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The Fundació Antoni Tàpies is both a pioneering Modernista building (completed in 1885) and the major collection of leading 20th-century Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies. Tàpies died in February 2012, aged 88; known for his esoteric work, he left behind a powerful range of paintings and a foundation intended to promote contemporary artists. Admission includes an audioguide.
The building, designed by Domènech i Montaner for the publishing house Editorial Montaner i Simón (run by a cousin of the architect), combines a brick-covered iron frame with Islamic-inspired decoration. Tàpies crowned it with the meanderings of his own mind, a work called Núvol i cadira (Cloud and Chair) that spirals above the building like a storm.
Although it's difficult to understand the art of Antoni Tàpies, it's worth seeing the one-hour documentary on his life, on the top floor, to learn about his influences and method, and the course of his interesting life. In his work, Tàpies expressed a number of themes, such as left-wing politics and humanitarianism; the practices of Zen meditation and its relationship between nature and insight; incarnation as seen in Christian faith; and art as alchemy or magic.
He launched the Fundació in 1984 to promote contemporary art, donating a large part of his own work. The collection spans the arc of Tàpies’ creations (with more than 800 works) and contributions from other contemporary artists. In the main exhibition area (level 1, upstairs) you can see an ever-changing selection of around 20 of Tàpies’ works, from early self-portraits of the 1940s to grand items like Jersei negre (Black Jumper; 2008). Level 2 hosts a small space for temporary exhibitions. Rotating exhibitions take place in the basement levels.