Recent exhibition La Tienda de la Esquina (The Corner Shop) celebrates Madrid’s beautiful antique facades, which you can find on display in the basement of Madrid’s most iconic corrala. But, given these old shops are an increasingly endangered species on the Madrid streetscape, you may find yourself cynically wondering if these sculptures are actually miniature death masks.
All of the roughly 50 models created are remarkably accurate, scaled down replicas of centenarian Madrid facades. If you let your imagination carry you away, this exhibition can feel like a stroll through Madrid’s streets a century ago.
This old diary store, which once had resident cows out back is now an apartment, but retains its original facade, lovingly maintained by its former owner. For years, he washed those tiles with just warm water, and either he’s still alive today (he’d be 96, apparently) or someone has continued his legacy, because the tiles are still perfect.
This very devotion to preserving antique facades is how this exhibition was made possible. Most of the store fronts featured still exist because they’ve been looked after over the years, which of course was made easy by being built to last in the first place.
A lot has changed in 100 years, since these facades were first built. Many of these miniature models cling onto a historic heyday, where people spent hours each day meandering from store to store buying local produce and artisanal wares.
This local pastime still occurs, but our style of shopping is shifting in favour of supermarkets and chain stores, and these pretty little shops are disappearing fast.
But before they all vanish forever, one sculptor has decided to preserve them. Each one of their models may well be an untimely miniature death mask – a scaled down mould of the face of a local icon – but it was made in the hope that they would encourage us to cherish them, and if not, at least as a memorial to a former Madrid.
Madrid, if you’re listening, please preserve our old buildings and facades, our heritage and our charm. It’s our city’s juxtaposing blend of past and present that gives it its unique character, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
- Until January 5 in the basement of Museo de Artes y Tradiciones Populares
- Address: Calle de Carlos Arniches, 3-5
- Nearest metro: La Latina (L5)
- Monday-Friday 10 am-8 pm / Sat 10 am-2 pm