A friend and I recently visited a new museum that opened in 2023, El Centro de Arte de Hortensia Herrero (CAHH). He and I visit museums and other interesting places here in the city. Adventures like these are quite rewarding, and it’s an opportunity to practice my Spanish. On this day, we arrived just before the museum opened and paid for our tickets in the gift shop across the street from the entrance.

Who is Hortensia Herrero? She’s a major patron of the arts here in Spain, and is a billionaire businesswoman. Married to the owner of Mercadona, an international supermarket chain, she owns a large share of the company, too. Additionally, she and her husband are both Valencian, and have funded many unique causes in the cultural scene here in Valencia. She has contributed to multiple museums, dance companies, contemporary art installations, and now this artistic center in the El Carmen neighborhood.

Some of the first impressions of CAHH are based upon the building itself. The museum is housed in the Valeriola Palace, an historic site in its own right. It was originally built in the 17th century, with a location that connected to the ancient Roman circus structures in the city and adjacent to the old Jewish quarter of the city. Frankly, it was a ruin, missing a roof and only partially structurally sound. But wait, there’s more! While excavating beneath the palace, artifacts began to emerge of a richer history, including remnants of the Muslim city of Balansiya between the 11th and 13th centuries.

In 2018, the renovation of the building started with a goal of preserving as much of the original structure as possible. The museum structure itself is quite large, with four floors of exhibits that range from historical artifacts to mid-century pieces to digital art. Many of the pieces are quite large. Color, texture, lighting, and setting were all considered throughout the museum.

My favorites in the collection included several “experience” pieces including a chromatic glass walkway, a room featuring stained glass and natural lighting, and several 3-D exhibits that kind of defy description. You’ll see what I mean below. At various points, you can also look out the windows to the surrounding neighborhood and courtyard.

Probably the most fascinating (to me) piece was a digital “town” that was developed by a team of programmers and artists. External conditions, like the weather, reflect the conditions in Valencia, and you can interact with the artwork by touching the figures. According to the description, you can cause the inhabitants to fight one another. At the point where the town and its inhabitants are destroyed, the exhibit will only show nature reclaiming the buildings. There is no restart to the exhibit.

I recommend seeing this museum if you are here in the city! Check it out at www.cahh.es.

Museum entrance with some of the original wall structures

Museum entrance with some of the original wall structures

Hanging sculptures of the museum entrance

Hanging sculptures of the museum entrance

Museum entrance with some of the original wall structures

Museum entrance with some of the original wall structures

Complementary art installations

Complementary art installations

Original tile flooring of the building

Original tile flooring of the building

3-D sculpture and optical illusion

3-D sculpture and optical illusion

3-D sculpture and optical illusion

3-D sculpture and optical illusion

Sculpture

Sculpture

View of the Saint John of Hospitals from the museum (Sant Joan de l'Hospital)

View of the Saint John of Hospitals from the museum (Sant Joan de l'Hospital)

Art installation featuring stained glass

Art installation featuring stained glass

Closeup of art installation on the ceiling

Closeup of art installation on the ceiling

Moving video art installation - flowers and Fallas

Moving video art installation - flowers and Fallas

Ultramarine blue modern art

Ultramarine blue modern art

Detail of the polychromic glass tunnel

Detail of the polychromic glass tunnel

Modern art - complete picture

Modern art - complete picture

Modern art - closer detail

Modern art - closer detail

A statue of a Spanish menina made from synthetic quartz

A statue of a Spanish menina made from synthetic quartz

Art installation of a bust and colored glass

Art installation of a bust and colored glass

Painting detail on the side of the building - painted to appear as detailed carving

Painting detail on the side of the building - painted to appear as detailed carving

View from the upper floor of the museum

View from the upper floor of the museum

Inscription from the original palace structure

Inscription from the original palace structure

View of the courtyard with stairs leading to the excavated structures.

View of the courtyard with stairs leading to the excavated structures.

Interactive digital art installation of a town reflecting the weather of Valencia (detail)

Interactive digital art installation of a town reflecting the weather of Valencia (detail)

Interactive digital art installation of a town reflecting the weather of Valencia (detail)

Interactive digital art installation of a town reflecting the weather of Valencia (detail)

Information about the interactive digital art installation of a town reflecting the weather of Valencia (detail)

Information about the interactive digital art installation of a town reflecting the weather of Valencia (detail)