The Limited Times

Now you can see non-English news...

500 years of art in the Gallery of the Royal Collections: the most anticipated museum


Highlights: The Gallery of the Royal Collections is ready for opening. The delay is estimated at exactly eight years. The mastodon of granite, concrete, oak and glass was designed by architects Emilio Tuñón and Luis Moreno Mansilla. The collection ranges from the Catholic Monarchs to Alfonso XIII, with a slight prolegomena in the form of several pieces of the Visigothic treasure of Guarrazar, from the seventh century. June 28 is in principle the date indicated by the Presidency of the Government for the opening of the gallery.

Delays and political ups and downs have marked the future of this project, whose origin dates back to 1998 and which has cost 170 million euros to the public coffers: a colossal building and fascinating contents ready to premiere

The Gallery of the Royal Collections is ready for opening. This is the headline and, more than the headline of an important cultural news – which it undoubtedly is – it could be of a new addition to the Guinness Book of Records: that of the most awaited, commented, criticized and delayed museum infrastructure. The delay is estimated at exactly eight years. The mastodon of granite, concrete, oak and glass, designed by architects Emilio Tuñón and Luis Moreno Mansilla and excavated in the rock next to the Royal Palace of Madrid, between the Campo del Moro and the Plaza de la Armería, to house the artistic treasures of the Spanish kings for 500 years, should have opened its doors in 2015. Before, in 1999, there was another winning project, by Estudio Cano Lasso, but the first competition was contested by one of the participants — the architect Antonio Vázquez de Castro — and in the second Tuñón + Mansilla won. In that 2015, Patrimonio Nacional, the institution that promoted the museum since 1998, received it in magazine status. But in that 2015 also continued a whole political-diplomatic-cultural psychodrama crossed by four presidents of Government (José María Aznar, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez), four presidents of National Heritage (José Rodríguez-Spiteri, Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán, Llanos Castellanos and Ana de la Cueva), two museum directors (José Luis Díez and Leticia Ruiz), an emeritus king (Juan Carlos I), repeated blockades, mutual attacks and all the political and administrative apathy in the world.

Patrimonio Nacional defines it as "the most important cultural and tourist project in Spain in decades"

June 28 is in principle the date indicated by the Presidency of the Government for the opening of the gallery, in the presence of Kings Felipe and Letizia, although the advance of the general elections for July may vary the plans. We must remember that Patrimonio Nacional depends organically on the Ministry of the Presidency, and we must remember that on July 1 the Spanish presidency of the European Union begins. And you don't have to be Guillermo de Baskerville to intuit that this icon of 40,000 square meters, 145 meters long, a height of more than six floors and a budget close to 170 million euros – "the most important cultural and tourist project in Spain in decades", as defined on its website Patrimonio Nacional – was a privileged showcase for the pomp of that presidency. Which would fulfill the infallible axiom: everything is politics, culture too.

An impressive container. Facade of the Gallery of the Royal Collections facing the Campo del Moro: monumental and controversial. Jose Manuel Ballester

For three days we have entered this overwhelming container of art and history and we have toured its galleries of more than 1,600 square meters: one for the Austrias (1516-1700) —austerity within an order—, another for the Bourbons (1700-1808 / 1813-1868 / 1874-1931 / 1975-today) —splendor in abundance— and another for the temporary exhibitions —the first will be In movement, On the history of royal carriages—.

The collection ranges from the Catholic Monarchs to Alfonso XIII, with a slight prolegomena in the form of several pieces of the Visigothic treasure of Guarrazar, from the seventh century. The first thing that strikes you is the happy marriage of volumes, scales and perspectives. Everything is gigantic and, nevertheless, everything is aerial in the building of Emilio Tuñón and Luis Moreno Mansilla (deceased in 2012), where the context is essential and where the construction itself will undoubtedly be one of the star works to visit, with its infinite shutters, its endless ramps and its views of the Campo del Moro and the Casa de Campo. Crucified Christs, monumental paintings, tapestries by major artists, golden floats and a very valuable range of decorative arts up to a total of around 700 pieces take on a new exhibition meaning here.

Luis Pérez de Prada, director of Real Estate and Natural Environment of National Heritage, explains from a technical point of view the meaning of the architectural complex: "With such grandeur of surface, its urban presence should be capital, but it is not so from the upper part, yes from the lower part. This contrast of the two totally different images is very attractive, the Gallery shows the visitor discreetly when walking through the city and at the same time has that massive presence that allows to complete that cornice of Madrid formed by the Royal Palace, the Armoury, offering, if you look from the Paseo de Extremadura and the Manzanares River, an image of continuity to the basement of the Royal Palace. As Tuñón and Mansilla said in their project, it is 'an inhabited wall' that takes references from what is a building of the eighteenth century to the maximum modernity of one of the twenty-first century.

The lobby is a privileged viewpoint to the Casa de Campo. The building has received, among others, the FAD Architecture Award 2017.José Manuel Ballester

Leticia Ruiz, director of the Gallery, prestigious curator and former head of Spanish Renaissance Painting at El Prado, considers the change from the concept of "museum" to "gallery" a success: "The museum could have put us in front of a problem, because – the law says so – it is a place to which some funds are legally attached. But what funds should we have earmarked? 170,000 works? That would have brought us into conflict with many of the Royal Sites and the Royal Foundations. How are you going to tell the nuns of the convent of Las Descalzas that their collection belongs to the museum? With all this there have been quite logical sensitivities that have had to be tempered."

The head of the Gallery considers that there have been "excessive and unfair criticisms" about a hypothetical decapitalization of the artistic heritage held by the different Royal Sites, and considers it essential to remember that these treasures do not belong to each of them, but to the whole of the National Heritage: "If in the palace of La Granja, for example, there are 12,500 pieces and 45 of them are brought to the Gallery, are we decapitalizing La Granja? I don't think so. So, the gallery concept points to what could be a large permanent exhibition hall of the institution itself, "argues Leticia Ruiz.

Tapestries, paintings and sculptures of great masters coexist in the gallery dedicated to the Austrias (1516-1700). Jose Manuel Ballester

In all this, the current president of National Heritage, Ana de la Cueva, about to complete two years in office. The former Secretary of State for Economy and Business Support, an economist and public official who was appointed to that position by the current First Vice President of the Government and Minister of Economy, Nadia Calviño, sees the new Gallery of the Royal Collections as a living organism and largely of a movable and rotating nature. "We want it to be a real gallery and that a third of the pieces rotate, because the galleries are characterized by that, because the exhibited works change, and although here there will be a part of them stable, the public will find works that were in other places, or that were in warehouses, or in cloistered religious places, and that they will come and go."

Not everyone is equally passionate about the change of name – and concept – from the Museum of the Royal Collections to the Gallery of the Royal Collections. José Luis Díez took charge of the project of the Museum of the Royal Collections in 2014, which he arrived after leaving his post as head of Conservation of Painting of the XIX in El Prado. In 2020, and when the opening was already five years late, he ceased in office, leaving his museography plan halfway, which, by the way, contemplated closing the tour with the Portrait of the Family of Juan Carlos I, by Antonio López, a work that will continue in the Royal Palace. "The project that is going to be opened has nothing to do with the one I did, this is not mine and, therefore, I do not want to comment on it. The change from museum to gallery is not that it sounds good or bad to me, it sounds different to me. One thing is a museum and another thing is a gallery. The Dictionary of the RAE explains it clearly", succinctly justifies Díez, who prefers not to pronounce more on the matter.

And speaking of the Portrait of the family of Juan Carlos I: never a painting that will not be in a museum gave so much to talk about it when talking about that museum. Patrimonio Nacional commissioned it to Antonio López at the end of 1993 and the artist from Tomelloso, with his personal and non-transferable way of facing the work of art, took two decades to complete it. The uncomfortable facts of recent history have been responsible for bringing the final touches to the canvas, which, finally, will not swell the collections of the Gallery. The king emeritus and his backpack of exploits putting the finishing touch to a cultural infrastructure that has cost 170 million euros to the public coffers did not seem the most recommended scenario.

The 'Portrait of the family of Juan Carlos I' by Antonio López is a failed work, it has no place here" (Leticia Ruiz, director)

Ana de la Cueva clarifies that the decision not to include Juan Carlos I in this gallery of kings and queens has to do with the very nature of the Royal Collections: "These collections are conceptually what they are, works acquired and collected by kings throughout history according to their personal tastes and their investments. But in the twentieth century, these collections are not royal collections as such because they do not belong to either the king emeritus or Felipe VI, they are investments that the State has made, and this is important to understand, because it also allows us to understand what a parliamentary monarchy is versus an absolute monarchy. As for Antonio López's painting, it is exhibited in the Hall of Halberdiers of the Royal Palace, and there is no intention of removing it from there."

Thesis supported by the director of the Gallery herself: "The previous direction contemplated it, but it really has no place here, it did not make sense within this discourse. In purity, the Royal Collections end with Queen Elizabeth II. And then came this idea of buying contemporary art with public money... That painting by Antonio López was commissioned at another time in the history of Spain, and the history of the king, and the royal family, and the result is what it is. For me, a failed painting. But it is exposed in a supervised site of the Royal Palace, the Hall of Halberdiers, although there are people who still think that we hide it."

The building's wide ramps – and its impressive recess – connect the three floors of a museum that is visited from top to bottom. Jose Manuel Ballester

The ramps of the museum with the lights off. Jose Manuel Ballester

For the president of National Heritage, the new artistic space should be, in her words, "a kind of showcase of the Royal Sites, an invitation for people to visit them." Interesting point in this whole affair. Of course, this rotating nature of the collections will force those responsible for National Heritage, among other things, to have to deal and negotiate with the local and regional administrations through which the Royal Sites extend (Community of Madrid, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Balearic Islands, Extremadura and Andalusia). A task is often not easy between the central and peripheral administrations.

The two responsible for this new and huge center of art and history also insist on the need – and the desire – to collaborate closely with the Prado Museum. Synergies? Exchanges? Temporary assignments? Time will tell, although obviously the tempestuous times of 2014 in which the then president of National Heritage, José Rodríguez-Spiteri, mounted a huge political-cultural shoe by claiming from the Prado the "return" of masterpieces such as The Garden of Earthly Delights and The Table of the Seven Deadly Sins, both by Bosch; The Descent, by Rogier van der Weyden, or The Washing, by Tintoretto, all owned by National Heritage, in order to incorporate them into the Museum of the Royal Collections (at that time, yes, "museum" and not "gallery"). Zapatiesta of such dimensions that, in October 2015, the Government decided to dismiss Rodríguez-Spiteri in office and appoint an experienced jurist in matters of cultural management, academic of Fine Arts and eternal appeaser of political-cultural quarrels, Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán, who as soon as he arrived in office announced that he would not claim those works from the Prado.

Pérez de Armiñán was always a strong supporter of mutual cooperation between the Prado and the Museum of the Royal Collections. Something that affects the current president: "Collaboration with other museums will be fundamental, we do not compete with them, but we are a magnificent complement, with El Prado we have a common history", clarifies Ana de la Cueva, who clarifies: "What differentiates us is that we are not a mere museum of painting or sculpture, but we have an overwhelming diversity of decorative arts: tapestries, carpets, clocks, chest of drawers, glassware, porcelain, liturgical pieces...". In spite of everything, the visitor will be able to contemplate a good handful of pictorial wonders of Velázquez, Goya, Caravaggio, Patinir, El Greco, Juan de Flandes ...

View towards Madrid from inside the Gallery of the Royal Collections.José Manuel Ballester

In any case, Pérez de Armiñán ceased in office in 2020 and was relieved by the socialist politician Llanos Castellanos, who would last in his post less than a year and a half, when she was replaced by Ana de la Cueva and went on to occupy the deputy direction of the Presidency cabinet in La Moncloa. The reader will have already perceived it: the presidency of the National Heritage has been, in the last decade, a kind of pimpampum in which factors have played their role that would have little or nothing to do with an organism of public interest with two basic missions: to serve the Crown in its task of representation and to serve the citizenship by offering it the contemplation of the artistic heritage. Between Nicolás Martínez Fresno, who was in charge of National Heritage between 2010 and 2012, and Ana de la Cueva, appointed in 2021, the institution has had five presidents in just a decade. For an organism accustomed to functioning with historical tempo, at this time its presidency, and consequently its work processes, seem very circumstantial.

The difference between the Spanish Royal Collections and those held by a country like the United Kingdom, for example, lies in ownership. The Spanish women belong to the Spaniards. The British, from the king. And putting the accent on that difference is another of the missions that those responsible for National Heritage have self-imposed. "The story of the Gallery of the Royal Collections," explains De la Cueva, "is to tell that here is exhibited what the kings treasured over five centuries, but unlike the United Kingdom or France, in Spain a process was made by which all these collections became public. Many Spaniards do not know that there is an organization that, from the Republic, jointly manages that heritage. The Republic decided to respect these collections and incorporate into its Constitution that the obligation of the public power was to guard them, and not to make a box with them." In 1940, Franco changed "Heritage of the Republic" to "National Heritage".

In three weeks, the brand new Gallery of the Royal Collections will finally see the light, specifically the one that the sun projects between the Madrid de los Austrias and the Manzanares River. That it finally opens its doors can already be considered an achievement. Only sometimes achievements are made to wait. In this case, eight years. Is the doom-mongering popular saying that palace things go slowly? To which another may now oppose: it is never too late if happiness is good.

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits

Read more

I'm already a subscriber

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-06-05

You may like

News/Politics 2023-04-09T08:22:30.304Z

Trends 24h

News/Politics 2023-09-23T12:58:45.122Z


© Communities 2019 - Privacy

The information on this site is from external sources that are not under our control.
The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.