The Mystery of Madrid’s ‘Art Triangle’

I just read yet another article that mentioned ‘Madrid’s triangle of art museums’. This is a very common expression, crops up all over the shop. Thing is, it doesn’t make sense. If you’ve been to Madrid, just think about it. The major museums – Prado, Thyssen, Reina Sofia and CaixaForum  – are all on the Paseo del Prado, the virtually straight boulevard between Plaza de Cibeles and Atocha. This stretch is now dubbed the Paseo del Arte, or Art Walk, and is sometimes called the Museum Mile too. All straightforward and self-explanatory.

So where does the triangle thing come into it?

Well, back in the 1980s there was a plan to create an arts centre in the old fish market in the Puerta de Toledo, a couple of kilometres west of the Paseo del Prado, at the bottom of the hill where the Rastro market is held on Sundays. The building dates back to 1934 and is an example of Rationalist architecture. This was before the Thyssen museum opened, so the idea was that the Prado, Reina Sofia and the new centre would form the three points of a triangle. The term ‘Golden Triangle’ – Triangulo de Oro in Spanish – was then coined to market the concept but the idea never got further than the drawing board. After a lot of local government wrangling, the museum idea was shelved and the site eventually became a shopping centre.

Called the Mercado Puerta de Toledo, it never really got off the ground. It started off as a hub for leading and emerging Spanish designers, which was a good idea on paper and attracted some good names, but never worked. Then it morphed into a sort of antiques centre, then outlet shops moved in, with dregs of its previous incarnations hanging on in there. And the odd exhibition too. All a bit sad and dreary really.

It’s one of those sites that looks dead central on the map, but just isn’t somewhere people would naturally go past, except on Sundays when the Rastro market is on. The shops actually opened on Sunday mornings to attract the thousands of people thronging around outside then, but it was all a bit of a damp squib and was always much for fun to trawl the stalls, shops and bars in the streets outside.

In 2013 the site was redeveloped to become a centre of excellence for the Universidad Carlos III, which is based in Getafe in the south of the Madrid region.

The fact that a plan hatched 30 years ago never came to fruition has, however, never proved a stumbling block to the use of the term ‘Golden Triangle’ or ‘Art Triangle’, which are now so firmly embedded in guidebooks, tourism leaflets and travel articles that I doubt it will ever be corrected. Not that anyone cares, obviously, apart from sad pedants like me.

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