Art and Anarchy at La Tabacalera in Madrid

Art and Anarchy at La Tabacalera in Madrid

I've always known Madrid to be very strong with art museums like the world famous Prado with major works like Las Meninas and Goya's Black Paintings, and the Reina Sofia Museum focusing on contemporary art. And of course the CaixaForum is a gem with nicely curated exhibits that often surprise, like one tracing the use of mapping in art.

This last trip really helped build on my already positive impressions of Madrid's art scene. I really got the sense that the cultural center of Spain was in Madrid. Part of that is because many of the big companies like banks and telecoms are based here, and many of them have foundations with art galleries attached, like the excellent Museo ICO which I visited this time. ICO is the Institute of Official Credit, and the Museo ICO specializes in architecture shows.

Another art space I visited on this trip was the the Casa Encendida, associated with the bank Caja Madrid, where there was an interesting exhibition of emerging artists.

The space that made the biggest impression, however, was La Tabacalera, housed in an old tobacco processing factory. I went in with my friend, with a bit of trepidation, since the entry was unlike any other art space I'd been to.

To the right of the entry for example, was a free exchange of used clothing.

And straight ahead was a performance space, whose music could be heard from afar.

There were a rotating cast of performers this night.

Taking a ramp to go under the performance space, we found a big surprise: a labyrinth of tunnels that sported the most amazing graffiti!

"Cut your hair, find a job. When I was young... ...give me another rum and coke, son."

The tunnels just went on and on.

"Less is more. Less money. Less work."

And then inside of the tunnels there were little spaces you could enter with musical performances, or laser-enhanced dance parties.

Then, you could also exit this building.

And enter one of the other parts of the old tobacco factory.

Here there was a big group of people dancing!

And of course, all around there were more examples of super artistic graffiti.

Tabacalera Metropolis
Tabacalera pink

"Respect fire extinguishers and safety signs. They have the art of being able to save your life."

Speaking of life-saving from fires...

After we had our fill of art, dancing, and music, we left to find some dinner. We exited and turned right to go up the hill to the center of the Lavapies neighborhood, only to find another entrance to La Tabacalera. Ohhhhhh, so this is where the "formal" art gallery was - the part I had been looking for in the beginning!

It turns out that La Tabacalera has two sides. One side is administered by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, while the other side is "self-administered" by a group of neighborhood people and artists, with any person or group of people able to apply to use the space - kind of a "by the people for the people" deal.

The art gallery side was closing by the time we ventured in, so I went back the next day. It was alright - the space was certainly impressive -, but the real thrill was to find the other space the evening before, so magnificently decorated with graffiti and pulsing with energy.


La Tabacalera

Calle de Embajadores, 53

28012 Madrid


Madrid Eats: Best tortilla and an excellent menú del día at Casa Dani

Madrid Eats: Best tortilla and an excellent menú del día at Casa Dani

Madrid Eats: Ramen Kagura

Madrid Eats: Ramen Kagura