When the modernistas were alive to roam Barcelona, Catalonian prodigies like Dalí and Picasso shared cava and anise at Els Quatre Gats Café, once a hub for artists and intellectuals near Barcelona's Placa Catalunya. While Els Quatre Gats serves coffee to tourists today, Catalunya's modernista artists continue to bring life to Barcelona. Their work inspired generations of Barcelonés artists and turned Barcelona into a mecca for creative energy attracting big names like Lichtenstein and Frank Gehry well into the twentieth century. In this egalitarian city, masterpieces are not hidden away in museums. Rather, they adorn the city's streets and squares. Here are 15 examples of modern art masterpieces that Barcelona's residents see every day:
1. Lichtenstien's "Cap de Barceloneta"
The city of Barcelona invited Lichtenstein to design this sculpture to adorn the city for the 1992 Olympic Games, an event that catalyzed the development of Barcelona's waterfront areas. Along with the Games came an explosion of statues and sculptures on the streets of Barceloneta, the Barcelona peninsula that gained a man-made beach just before the 1992 Olympics. This statue portrays a woman's head looking towards the Mediterranean Sea in front of her. Two holes representative of her eyes frame the beautiful, blue Barcelona sky. The sculpture's mosaic features recall Barcelona's most famous architect, Antoni Guadí who frequently used ceramic in his work.
Can be found: Paseo Colón in Barceloneta
2. Frank Gehry's "Fish" Sculpture
Like Lichtenstien, Gehry was called in to decorate a formerly industrial, waterfront neighborhood in preparation for the 1992 Olympic Games. Gehry's luminous "Fish" sculpture faces the Olympic Village beach, which was given a serious makeover right before the Olympics. Prior to 1992, the beach was flanked by industrial buildings and closed to the public. Today, Barcelona's man made beaches attract millions of visitors every year.
Can be found: Olympic Village (next to the Arts Hotel)
3. Picasso's Drawings On the Collegi d'Arquitectes de Catalunya
The only modern building in a medieval plaza, the Catalonian Architecture Society's headquarters has just one redeeming quality: these Picasso drawings that portray Catalan culture. Barcelona and Catalonia more generally are very important to Picasso as he was just fourteen years old when he moved to the city. He went on to spend his formative years learning to draw at the Barcelonés art school, Llotja.
Can be found: Plaça Nova, Barri Gotíc
4. The Front Facing Façade of Guadi's Casa Batillo
The front facing façade of Guadi's Casa Batillo tells the story of Sant Jordi -- a motif in Catalan art and culture. According to the tale, a dragon (represented in the ceramic mosaic of the curving roof) was attacking the kingdom of "Capadocia." To put an end to the beast's fury, the kingdom decided to randomly select a person to venture to the dragon's cave and kill him. Luckily when the Princess was selected, she ran into the knight Jordi who managed to save her from doom and murder the dragon. The rounded feature with a cross on it represents Sant Jordi's sword stabbing the dragon.
Can be found: Passeig de Graçia
5. The Graffiti That Brightens the City When Stores Close
Barcelona is a city that shuts down at odd hours. The concept of nine to five would not register with a born and bred Catalonian. Instead stores are open from roughly eleven in the morning until nine at night, making it fair to say Barcelona is not a morning city. However, if you are a morning person, you are in luck because beautiful graffiti artwork adorns all the metal curtains that store tenders pull down at closing time. The narrow streets feel like the halls of an art gallery.
Can be found in: El Raval, El Born, Barrio Gotíc
6. Fernando Botero's Fat Animal Sculpture
A masterpiece by Columbian Fernando Botero, "Fat Animal" is located in a new plaza built as part of an effort to spruce up the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona. Once considered one of the city's most dangerous immigrant barrios, Raval is now burgeoning with young artists and writers while still maintaining its' international character. Almost every street has both an Islamic butchery and an artist's studio. According to urban myth, you will have good luck and return to Barcelona if you rub the animal's balls.
Can be found: Rambla del Raval
7. Joseph Granyer i Giralt's "Meditating Bull"
Catalan sculptor and alumnus of Barcelona's School of Fine Arts, Joseph Granyer i Giralt is the mastermind behind two famous statues on the Rambla de Catalunya -- the "meditating bull" featured above and the "flirting giraffe." When they were first installed in 1972, the pair was so popular that a band of thieves tried to steel them away.
Can be found: Rambla de Catalunya
8. Antoni Tàpies' "Cloud and Chair"
When artist Antoni Tàpies decided to turn this building into a studio in 1984, he decided the modernist structure needed a revamp. To mark the beginning of a new era, he designed this stainless steel and aluminum sculpture sitting on top of the building -- formerly a publishing house.
Can be found: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Aragó 255
9. Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's Matches
Artistic team, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen were invited to create this large-scale sculpture as part of the ambitious urban planning project that transformed Barcelona in the eighties. The lightly bent cigarette recalls the shape of Guadi's Sagrada Familia while the base is an allusion to the "Chicago Picasso."
Can be found: Avniguda del Cardenal Vidal i Barraquer / Pare Mariana
10. Lluís Domènech i Montaner's Palau de Musica
Built in the Catalan modernista style, this concert hall opened in February of 1908. Although the inside is stunning, the building's façades have a lot to offer as well from Miquel Blay's "Catalan Song" sculptural group to busts of Beethothen and Bach. The "Catalan Song" is a representation of Catalonia's rich culture and features famous characters from Catalan mythology.
11. Homenatge a Picasso
Intended as a tribute to Picasso, this statute was designed by Antoni Tàpies, a world-renowned Catalan artist and owner of the Barcelona cultural center and art studio, Fundació Antoni Tàpies. To capture the period that Picasso spent in Barcelona, Tàpies put modernista furniture inside this four square meter box. Giving the sculpture an ethereal and mystical aura, water plunges from the sides of the box and into the pond at all times. The effect makes the contents of the box blurry and slightly inaccessible.
Can be found: Ciutadella Park
12. Homenatge a l'exposicio universal de 1888
Designed by Antoni Clave, this statue was realized one hundred years after the Universal Exposition of 1888 catalyzed the development of Barcelona and four years before the Olympics would have a similar affect. The Universal Exposition of 1888 led to the realization of the Ciutadella Park and the Arc de Triomf. Previously, the Ciutadella Park and Arc de Triomf area were home to an obsolete citadel, which reminded Catalonians of a time when the Spanish had exerted a reign of terror over the city. The wheels and materials of this sculpture are meant to evoke memories of the Industrial Revolution, which took place at the time of the Universal Exposition.
Can be found: just outside the Ciutadella Park on Passeig de Picasso
13. Rebecca Horn's L'estel Ferit
Another example of groundbreaking art produced during the Olympic era, L'estel Ferit (The Wounded Shooting Star) consists of four cubes, stacked seemingly at random. The sculpture is meant to recall the "xiringuitos" or beach shacks that dotted the waterfront before the city's neglected seaside neighborhoods were cleaned up in 1992.
Can be found: Barceloneta beach
14. Agbar Tower
A building with many nicknames, this thirty-eight-story skyscraper looms over most of the city. A unique example of structural expressionism, architect Jean Nouvell designed the tower to resemble Montserrat, a mountain near Barcelona that has protruding rocks with the same phallic structure. At night, the tower brightens the city with 4,500 LED devices that allow images to be generated on the building's façade.
Can be found: Avinguda Diagonal, 211
15. Montjuic Communications Tower
Popularly known as the Telefonica Tower, this white, piercing structure was designed by Santiago Calatrava to allow Telefonica to broadcast the 1992 Olympic Games. This tower looms high above the Olympic stadium situated on Montjuic Mountain, which looks over the entire city of Barcelona. The tower's base is covered in white mosaic tiles, another allusion to Barcelona's most renowned architect, Antoni Gaudí.