With the Prado and the Reina Sofía as neighbors, the Thyssen-Bornemisza has to try harder than it might elsewhere. So the museum has made summer even better for art lovers, keeping its temporary exhibitions open until 10pm Tuesday through Saturday and until 9pm Sunday and Monday from mid-June through mid-September. (The permanent collection closes 2 hrs. earlier.) During the same months, the open-air Terrasse bar-restaurant remains open until 2am so you can discuss the art over drinks. That’s a good thing, because this museum, dominated by the tastes of two strong personalities, prompts plenty of conversation.
The original collection was compiled by the Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza. Covering European art from the 13th through 20th centuries, it was one of the world’s great private art collections, which he sold to Spain at a bargain in 1993. Before he sold it, though, he gave some major pieces to his Spanish wife, Carmen, who continued collecting until she donated her collection in 2004. Their collections represent the best art that money could buy in the mid–20th century. Dutch Masters were pretty well picked over by the time they began buying, but a lot of Impressionist art was on the market. The breadth of the collections is astounding, and so is their weight. We advise focusing on the strengths—the Baron amassed great works of Italian and German Gothic art and 20th-century German Expressionism. The Baroness also bought some outstanding German Expressionist works, some beautiful Impressionist paintings, and showed a real affinity for the Spanish Moderns (Picasso, Dalí, and Miró) as well as Abstract Expressionist works by Americans. The museum has also begun to mount blockbuster shows that require borrowing from other collections. These temporary exhibitions have a separate ticket.