The Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, Spain

Category: Madrid

The Museo Reina Sofia, officially known as the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, is the name of Spain’s national museum for 20th century art.  Located in the heart of Madrid, the Museo Reina Sofia, which takes its name from Queen Sofia of Spain, was inaugurated on September 10, 1992.  It is located near the Atocha and Metro train stations, at the southern end of the Paseo del Arte and is one of the three museums that make up Spain’s “Golden Triangle of Art,” sharing that distinction with the Museo del Prado and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.


The main wing or building of the Museo Reina Sofia was once a 16th century hospital—the San Carlos Hospital founded by King Felipe II.  It was here that all of the hospitals dispersed throughout the Court were centralized. In the eighteenth century, Carlos III, who believed the current hospital did not have the proper facilities to serve the city, decided to found another hospital on the same site.  This building, which is still part of the present-day facilities of the Museo Reina Sofia, was the work of architects José de Hermosilla and Francisco Sabatini, who were also responsible for a large part of its construction.

However, an array of renovations and additions to the old building were made during the 1980s, and in 1988 portions of the new museum were opened to the public, although mostly in temporary configurations.  It was in this year that the Ministry of Culture officially named the Museo Reina Sofia a national museum.  The physical identity of the museum would change again in 1989 with the addition of three glass circulation towers, designed by famed architect Ian Ritchie, and yet again in 2005 with an 86,000 square foot expansion by French architect Jean Nouvel, an expansion that cost roughly €92 million.


Although the Museo Reina Sofia features a few pieces from artists of other countries, it is primarily dedicated to Spanish art.  The art featured in the museum is impressive to say the least, particularly the excellent collections of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, Spain’s two most celebrated 20th century masters.  Other Spanish artists with works on display at the museum include:  Joan Miro, Juan Gris, Julio Gonzalez, Antoni Tapies, Pablo Gargallo, Eduardo Chillida, Lucio Munoz, Pablo Serrano, Jorge Otieza, Luis Gordilla and Jose Gutierrez Solana.  Guernica, by Pablo Picasso, is by far the most important piece housed at the Museo Reina Sofia.

As we mentioned, international artists are not well-represented in the Museo Reina Sofia, but the museum does contain a handful of pieces from names such as Yves Tanguy, the cubist Clyfford Still, Robert Delaunay, Lucio Fontana, still-life works from George Braque and a large work by Francis Bacon.

Today, in addition to the large collection of 20th century Spanish art—and smaller collections of international art—the Museo Reina Sofia also hosts a free-access library specializing in art, with a collection of over 100,000 books, over 3,500 sound recordings and almost 1,000 videos.