Pamploma, the Spanish city best known for its annual running of the bulls is vying for a spot on the cultural map with the recent opening of a new art museum at the University of Navarra. The museum was designed by Pritzker prize winner Rafael Moneo, who has created a non-linear string of boxes that burrow into a campus hillside, making the structure seem “small outside and big inside,” in the words of university rector Alfonso Sánchez-Tabernero.
Moneo conceived the structure to house the collection of his friend, the Pamplona native María Josefa Huarte, whose family’s construction conglomerate built both the Real Madrid and FC Barcelona soccer stadiums, not to mention the cross at dictator Francisco Franco’s Valle de Los Caídos monument. While the collection includes work by big names like Picasso and Rothko, the real stars are the giant abstract limestone carvings of Jorge Oteiza; Antoni Tápies’s scratched, politically charged paintings; and the large and colorful shapes painted by Pablo Palazuelo.
More than an exhibition space, the museum will serve as a place for research where university students will study curating as well as the collection’s artists. It will also sponsor residencies for artists to create site-specific work. The first is Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s “The Black Forest,” two giant cubes of carbonized pine that are paired with images inspired by the museum’s extensive photography collection.