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Barcelona & Bilbao

Barcelona, home to Picasso and Miró, has a long tradition of supporting contemporary art and culture. The city is literally awash in galleries. The newest and most fast-forward are in Rabal, the historic district near the stunning Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by American architect Richard Meier. Spanish painters dominate here although Documenta 7 (April 2-June 21) will be an overview of European painting.

Madrid is another showcase for new Spanish art, especially at the Reina Sofia Art Center. Following independent trajectories are two Spanish artists who will set your mind racing: Juan Munoz, featured at the Biennale, and Cristina Iglesias, who had a major show at New York's Guggenheim last June.

Speaking of the Guggenheim, perhaps the most exciting development on the hip art scene is the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, designed by Frank Gehry. Rising along the Nervión River in the industrial port of Bilbao, this spectacular $100-million building will open later this month with an exhibition of 300 works of 20th-century art. With its shimmering silvery limestone-and-titanium skin and a 165-foot-high atrium, the museum has already been hailed by architect Philip Johnson as "the greatest building of our time." A barrel-roofed gallery, longer than a football field, will house Richard Serra's Snake, a monumental, 162-ton sculpture.