Museum of International & Contemporary Art

Exterior of Castillo San JoseLanzarote's small but impressive Museum of International and Contemporary Art really does provide visitors with a genuine feast of the senses.

 

Castillo de San José

Uniquely situated in an old historic fortress, the Castillo de San José, the Museum not only caters to the appetites of art lovers but discerning diners as well, as it boasts one of the island's most stylish restaurants, overlooking Arrecife's main port.

Fortress Of Hunger

Indeed, the Castillo has an historic legacy of lining stomachs, dating back to its original construction in 1774.

Then, the incumbent King Don Carlos III announced the five-year building project of the Castillo as a sort of public works, in order to alleviate the desperate poverty and hunger that resulted from the almost apocalyptic volcanic eruptions of the 1730's.

As a result the Castillo quickly became known locally as The Fortress of Hunger.

Pirate Raids

This strategic site was also selected in order to repel repeated incursions by British pirates, hungry for easy spoils sacked from the Spanish vessels docked below.

Camel Light Brigade

After completion, the Spanish soldiers stationed in the Castillo would use their camels like tanks in order to drive these British buccaneers back into the Atlantic.

Today, visitors from the UK and all over the world glide into the harbour aboard luxury cruise liners to an altogether warmer welcome, whilst primary coloured containers, now empty of the array of imported goods required to sustain life in an island economy, are stacked one on top of another like bricks on the quayside.

 

César Manrique

Main salon at Castillo de San JoseThe Castillo's current incarnation can be attributed to island born artist and architect César Manrique, who famously helped to shape relatively restrained development on Lanzarote during the 1970's and 80's, whilst other parts of Spain ran headlong into the arms of high-rise, mass-market tourism.

Natural Developments

Manrique believed that Lanzarote's ecology and economy would be better served over time by developing tourist attractions of genuine cultural and historic significance, in harmony with the natural beauty of the island.

Césars Palace

The well-connected Manrique had already successfully demonstrated this philosophy to great effect, having created a wildly original and futuristic home out of five lava bubbles in Tahiche and by developing the incredible Jameos del Agua from a giant collapsed volcanic tube.

His pedigree confirmed, Manrique was able to persuade the island authorities to allow him to restore the Castillo, which had now been sitting sadly, disused and abandoned, for the best part of a century.

Renaissance Art

After two and half years of sympathetic renovation, The Museum opened its drawbridge and heavy wooden doors to the public in 1976 and today modernist paintings and sculptures from some of the worlds leading artists are set against the ancient backdrop of the Castillo's thick stone walls.

Downstairs, in the basement restaurant, edible works of art adorn the plates of diners who are able to enjoy panoramic, picture perfect views of the harbour below.

 

Fact File

Admission: €2.50 adults, €1.25 children

Museum Open: Daily 11.00 - 20.00

Restaurant Open: Daily 13.00 - 16.00 and 19.00 - 23.30