Cantabria is world famous for its paleolithic art, but it is also home to some great art galleries and exhibition spaces, and now home to the new Centro Botín.
For further information on temporary exhibitions in Cantabria, have a look at What’s On In Cantabria.
Cantabria’s newest and most prestigious gallery space is now open to the public on Santander’s seafront. Set right on the promenade in the newly remodelled Jardines de Pereda park, a long time favourite with its duck pond, children’s playground and cafes and ice cream parlours, the Centro Botín is right in the centre of Santander. Designed by internationally renowned architect Renzo Piano, the building itself is on stilts, and is covered by 280,000 lightly iridescent white convex ceramic disks (you can buy these in the shop!). It is free to climb up (or take the lift) on top of one of the buildings’ two wings for great views over the bay, city and mountains beyond and check out said disks up close and personal on your way up. One of the wings houses the museum’s permanent and temporary collections over two beautifully designed floors with bay views, and the other is dedicated to cultural activities, with an impressive bayview auditorium and other workshop spaces. Aside from the art exhibitions, the centre has an extensive programme of cultural activities, many of them free, including free outdoor cinema in summer (some in English) and concerts throughout the year. On the ground floor there is also an classy art shop, and a self service restaurant/cafe with a lovely outdoor covered terrace. Closed Mondays. Adults 8€.
Museo de Arte Moderno y Contemporaneo de Santander y Cantabria (MAS) – previously the Museo de Bellas Artes, and located in Santander, this museum contains a collection of more than 800 paintings, dating from the 16th Century onwards, 300 sculptures and 200 etchings, drawings and photographs. It has permanent and temporary exhibits, both modern and contemporary in a great space. Closed on Monday, entrance is free.
Palacio de Elsedo Museo de Arte Contemporaneo – located in the small village of Pamanes, near Liérganes, this impressive 18th century palace and chapel has the largest collection of contemporary and modern art in Northern Spain, with a range of pieces by famous Spanish artists and two small sculpture gardens in the palace grounds. Personally think this place is a real gem, not only because of its impressive collection, but also as it gives you a sneak peak into one of the many palaces in this area. Its downfall is its erratic opening hours, being a private museum. Adults 6€.
Museo Diocesano – located on the main crossroads in Santillana del Mar, just at the entrance to the old town, this museum is housed in an old monastery and has more than 800 religious pieces from all over Cantabria. Adults 3€.
Centro de Arte Faro Cabo Mayor – located in the Cabo Mayor lighthouse in Santander, this small museum houses a collection of paintings (mainly seascapes) by local artist Eduardo Sanz, which really are something, I could spend hours here contemplating his paintings from afar! It also has works by other local and national artists, and a room for temporary exhibits. There is also a collection of lighthouse memorabilia. The views alone from the top floor of the gallery and the newly boardwalked Cabo Mayor itself make this worth a visit, the art inside is a bonus! Entrance is free.
There are also many private art galleries, both in Santander and in other towns across the region, notably Santillana del Mar, San Vicente de la Barquera and Meruelo.
In addition to this, there are many exhibition spaces which regularly hold temporary art exhibitions, notably the Galeria Este, in the El Mercado del Este in the centre of Santander, and the small Palacete del Embarcadero, on the seafront promenade next to the yacht club, the Fundación Botín Exhibition Space, and the Fundación Bruno Alonso, also in Santander.