Even rain has its advantages. If it had not been quite so wet, we might not have sought shelter in the fourteenth century Monasterio de la Cartuja. And so we would have missed a fascinating morning exploring the Andalusian Contemporary Arts Centre in Seville. Locally known as CAAC (Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo), the centre holds exhibitions of modern within the old monastery buildings.
Monasterio de la Cartuja
Also known as the Monasterio de Nuestra Señora Santa Maria de Las Cuevas, the monastery has had a long and varied history. In ancient times the site was used to extract clay for pottery, but the first monastery was built here by the Franciscans in 1399. In later centuries it was variously a Carthusian establishment, a temporary burial site for Christopher Columbus, and a barracks during the Napoleonic Wars.
The building fell into disuse, until it was purchased by an English merchant in 1840. Recalling its earliest use, it was transformed into a porcelain and ceramics factory. La Cartuja china became famous and won many awards. The factory ceased production in the 1980s.
Exhibitions at the Andalusian Contemporary Art Centre
Finally the monastery became the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, which today houses a number of contemporary exhibitions. But many of the features of the original monastery remain, creating an often stunning contrast between modern and mediaeval.
At the time of our visit, there were displays by a number of modern artists. The major exhibition was of the controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, including his famous Sunflower Seeds, formerly exhibited at London’s Tate Modern. A number of his works were made from porcelein, which seemed appropriate in this setting!