It is just a short train ride from Atocha Station to Entreviás and from there an even shorter walk through this sunny suburb of Madrid to the public sculpture park of Palomeras Bajas where the tour of this outdoor artspace began.
This is an area with a history of autonomy, having been a vocal neighbourhood in the fight for better living conditions in the 70s and 80s and also being a community that has been heavily involved in the planning and development of their own ‘barrio’. With this knowledge to hand, it is easy to understand the significance of the 15 metre, redbrick construction of the slogan ‘El Barrio Es Nuestro’ (The neighbourhood is ours), built by Todos Por Praxis in 2012. This stands alongside two other sculptures built of the same materials 26 years earlier and it seemed emblematic of the whole ethos of this sculpture park that these artworks we made from the same redbrick of the surrounding apartment blocks.
Another set of scultures wait in an underpass – Figura Femenina (Jesus Valverde, 1983) and Homenaje de Goya (Javier Aleixandre, 1980) – both metallic and both examples of contemporary sculpture, but away from the sterile world of the white walled contemporary gallery space they feel far more full of life. They command attention, but they are not on huge plinths at the centre of a roundabout. Instead they are on a level with the people viewing them, in spaces that people use every day. Where these sculptures are is a place in which people gather to chat, to just hang out with friends, and they were sharing the space with artworks.
The sculpture park of Palomeras Bajas has clearly been produced with the purpose of enriching the places in which the people use every day. This is most evident with the work Orden Cósmico (Ceferina Moreno, 1986), a large scale mosaic-like artwork installed into the floor of a communal terrace between two apartment blocks. Whilst it’s possible to get an impression of this impressive piece whilst walking amongst its tiles, the full picture is only available from the flats that surround it, by the people that live with the art.
It is where these sculptures are situated that allows them to be wholly expressive. By placing this art amongst the everyday spaces of the barrio, they are able to serve their purpose – to provoke thought and reflection – more readily than if they were in a traditional gallery space. Throughout the tour of this space there was a real sense of pride from the local tour guides; from the standard of the sculpture and ethos of the space, it is clear to see why.