More Seville - Art in a Monastery

Community Highlights Europe More Seville - Art in a Monastery

Here is my 7th favourite experience in Seville - the Centro Andalusia de Arte Contemporáneo (CAAC).


One day while we were in Seville, Jim did a reconnaissance trip on his bike to explore different routes out of the city in preparation for our eventual departure for Cordoba. So I decided to explore the various bridges across the river. I walked from our neighbourhood to the nearest bridge, the Pasarella de La Cartuja, and headed across, thinking I would just zig-zag my way along the river taking the different bridges. However, I immediately got waylaid. Arriving on the other side of my first bridge, I noticed a sign for Centro Andalusia de Arte Contemporáneo (CAAC), my 6th Sevillian highlight.


The complex inside the big gates looked really intriguing and it turned out to be a fascinating mixture of religious, industrial buildings, gardens, educational and event spaces that now comprise this contemporary art centre. I was happy to be given a brochure in English that identified all the different buildings and and provided a history.


The art museum is located in a 15th C monastery, Santa María de las Cuevas. Columbus stayed here at the Carthusian monastery before his voyages and it is where his remains were interred for thirty years. The district where it is located is known as La Cartuja, near the district of Tirana, which is notable for its tilemakers and other crafts people. In the mid 19th C. when some monasteries were being sold, this one was purchased by an English businessman who converted it to an internationally known pottery factory under the La Cartuja brand, which still exists to this day. A dramatic architectural feature of the property are the tall, cone-shaped chimneys of the kilns for the ceramics factory. They was also some beautiful tiling on some of the buildings. In the first photo below, that is a hot air balloon which was an interesting contrast with the kiln chimneys.


In the early 1990s, the complex of buildings was restored and used as the headquarters for the Exposicion Universal of 1992, known as Expo 92, and in 1997, CAAC was located here. In a subsequent biking trip around this area, Jim and I found many buildings constructed for this Expo that while not neglected, showed little signs of use.

After walking through the big 18th C. arch and between some buildings, there was a beautiful olive tree grove that led to some other buildings, one of which is a 15th C. Gothic church. During the 19th C. and 20th C., it was used as a pottery warehouse. There was also a 16th C. chapel known as the Columbus Chapel as the body of Christoper Columbus lay in a crypt there from 1509-1542, until moving on to Seville.


Columbus seemed to have continued his travels well after death and as I learned, may rest not in peace but in pieces! Two sites claim to hold his remains: Seville Cathedral in Spain, and the Columbus Lighthouse at Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. More on that in the next post.

There was also a lovely cloister that is apparently one of the best examples of Mudéjar architecture, that interesting combination of Christian and Muslim styles.


In a nearby room, there were tombs of the family who were patrons of the monestary. One of the family portrayed on his tomb in marble looked realistically and eerily dead, rather than just sleeping or perhaps vigorously snoring beside his long-suffering wife who may be saying, “ Asleep at last!”. There was a little group of school kids and a teacher in there and I thought how gruesomely fascinating these tombs would have been when I was young.


In another chapel was what is referred to as a triple Saint Anne (mother of the Virgin Mary), holding Mary in her lap who in turn holds her son Jesus. Wow, wild Christian imaginations!

The refractory where the monks had their meals used to be presided over by The Last Supper by Alfonso Vásquez that is now in the Museo de Bellas Artes in Seville. There were very significant paintings in all these rooms that are now in Seville. The Sacristy also held major works. During the French occupation, that space with its grand paintings served as the garrison’s butchery. Nice.


The church, chapels and other monastery spaces have been incorporated into the art museum, along with looked like new gallery spaces.


The amount of space dedicated to landscape here is huge. I imagine the monks grew their own food and there are extensive orchards of olive and citrus trees. There were pools and a little chapel in the walled gardens too.

So back to the art part of this complex. CAAC’s focus is highlighting the artistic trends that developed in Spain from the mid-20th century through to the present day. This is the first thing that I saw and I loved this. Inspired by the Alice in Wonderland story where Alice gets huge and can’t move within the confines of indoor space, this is a feminist comment by the artist on women being confined by their proscribed roles, in the home and elsewhere.


The second memorable exhibit featured the work of Polish artist and activist Malgorzata Morgan-Tas, who is of Romani ancestry and “uses the “subversive stitch” to weave visual narratives featuring women and present a positive vision of Roma culture.


“Drawing on subordinated elements from the European heartland, the feminism of minorities, shared labour (such as collective weaving or quilting), and the environmentalism of reusing locally sourced second-hand fabrics, in recent years Małgorzata Mirga-Tas has produced a variety of projects which this exhibition synthesises in a particularly significant context: Andalusia, and more specifically Seville, is home to Spain’s largest Roma community.” Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes, curator.


Her multimedia collaged work, much of it fabric, portrays the lives of Roma women. Many of her pieces were huge wall ‘tapestries’, others were screens, little folk chapels and small Roma houses. It was so colourful and interesting in its storytelling.


There were many other interesting exhibits including this kinetic metal sculpture of a one-man band but the figure also has a laptop and music is supposed to be triggered as you walk through the arch, though it seemed not to be working.


And there was this interesting collection of political posters.


On the landscape side, this arbor was just starting to bloom. The entire huge structure was covered with pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana) that has been allowed to drape down almost to the ground. It would be an amazing sight in full bloom.


So I had a lovely half day there soaking up the architecture, history, landscape and art. The admission fee was just a few euros and there were few other people there. I was mostly alone in all the spaces and only saw the occasional security person - the benefit of off-season travel - or visiting less well known sights. A fortunate re-routing of my intended river/bridge walk.

Next post: Biking Along the River and Columbus’ Egg

This featured blog entry was written by Jenniferklm from the blog Cycling in Andalucia.
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By Jenniferklm

Posted Thu, Feb 22, 2024 | Spain | Comments