents. He studied documentary photography in his hometown in the 1910s and became close to Marxism.

Strand lived in Mexico from 1932-35. For me, the most interesting photographs in the exhibition were the ones he took there, because 50 years later I spent years working in a small village in Mexico.

Casa Natal de Picasso

We begin our visit to Picasso at his birthplace, on the corner of Plaza de la Merced.

Picasso was born in Malaga, where he lived until the age of 10. Picasso is the family name of his mother, who was related to a number of famous artists. His father was an academic painter but, unable to support his family from his art, he worked as a drawing teacher. Pablo was born purple and breathless, and was presumed dead, giving no sign of life except to his uncle’s cigar smoke. His left brain was very poorly functioning due to a severe lack of oxygen, so his right brain, the controller of his creative artistic sense, was allowed to develop unhindered.

His birthplace is now a museum, with six rooms upstairs showing Picasso’s family, his youth and some of the family’s furniture.

There is also a room dedicated to life in Malaga at the time, which was very poor by today’s standards.

You can also see some of Picasso’s original works, such as the ceramic bowl below, made in 1953 and depicting a bullfight.

Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundación Picasso
A few steps away from Picasso’s birthplace, at 13 La Merced, there is also an exhibition hall where temporary exhibitions are held. The current exhibition, which does not raise the adrenalin level, is on the theme “Picasso and Animals”.

Pictured above: Amazon in the circus, on a donkey-drawn cart.

Museo Picasso

The Museo Picasso is very similar in both appearance and concept to the Museo Carmen Thyssen. The Palacio de Buenavista, a not too large medieval building that is easy to see, has also been converted into a museum and is used for temporary exhibitions in addition to the permanent ones.

Changing every 3-4 years, the ‘semi-permanent’ exhibitions showcase a few dozen works by Picasso and give a good overview of the world-famous artist’s oeuvre.

It is worth mentioning the temporary exhibitions, which are generally of a very high quality.


“Joaquín Torres García (1874-1949) was a Uruguayan artist and theorist, the founder of Constructive Universalism. Torres García was an artist who at once proudly embraced his Latin American roots, cherished the best traditions of the continent, and successfully embraced major contemporary trends. He did this by developing a unique style, opening up new and modern dimensions in Latin America. He was one of the most influential figures in avant-garde art on the continent.” (Wikipedia)

Warhol (2018.)

El Sur de Picasso – Referencias Andaluzas (2018.)

The title of the exhibition (Picasso’s “South” – Andalusian references) was a little misleading, but it was of a high quality. While there were some truly Andalusian-inspired paintings (such as the one above, “Two Women Running on the Beach”), the exhibition was really an art historical comparison: how did each painter, style, era, subject matter influence Picasso? Two examples:

Manet: Breakfast on the Grass (1863.)

Breakfast on the grass, after Manet

Murillo: Virgin with Child (c. 1660-65)

Venus and Cupid

Olga Picasso (2019.)

Olga Koklova was born in 1891 into a noble-military family in what is now Ukraine and by the early 20th century she was a renowned ballet dancer. She met Picasso in Paris in 1917 and they soon married. The marriage resulted in one child, Pablo. After 1927 the marriage reached a crisis and the parties separated. Olga died in France in 1955.

The exhibition showed part of her personal belongings and letters found by her granddaughter in a large travelling trunk after her death, and part of the paintings Picasso did of her. It is interesting that the pictures show a sad, melancholic-looking woman. this probably had family reasons, because her parents and siblings had suffered a great deal.

Russia in the bloody 1910-20s.

Diálogos con Picasso (2023-ig)

The Museo Picasso presents a new exhibition (Dialogues with Picasso), open until 2023. I liked this almost-permanent exhibition much better than the previous “permanent” one, because there are fewer graphics and more large paintings.

On the left is the “Minotaur with a palette”.

picture from 1938.

Another famous painting I would like to highlight is Susanna and the Elders (1955).

El Paris de Brassaï (until 3 April 2022)

The world-famous photographer was born Gyula Halász in Brasov in 1899. After graduating from the High School of Fine Arts in Brasov (1917), he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, but after interrupting his studies he volunteered for the Red Army in 1919. After the fall of the Soviet Republic, he went to Berlin and from there to Paris.

When he arrived in Paris, he could not yet take photographs, but André Kertész, who was already living there, supported him and introduced him to the artistic circles. But in his photo albums, published just a few years later, he was able to capture the essence of Paris in a way that only Toulouse-Lautrec had been able to do before. He also often photographed Paris at night. (Wikipedia)

The most striking thing about his photographs of Paris is their simplicity, their spontaneity, their ‘everydayness’. Among these, the famous pictures of the rain stand out.

“You bump into Brassaï in the most unexpected place in Paris. Always the same smile on his face, the same interrogating look in his eyes, the same readiness of his lips to speak, to convey in a frisian way the experience he had just caught. As if he were always on some kind of watch, constantly snooping, searching. For him, all things, but everything, had meaning. He never judged, never passed judgement on things or events. He simply gave an account of what he saw and heard.” (Henry Miller)

The exhibition at the Picasso Museum, which presents a wealth of material, was inspired by his friendship with Picasso. He photographed Picasso’s sculptures on several occasions.

museums in Malaga

The exhibition is a “must” for anyone interested in the history of Hungarian photography.

Centre Pompidou

Located at the end of the Muelle Uno, the new museum is the only ‘outpost’ of the world-famous Parisian parent institution, which has one of the world’s most important collections of modern art.

Pompidou went from a literature teacher to a bank official and then Prime Minister from 1962 to 1968. In the 1960s he was already considered the heir to the presidency (“le dauphin du président”). During the riots in France in May 1968, he managed to steer the ship of the Fifth Republic in a new direction.

Pompidou was elected president in 1969 for a seven-year term, but was unable to complete his term because his premature death prevented him from doing so.

He took great care in designing the great Cultural Centre in a ‘high-tech’ style, which was begun during his presidency but only opened after his death on 31 December 1977. The French still refer to the Centre as the Pompidou Palace. It is customary for French presidents to enrich their capital with a modern public building or even by rebuilding an entire district.

There are typically two types of exhibitions in the Rubik’s Cube building: temporary and semi-permanent. (Pictured is the interior of the cube.)

Miro (2015).

Utopian Modernas (2020.)

In the background, a model of Vladimir Tatin’s “Monument to the III Internacionale” (1919-20)

Matisse: A New Country (2019.)

The chamber exhibition featured a couple of dozen of the artist’s paintings, which showcased the typical features of Matisse’s different periods. Some examples to show.

From Miró to Barceló (until February 2022)
I think I set a personal record during the KoVi epidemic: I have never been in a museum where I was the only visitor and at least 14 staff (receptionist, cashier, thermal imaging operator, security guard, dozens of ushers) were watching my every move.

The Pompidou Centre’s new semi-permanent exhibition is an attempt to show the 20th century of Spanish art. Picasso, Miró, Dali and Luis Buñuel created new styles and their legacy continues to influence all modern artists. The chronological exhibition is a virtual representation of the Spanish avant-garde.

It is striking to see how the most famous Spanish artists of the 20th century were so closely linked to France, and Paris in particular. For anyone interested in the leading Spanish figures of 20th century modern art, the exhibition is a must-see.

Left Picasso: Still Life with Guitar (1921), right Miró: “Intérieur” (1922)

Left, Giacometti’s table (custom bronze cast from 1969 based on the plaster original from 1933), right, Dali’s symbolic surrealist object (a “remanufactured” copy of the original from 1973, made in 1931 but lost).

Dali: “Partial hallucination. Six Lenin heads on a piano” (1931) detail

Collection of the Museo Ruso

The landfill of the Russian Museum in St Petersburg, also on the site of a former tobacco factory, stands out among the museums in Malaga. (The picture shows the park in front of the museum in its spring glory.)

Typically open for 6 to 12 months, exhibitions are either dedicated to a particular artist or to a particular period. One of the most recent exhibitions showed Socialist Realism as we have never seen it before, while another traced the career of Malevich. The 2019 exhibitions are all about Women, in a “varied” capacity.

Previously there was an exhibition on the Romanovs, spanning several centuries. It took me more than two hours to visit, but I learned more about Russian history in those two hours than I did in four years of high school. (The picture shows the park in front of the museum in its spring glory.)

Typically open for 6 to 12 months, exhibitions are either dedicated to a particular artist or to a particular period. One of the most recent exhibitions showed Socialist Realism as we have never seen it before, while another traced the career of Malevich. The 2019 exhibitions are all about Women, in a “varied” capacity.

Previously there was an exhibition on the Romanovs, spanning several centuries. It took me more than two hours to see it, but I learned more about Russian history in those two hours than I did in four years of high school

Chagall (2016)

Resistencia, tradición y apertura (Resistance, tradition and opening) (2016.)

The Romanovs (2017.)

Alexander Litovchenko: Terrified Ivan shows his treasure box to Horsey, the British ambassador.

Kandinsky (2017.)

Radiente Porvenir (Sugárzó jövő – szocialista realizmus) (2018.)
Valami, amiről sokat tanultunk, de amit az 1960-as és 70-es években már nem láthattunk a maga brutális teljességében. Akkorra már nemcsak Trockij, hanem Sztálin is eltűnt a művészettörténeti tankönyvek lapjairól.

Ez a festmény még mindig mindenkit Lenin mellett ábrázol

Stalin and Voroshilov in the Kremlin

Malevics (2018.)

Kazimir Malevich was one of the most famous painters of the 20th century.

Malevich was born in Kiev in 1878. He studied painting there at Rerberg’s private school and exhibited for the first time in 1906, by which time he had already moved to Moscow. Malevich lived and worked throughout his life in Russia and later in the Soviet Union, spending only a short time in Paris in 1912. In 1915-1916 he published his Suprematist manifesto ‘From Cubism to Suprematism’. After the victory of the Bolshevik uprising, he taught at the Moscow Academy. In 1926, he went to Germany to prepare the publication of his book on Suprematism, after which he returned to Leningrad, where he lived a life of poverty and oblivion.

Around 1913, he moved into non-figurative painting, and at the end of 1913 he completed a work entitled Black Square on a White Ground, which caused a sensation at its premiere in 1915. He called his own stylistic direction Suprematism. At the Futurist exhibition in St Petersburg in 1915, he exhibited several of his paintings in this vein, including Black Square, one of the founding works of twentieth-century abstract painting. (He was also included in the Cezanne exhibition in Budapest in 2021.)

(Suprematism is an expression of modern art. It is a geometric abstraction that rejects all material reference, and evolved from Cubism. Malevich used this name to describe his own painterly endeavour.)

Two typical Suprematist works.

Saints, tsars and workers: the representation of women in Russian art (2020)
The exhibition starts with icons of female saints, then the well-known tsarinas from the Romanov exhibition (including Catherine II in particular), and finally some respectable proletarian women. The exhibition is interesting, the works are of a high standard, but my adrenaline level is not up, unlike, for example, the Romanovs exhibition.

The Virgin Mary of Vladimir

St Demetrio, St Parekeva, St Anastasia

Our Lady of Tenderness

Portrait of his wife by K. Makovska:

Free and decisive: Russian women artists between tradition and avant-garde (2019.)
An eclectically assembled exhibition of quite varied quality. The pictures have one thing in common: they are all painted by women.

But there are also some excellent works, such as the two below by Zinaida Yevguéneva Serebriakova:

Nikolái Roerich: In Search of Shambhala (2020)

Roerich (1874-1947) studied painting at the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts, and was later taught in Paris by Fernand Cormon. He became president of the Mir Iskusstva group. He painted mainly Art Nouveau pictures with historical subjects. He also designed many costumes and sets for famous Russian ballets, such as Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Consecration of the Saviour.

After 1917 he fled Russia with his wife Jelena and two sons to Finland and then to London. In London he studied theosophy. He lived in the United States from 1920, and from 1929 his works were exhibited in a separate museum, the Nicholas Roerich Museum, which still attracts visitors today, was established in the Manhattan borough of New York to show his paintings and his life.

The exhibition title refers to Roerich’s fascination with Eastern mysticism. Shambhala, according to Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism, is a mystical kingdom shaped like an eight-petalled lotus flower.

Pictured at Stupa in Ladakh (1937) (Western Tibetan Plateau, India)

The gigantic painting above, 203*700 cm in size, was painted in 1910 and depicts Sadko, who, according to Russian legend, was a famous merchant and traveller from Novgorod. During one of his journeys, the ‘keral’ offered him one of his daughters as a wife, but Sadko refused, thinking constantly of his simple young lover who remained in Novgorod. In 1896, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote an opera based on the legends associated with Sadko.

Anna Akhmatova: poetry and life (2020)

The temporary exhibition commemorates Anna Akhmatova (1888-1966), a Russian poet of great importance, and presents several works of art by her, as well as details of her difficult life. (Spanish spelling of her name: Ajmatova.)

(Portrait by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, 1922.)

She was born into a family of naval officers. He was educated in Kiev at the Faculty of Law of the University of Kiev. He moved to St. Petersburg in 1910. He started to write poetry using the surname of his Tatar grandmother, due to his father’s opposition.

In 1910, he married and started travelling in Europe. He visited Italy and Paris, where he met Amedeo Modigliani.

These trips had a profound influence on his later life and art. In 1918 she divorced her first husband and remarried. Her first husband, Nikolai Gumilyov, was arrested and shot dead in 1921. She divorced again in 1922 and married a third time.

In 1938, her son by her first marriage, Lev Nikolayevich Gumilyov, was arrested and sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour. In 1949, her husband, art historian N. N. Punyin, and her son by her first marriage were arrested again. Her husband died in the camp in 1953 and her son was not released until 1956.

Realism (until April 2021)

This large, representative annual exhibition was an organic continuation of the very interesting and instructive “fair” on socialist realism held three years ago. Here too there were scattered paintings that could be considered ‘socialist realist’, but the emphasis was on genre rather than politics. For me, the most interesting were the brand new paintings – some of which were only a few months old – because I had no idea what modern Russian painting was like today.

As an example, here is the painting that made the greatest impression on me and tells us everything about the ‘stagnation’ of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the ‘perestroika’ that ultimately failed and the cause of its inevitable collapse. (Alexei Sundukov: The Row – 1986)

Iliá Gaponov and Kirill Koteshov from the series Zero People (2019-20) Two young artists, Gaponov born in 1981 and Koteshov in 1983.

Tarkovsky (until February 2021)

The chamber exhibition consisted mainly of black and white photographs taken on the famous filmmaker’s sets. There were also some contemporary film posters, such as Solaris (left).

Tarkovsky (1932-1986) was a Russian film director, screenwriter and a pioneering stylist of modern cinema.

His most famous films are Ivan’s Childhood and Andrei Rublyov.

Silent film posters (until February 2021)

A very interesting exhibition, although I was sad to realise that I have difficulty reading Russian, even though I got a B in 1977 for reading fluently and beautifully. Of course, in my present-day mind, it was a mistake not to have made an effort to learn the language better at that time.

Back to the posters: I had no idea that the Soviet Union of the 1920s still had a germ of artistic freedom, that comedies were still being made and that not everything was about Bolshevik propaganda. (Perhaps the exhibition was put together in a tendentious way, although the fact that there are two posters of the cruiser Patyomkin contradicts this a little. Below is one of the posters.)

War and peace (until April 2022)

The big annual exhibition borrows its title from Tolstoy, but it focuses on the Russian wars rather than ‘peace’. I had a strong ambivalent feeling while viewing the exhibition: on the one hand, every country has the right to patriotism, and on the other hand, we Hungarians do not have a very positive “experience” of Russian warfare. Let’s go beyond emotions and see the paintings, which practically follow the history of the Russian wars from the 13th century to the middle of the 20th century. A few examples:

Mijail Avilov: A duel between Peresvet and Chselubey on the field of Kulikovo (1943)

The Battle of Kulikovo was fought on 8 September 1380 between the Golden Horde and the combined forces of the Russian principalities and ended in a Russian victory. Although the principalities continued to pay tribute to the Tatars, the battle shook their belief in the invincibility of the Tatars and accelerated the process of Russian unification led by the Moscow Principality.

After minor skirmishes between the forefenders, the battle began with a duel between the champions of the two sides. The Tatar Cselubey and the Russian warrior monk Alexander Peresvet clashed on horseback with their kopeks. Both were killed instantly, but while the Tatar fell from the saddle, Peresvet remained on his horse. (Wikipedia)

Alexei Kivshenko: War Council in 1812 in Fili (1880)

This is the famous military conference that took place on 13 September 1812 in the village of Fili, west of Moscow, in the days after the Battle of Borodino. It was here that it was decided that the Russian troops would not fight another battle with Napoleon’s troops, but would surrender Moscow without a fight. On the left is the intrepid figure of the commander-in-chief, Kutuzov.

Kivshenko painted the painting on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the famous council meeting, clearly based on the detailed description in Lev Tolstoy’s world-famous novel. The council meeting also features in Bondarchuk’s 1967 film epic War and Peace. The peasant hut where the meeting was held burnt down in 1867, but was restored 20 years later and is now part of the Borodino Museum.

NIkolai Bogdanov-Belski: Farewell to a new recruit (1898)

Rudolf Frentz: Sergei Kirov in the North Caucasus (1937)

“During World War I, Kirov conducted propaganda work in the North Caucasus. Later he took an active part in the October Uprising, then returned to the North Caucasus and led the struggle for the birth of the Soviet Republic there.

When the Communist Party switched to restoring the people’s economy after the end of the civil war, Kirov was elected secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan. For five years he carried out enthusiastic, energetic and vigorous organizing work in Azerbaijan.” (Free Nógrád, 2 December 1953)

Kirov later became party secretary in Leningrad and was quite popular until he was assassinated in 1934. According to Stalinist propaganda, he was killed by “the enemies of the people, the Trotskyist-Zinovievist traitors, the assassins of international imperialism”, but it is more likely that Stalin ordered his liquidation out of political jealousy.

The Russian Museum already held a solo exhibition of Malevich’s work in 2018, but his paintings have been used in thematic exhibitions since then. This time, his painting has been chosen as the “cover” of War and Peace. The spectacular work, painted in 1932, is entitled ‘The Red Cavalry’.

To conclude, and as a “deterrent”, let us quote Yevgeny Lanceray’s study of the fresco of the Kazan Railway Station in Moscow, painted in 1945 (detail). The painting is entitled “Peace”. It seemed to me to be a socialist realist reincarnation of a Gothic “Virgin Mary with Child”.

Dostoevsky (until April 2022)

A mini exhibition to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Dostoevsky’s birth. A small sculpture, some prints – that’s all.

Mayakovsky (until April 2022)

The Chamber exhibition on the famous Soviet-Russian poet is a little more interesting. What was new to me was that Mayakovsky not only wrote poetry, but was also quite skilful at drawing. Before and during World War I, a series of his caricatures appeared in newspapers. The drawing in Lenti shows a Russian soldier threatening the Turkish Sultan.

I can’t resist quoting my favourite Mayakovsky verse (unfortunately this scene was missed in the exhibition):

“The sun has gone, carrying in his bag

His affairs, his cares. It will be silent, perhaps.

There are two of us now, Lenin and I,

Lenin as a photograph on the wall of my room.”

The avant-garde in Russian art (until April 2022)

From an artistic point of view, this is the most ambitious of the four 2021 exhibitions. It is clear that the Russian avant-garde artists before the NOSF were in no way inferior to their Western European ‘competitors’.

On the left, Natalia Goncharova’s painting “Bicyclist” from 1913.

Below: Vladimir Lebedev: Still Life with a Saw (1920)

Abstract works on display. In the middle the inevitable Malevich

That’s enough for today!

Sitio de Calahonda, 21 December 2021.

Imre Réthy