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Do you remember boring school trips to stuffy art galleries where the highlight of your day was noshing your curled cheese sandwiches and thinking that at least it was a day free from the classroom? It doesn’t have to be like that. For a refreshing change head for TEA ““ Tenerife Espacio De Las Artes, the bright, modern and challenging centre in Santa Cruz.

Come with an open mind, you may be greeted by multi coloured acrylic whales or a flying grass carpet; once inside it could be a stuffed donkey or some performance art from a Japanese performer with bread rolls attached to his head. Those are extreme examples, guaranteed to grab you by the throat and slap your conventional views around. The main body of work consists of modern and classic paintings and sculptures. British artist Henry Moore’s reclining El Guerrero de Goslar is now back on the nearby Rambla del General Franco, but enjoyed a roof over its head from the November 2008 opening of TEA. Oscar Dominguez, the La Laguna born surrealist painter, got the star treatment with a whole hall given over to him, but TEA pulls in exhibits from all around the globe.

The 20,000 square metre TEA building is a fitting frame for any work. The entrance hall is large, open and with a high ceiling and polished light wood block flooring and leads to a tight spiral stairwell serving the 3 exhibition halls. Tear drop shaped lights hang from the ceiling with long slender stalks welling into glass bowls holding the light bulbs – quite a first impression.

The open and airy feel is most effective in the library. The 7,000 books from the 1888-founded municipal library have been transferred and take their place alongside full shelves, work stations, comfy browsing sofas, magazine racks, and 36 internet ready computers. In the day, the sun streams in through the vast side windows. The library is open 24 hours a day so after dark the tear drop lights swarm down like helpful fireflies.

An equally relaxing café adjoins the reading room and there is also a cinema with white club seat sofas that almost swallow you. Films cover a wide range of eras and countries but are shown in their original language with Spanish sub titles, good value at four euros. If you feel the need to use any of the toilets at TEA, you might like to pop on your sun glasses, they are typically stylish and dazzlingly bright. On the way out of the building, it’s worth diving into the souvenir shop for some very unique, but expensive, reminders of the visiting artists.

There are three main exhibition halls and the changing programmes are staggered so there is a constant flow of regular changes. As if you hadn’t guessed, I’m a huge fan of this art outlet, but I have yet to see more than a handful of visitors on each call. It’s a scant reward for the bold investment made in the capital’s culture but a big plus for the unhurried browser.

FACT FILE

  • TEA ““ Tenerife Espacio de las Artes
  • Avenida de San Sebastian, Santa Cruz
  • www.teatenerife.es
  • OPEN – exhibitions Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 8pm
  • Library open 24 hours
  • PRICES ““ Adults 5 euros, Under 12’s FREE, residents 2.50 €, residents over 65 or between 12 and 26 one euro.

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