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Above: Inside the Carmen Thyssen Museum in MalagaThe new Carmen Thyssen Museum in Malaga could be considered a personal masterclass in Spanish art history. George Prior reveals why this museum is putting the Costa del Sol on the cultural mapA decade ago, Malaga, the Costa del Sol's capital city, was a place where art lovers stopped - or whizzed through - on their way to southern Spain's other historical towns and cities.But in recent years, it has reinvented itself, becoming an artistic hub on the national and international stage. The ancient port city, whose skyline is dominated by a fortress built by the Phoenicians and a 16th-century cathedral, now holds its own in Spain's cultural tourism stakes against the likes of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Granada and Bilbao.Indeed, the opening of several major museums and galleries has done for Malaga what the Guggenheim did for Bilbao: they have turned it into a serious art destination. This transformation has been so successful that art is now a major tourist attraction for the city, which is now actively marketing itself worldwide as a "cultural, artistic and historical experience".One of the most signifi cant steps in Malaga's evolution has been the 2011 launch of the much-anticipated Carmen Thyssen Museum, located in the heart of the historic quarter.The collection, which includespieces by Pablo Picasso, Antoni Tàpies (who sadly died in February) and Joan Miró, is housed in the magnifi cent Palacio de Villalón, a 16th-century town mansion, situated close to the city's main square, Plaza de la Constitución. The fi ve-storey, 5,500 square metre property, complete with a grand, internal Renaissance patio-courtyard, was once the home of the powerful Fernández de Villalón family, a dynasty of 'conquistadores' in the 18th century. More recently, since the 1940s it has been used as apartments, a fabric shop, and offi ces. With many of the original features - such as ornately carved wooden ceilings and period windows and tiles - plastered over in Regional renaissance 42 NADFAS REVIEW / SPRING 2012 THYSSEN

Left: Patio de la casa de Sorolla by Joaquín Sorolla (1917)the 1970s, an extensive and beautifully sympathetic ?20m (£16m) restoration took place before the opening.Adjoining the Palacio are several contemporary buildings that, through an intelligent use of fi ltered light and similar neutral tones and materials, manage to share the same serene characteristics as the older architectural delight."The restoration of the Palacio de Villalón and the surrounding area has added great value to the gentrifi cation of Malaga as a whole. Original elements of the older building have been integrated into the new structure so that both sections coexist in perfect harmony," explains curator, Lourdes Moreno.The Museum is the Andalusian arm of Madrid's iconic Thyssen-Bornemisza, which alongside the Prado and Reina Sofi a forms the Spanish capital's renowned 'Golden Triangle of Art'.Malaga's Carmen Thyssen was inaugurated on March 24 last year by its founder, the famously polemic Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Known affectionately as 'Tita' - meaning 'auntie' - in the Spanish press, the Baroness was born in 1943 in Sitges, near Barcelona, and went on to be crowned Miss Spain in the early 1960s. After brief marriages to Tarzan of the Apes actor Lex Barker, and then Espartaco Santoni, in 1985 she became the fi fth wife of the late Swiss industrialist Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, and it was he who introduced her to the world of art.From the 1980s onwards, she dedicated herself to his collection and at one time it was the second largest private collection in the world, after the British Royal Collection. Today, as a whole, it is worth an estimated ?850m (£700m).In 2000, she loaned (for 11 years) part of the collection in Madrid to the State, and the deal was renewed last year, albeit for a shorter time period.The Baroness signed a similar agreement at the new museum in Malaga, pledging the pieces on show there until at least 2025.With more than 183,000 visitors in its fi rst nine months, El Museo Carmen Thyssen has already proven to be a major success. This is hardly surprising when one considers the calibre of the 230 pieces on display, 40 per cent of which had never before been seen in a public gallery. There are three permanent ? NADFAS REVIEW / SPRING 2012 43 CARMEN THYSSEN