A country that already boasts tremendous food and wine, culture, history and sunny beaches next year will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
The Tourist Office of Spain in Toronto briefed travel advisors and the media at a music and dance-filled event in Toronto on 07Dec.
Spain was the second most visited country in the world in 2019, recording 83.7 million tourists. Canadians accounted for roughly half a million visitors per year prior to the pandemic.
Barbara Couto, Consul for Tourism Affairs for the Tourist Office of Spain in Toronto, said the country has recovered 80% of its pre-pandemic Canadian visitation.
“Thank you to everyone who remained loyal to us in the last two years,” she told the crowd, which was treated to flamenco dancing and a Spanish guitar player, as well as paella, charcuterie and Spanish wine and beer.
Exhibitions centred on Picasso’s life and his art will be held around the world next year, including North America and France, where he lived in his later years. But Picasso was born and raised in Spain, and that’s where art lovers will find the greatest concentration of exhibits.
A good deal of the focus will be put on the Mediterranean city of Malaga, where the master was born. Other exhibits will be staged in A Coruna, Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid. There will be 16 major Picasso exhibitions in Spain alone.
Spanish tourism is working closely with French tourism officials, who also will be staging major shows dedicated to Picasso.
Special packages are available, and Couto said Canadian agents can contact the Spanish tourism board in Toronto for suggested itineraries.
Jonathan Gomez, Director of the Malaga Tourism Board, said his city is the only one in the world with two Picasso museums. Bars and restaurants in Malaga will feature Picasso-inspired dishes next year.
Gomez noted there are direct flights to Malaga from Montreal, “and it’s only a 6.5-hour trip.”
He also said that famous Malaga street artist Lalone will do an installation in Canada next year.
Jacobo Florido, Malaga’s deputy mayor, said the city is more than 3,000 years old and is home to 35 museums. There are also tremendous beaches, and sunshine almost every day of the year, he said.
Couto said Picasso moved to A Coruna, a city in northern Spain, when he was nine years old. The first exhibition of his art took place in A Coruna when he was just 13.
In addition to checking out Picasso exhibits, Canadian visitors to A Coruna can admire ancient streets and inspect the oldest Roman lighthouse in the world, the Tower of Hercules.
Picasso also spent some of his youth in Barcelona, which is famous for its culture and architecture, including the famous Sagrada Familia. Couto noted there are flights to Barcelona from both Toronto and Montreal now, and that WestJet plans to add service from Calgary next year.
Couto said Picasso wasn’t the best student when he lived in Madrid, but that he found inspiration during his visits to the Prado, the Spanish capital city’s most famous museum.
He also lived for a time in Bilbao, which will host a Picasso exhibit at the renowned Guggenheim Museum, designed by Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry. Bilbao is famous for having a wonderful culinary scene and is home to many a Michelin-starred restaurant, Couto said.
Spain is about the same size as Alberta and features some 25,000 restaurants, more than 200 with Michelin stars. Madrid has more than 60 museums, and the south of Spain is home to such fabled cities as Grenada and Seville.
There’s also tremendous nature in Spain, with 53 biosphere reserves, 15 national parks, and the snow-capped Pyrenees Mountains in the north.