How Spain's Most Famous Artwork Is Taking Over the Streets of Madrid 

The Menina on Madrid's Plaza Mayor
The Menina on Madrid's Plaza Mayor | Jessica Jones / © Culture Trip
Photo of Jessica Jones
17 April 2018

The main characters of Las Meninas, Diego Velázquez’s masterpiece that hangs in the Prado Museum, have wandered off the canvas and into central Madrid. We take a look at how this city-wide urban-art installation is taking art from the museum and onto the streets this spring.

A new art installation has seen 80 sculptures of Las Meninas (‘the ladies in waiting’) placed in iconic spots around the Spanish capital, from the bustling Puerta del Sol to the Plaza Mayor, its grand central square.

The Meninas on Madrid's Puerta del Sol | Jessica Jones / © Culture Trip

The artwork, dubbed Meninas Madrid Gallery, is the brainchild of Spanish sculptor Antonio Azzato, who designed the sculpture and recruited a group of artists, fashion designers and singers to help decorate the Meninas, which he delivered to them white, like a blank canvas. ‘Each artist applied their technique, so each Menina is a unique, one-off artwork,’ Azzato told Spanish daily paper El País.

The artist highlighted that one of the main aims of the project was ‘the necessity for art to be out on the streets’.

‘The best way to become interested in art is to touch it and feel it,’ he said.

Las Meninas is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, one of the Spanish Golden Age’s leading artists, who worked in the court of Philip IV. The painting, which is one of the star attractions of Madrid’s Prado Museum, depicts the young princess Margarita Teresa surrounded by several members of the court, including her ladies in waiting, dwarves and, in the background, Velázquez himself.

The painting has been classed as one of the most important in Western art history and has long divided critics with its enigmatic symbolism and references.

A Darth Vader-themed sculpture | Jessica Jones / © Culture Trip

The sculptures, which will remain on the streets of Madrid until July, are made from fibreglass and are 1.8 metres (six feet) tall and weigh 30 kilograms (66 pounds).

The designers of the sculptures were asked to design the Meninas in answer to the question, ‘What is Madrid for you?’

The Menina designed by fashion designer Agatha Ruíz de la Prada | Jessica Jones / © Culture Trip

Participants include the singers Carlos Baute and Alejandro Sanz and the fashion designer Agatha Ruíz de la Prada, who rose to prominence during the Madrid Movida of the 1980s. Her Menina, which stands on Calle Preciados, one of Madrid’s busiest shopping areas, is decorated with a bright-blue background and white clouds, mirroring Madrid’s bright skies and sunny weather.

Singer Carlos Baute's design on Plaza Mayor | Jessica Jones / © Culture Trip

Venezuelan singer Carlos Baute has designed a sculpture that he has named ‘Madrid in my DNA,’ on Plaza Mayor. The bright-pink Menina features words that are important to the singer, including ‘music’ and ‘family’.

The outdoor urban-art project will run until July, and there are already plans to show it in other cities around the world.