Europe Gets a Major New Museum of Contemporary Art

Art News

February 16, 2021

A trade route city and a political center of the local nobles for many centuries, as well as a World Heritage Site, the city of Cáceres, Spain bears exceptional testimony to a range of cultures that have shaped its history and architecture. This magical, medieval Spanish city will now be the home to one the most important collections of international contemporary art in Europe.

Designed by award-winning Tuñón Arquitectos Studio and opening in spring 2021, The Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear will house Spain’s most significant private collection of international contemporary art developed over 40 years by the leading gallerist and collector, Helga de Alvear

Helga de Alvear with Ai Weiwei’s Descending Light from 2007, 2021. Photo: Andy Solé

The Collection of Helga de Alvear

Born in Germany and living in Spain since 1957, Helga de Alvear worked for the famous art dealer Juana Mordó who introduced her to many of the leading artists of the day, which led her to began to develop her own collection.

De Alvear's contribution to contemporary art in Spain is immense. In 1995, she opened a gallery that championed international contemporary art with a special emphasis on photography, video and installation; in 1982, she helped to set up the esteemed ARCO art fair in Madrid; she was instrumental in developing the Fundación Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid; and in 2006, she established the Fundación Helga de Alvear which supports, promotes, and researches contemporary art.

Her collection, featuring works by more than 500 artists such as Joseph Beuys, Dan Flavin, Joseph Albers, Paul Klee, Nan Goldin, Jenny Holzer, Anish Kapoor, Philippe Parreno, Gordon Matta-Clark and many others, will now be donated to the city for the public to enjoy.  

Katharina Grosse - Faux Rocks, 2006. © Joaquín Cortés / Helga de Alvear Museum

The Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear

The new Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear was created in response to the famed collector's wish was to share her collection with the public, as well as to the intent of several public institutions in Extremadura to provide Cáceres with a center for research, promotion and education in the field of contemporary visual arts.

The Museum is comprised of the restored 1913 Helga de Alvear Foundation’s Casa Grande building and a major new extension which includes spacious galleries and exhibition spaces.

Sited on an imaginary line that separates the medieval historic center of Cáceres from the modern part of the city, the venue "tries to listen to the place, and imagine a possible city that, without renouncing our time, is capable of preserving the way the city breathes", as explained by the architects.

Olafur Eliasson - Echo Activity, 2017. © Joaquín Cortés / Helga de Alvear Museum

The Inaugurating Exhibition

The opening of the museum will be inaugurated with an exhibition curated by José María Viñuela, Curator of the Helga de Alvear Collection, that brings together around 200 works from the overall collection of 3,000 works.

Among the featured works is Ai Weiwei’s Descending light from 2007, a huge lamp composed of more than 60,000 red crystals; one of the best preserved editions of Francisco de Goya's Los Caprichos; as well as works by Louise Bourgeois, Thomas Hirschhorn, Nan Goldin, Doris Salcedo, Tacita Dean, Olafur Eliasson, Kandinsky and Picasso. Helga de Alvear said:

I am interested in contemporary art because it speaks to us of our time and of ourselves, because it creates and develops a language that can explain, in a new way, the world in which we happen to live and of which we often only brush the surface. 

Featured images: Exterior of the Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear, with A Day Like This Made of Nothing and Nothing Else, 2009, Ugo Rondinone. Photos: Joaquín Cortés and Amores Pictures. Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear.