Meeting Manolo Valdés!

It was a winter morning but the temperature wasn’t too low, and the sun was kind. I was sitting in the common room of my hostel where I was staying for a few days, feeling freshly infused with a special kind of Sunday languor by the angel of indolence, snug on an overtly cushy pink and green sofa chair. I had made this common room home; since I shared my room with 3 other travellers - I was living in a dorm (the horror!!!).

Away from the quagmire of shared rooms, bathrooms, and loo(s), this room felt ‘a lot like home’ with its Television set placed on top of a warmth-inducing dilapidated wooden book rack that hosted lengthy volumes of the lonely planet guides to all parts of the world amongst other books left behind by weight-shedding backpackers. Right in front of the TV was a worse for wear centre table with a tiny potted plant on top of it, which was probably the only ‘young thing’ in the room. The other three walls supported three antique looking wooden and jute sofas. Close to the balcony door was the nebulous sun-hatched spot with a sofa chair … ‘my sofa chair’ that I dashed towards each time I entered the hostel and to my delight, found empty each time I did. The warmth of the sun here, in this chair, made me feel connected to something universal. I could be anywhere in the world, and given a sofa and a spot in the sun ‘like so’, I would be home! 

15 minutes into my weekend reverie, my drooping eyelids were wheedled into attention by a friendly voice from across the street. In the balcony right across the hostel’s, was a young boy of about 18, yelling ‘Hola chica!’ 

It took me a few seconds to wrap my head around the intrusion and reply, 

‘Hola, que tal?’, (Hello, how are you?).
‘Muy bien, y tu’ (Very good, and you), the boy said.
‘Bien, bien’ I replied.

 He then started off with a cheery rant in rapid Spanish and I had to intrude at some point with,

‘No entiendo’ (I don’t understand).
He grinned and said, ‘Hablas poquito Español eh?’ (You speak little Spanish, eh), to which I said ‘Si, Si’. 

A big smile and a wave goodbye later, I got out of the chair and left the common room, it didn’t feel private enough any more. The boy was sweet and well-intentioned but the recluse in me wanted to set out in search of better obscurity. 

So, I went to my dorm, picked up my little day-bag and set out … Sigh! What a job it is to be a tourist on a Sunday. I started walking in a new direction, hoping that it would take me somewhere nice, somewhere I’d want to be … somewhere I could be completely anonymous again! I walked and I walked and I walked … and behold! After about an hour of walking very slowly, taking in the sites I passed by, I found myself at the gates of the Museo del Prado (
Tut tut, don’t google it, I’ll tell you, I was in Madrid). 

Inside my head someone said ‘George just lucky, I guess’. But George was about to get luckier as ‘Along came Polly’! Polly told me that since it was Sunday the Museo del Prado was ‘gratis’ (free) in the evening from 5 pm – 8 pm, and right now it was the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía that was gratis … Now I couldn’t believe my luck, I was damn glad that boy had cajoled me out of my reverie.

Reina Sofia (the national museum of 20th century art) is just down the road from the Museo del Prado (featuring exquisite collections of European Art from the 12th to the 19th century).

After Polly had finished asking me for alms for god knows who or what, for giving me the information that she had; and after saying ‘Sorry, I haven’t got much money’, I started walking down the road towards Reina Sofia. My camera was at this point focused on autumn leaves, fountains, people - the usual, until it spotted something very unusual across the street …

I randomly took this picture (picture 1) and then went back to it on the LCD screen of my camera. I am going to shamefacedly admit that it took my slow brain a good 30 seconds to realize that this was public art! I crossed the road, to get closer and find out more about the artist.

Mesmerized I walked back and forth this road …  

Lillie, 2006, Bronze

Irene I, 2006, Bronze

Irene II, 2006, Bronze

Ariadna IV, 2004, Bronze

Lydia, 2004, Bronze

La Dama, 2004, Bronze

Colosos, 2005, Iron


Regina I, 2005, Bronze

Odalisca, 2006, Bronze


Las Meninas, 2005, Bronze

I had never heard of Manolo Valdés before this day but what I saw on this day I absolutely loved - loved the work, the use of wood, the display. Of course, I had to go back to the hostel and google him to be able to understand things better, since all the information provided alongside the display was in ‘shudh Español’ and I couldn’t be bothered trying to read it.

I later figured that Valdés is a Spanish artist, from Valencia, who works in paint, sculpture, and mixed media. Heavily influenced by old masterpieces, it was in 1983 that he started working with sculpture in a big way. Today, Valdés is hugely celebrated for  his work using materials like alabaster, bronze, marble, granite, ceramic, silver, and wood. 

The massive bronze female heads adorned with hats are inspired by the paintings of Matisse, and
Las Meninas are inspired by Velázquez. In the last few years these works have travelled through Europe and North America  (I think) with the Meninas being exhibited in Paris in 2005. In 2007, the women and the Meninas went to New York, in 2008 to Barcelona, and in late 2009 I unknowingly caught up with them in Madrid.

Muchas muchas gracias well-intentioned balcony-friend!



Giri said...

Thanks for sharing and posting these beautiful pics.

Prateek said...

songofsacredeastwind 2.0!
I'm luuuuvvvvvin' it! pa..parap..paraa :)

Journomuse said...


Lovely post...I like the way you described your day...Is there more episodes of your Madrid holiday, im curious to see if you have more pictures. Have been planning a student budget holiday to Spain this summer...:) Cheers, will come back for more...

sacredeastwind said...

Giri - Very happy that you enjoyed it

PS - yayyyyiiii! so excited :D

Journomouse - liked your post on Covent Garden. There are a couple of more posts about Madrid - Barcelona on my blog if you look through Oct - Nov '09. If those don't help, feel free to email me, can give you names etc. of hostels. I was in Spain only for a week - 10 days though ...

solitary reaper said...

that was beautiful experience from u...very informative molooooo...beautiful art.
you prsented it pretty well, thank u maaaaa...

sacredeastwind said...

thank you ch'mma. really happy that I was able to share and that you enjoyed it :D love you sooooooooo much. molooo!

garima said...

In 2008, Las Meninas came to Salamanca too, where i saw them at the main square!! :D

sacredeastwind said...

wow, really! that's surreal and fantastic Gary (we both saw it in Spain at the end of two cons years). thanks for adding that bit of information here. now, my post feels a bit more complete :)

Y Trip said...

Staying in a hostel is so much fun! The best part is meeting folks from all corners of the world and very often find that you have so much in common.

I wish I was able to travel as much as you have been.. I guess I'll live vicariously through blogs just like yours :)


sacredeastwind said...

Dear Yogesh,

I have grown fond of the concept of hostels or actually I'm on my way to growing fond of it, I mean I love the affordability factor (couldn't have stayed in Europe otherwise) ... I was in a rather reclusive state of mind when I wrote this one ... And, I did end up meeting some really nice people :) So, you're right.

I wish I was able to travel to the places you've been :) so its mutual. I only went to Spain, France, and UK. Hope we both travel to many more such wonderful places :)

kaalicharan/Calvy said...

wonderfully well written!
all those hostel days came back to me courtesy your post...thanks:)

sacredeastwind said...

:D very happy that it brought back good memories Calvy, glad you liked it!

Hitesh said...

"Hola chica", i can so use it here...in India..... :)

though most of the arts form go over my head and this is one of them.....i do understand the extend of hardwork and precision it requires to carve these big canvases ......

hahahaaaaa....."it was a public art"....good you got to know that.....after 30 secs.....or else we wouldn't had a closer look......


think this is the first time here....had a good time.....

sacredeastwind said...

Hitesh :) you sound like a funny guy! You can certainly use it here but I suggest you get the Spanish pronunciation and stresses right to make it effective enough ;) :P

very happy that you had a good time. hope you come back for more :)

Adios hombre!

Elephant Minor said...

nice travelogue Shruti

sacredeastwind said...

Thank you. I love your name - Elephant Minor, hahahaha! Very nice!

Misha said...

Hey Great post! loved reading it...