Sometimes it seems that the world is flooded. Others, it burns. Rhodes and Corfu (Greece), Palermo and Messina (Italy), Cascais (Portugal) or Quebec (Canada). Burn the soil of the earth. The heat bubbles the mercury and also corners the artistic heritage. The climate emergency descends into Dante's inferno. The Prado and the Reina Sofia Museum are Spain's great concerns. Goya's house is more threatened by the waters than by the flames; A stream flows underground and explosive cyclogenesis is unpredictable. The gallery has a security protocol that it does not make public. Some frames are geolocated with chips. Few, it is an expensive technology.
The Reina Sofía —says Manuela Gómez, a restorer of painting— writes the rules on the granite of its walls. The temperature in the exhibition areas is 20 degrees Celsius. And a variation of ±2 is supported. Identical margin with humidity (50%). But they have been working on a security plan (Procoes) for years. In the rooms there will be PPE equipment (similar to those used by health workers during the pandemic) and fireproof blankets. In addition, a digital alarm system will connect with the firefighters, so that the screen will show them what the problem is and where it has arisen, and they can put together a strategy instantly. Because time – that of the clock – chooses in seconds or minutes whether a Picasso is preserved or destroyed.
The past has alerted the present of art. The historic storm Sandy, which in 2012 flooded New York, fell from the sky as a threat. "The artistic deposits have been removed from areas at risk of flooding," explains curator Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro. Storage giants — such as UOVO, which operates 10 U.S. locations — are protecting themselves from potential disaster. Its warehouses located in places of risk, for example, the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, are built 5.4 meters above sea level and must withstand a category 5 hurricane (with wind of up to 252 kilometers per hour). Fleeing the water, the Louvre will move 250,000 works in 2024 to its conservation center in the commune of Liévin, in northern France and an hour from Paris by high-speed train (TGV). "Perhaps," they say, "it is the largest movement of pieces in history." It was mandatory: the banks of the Seine, where the museum is located, are very vulnerable to flooding. Some of its galleries and warehouses are almost under the river, so a flood would risk hundreds of works. Only an irresponsible person would endanger his caravaggios, leonardos or goyas.
In other meridians, although the flames already surrounded the center in October 2019, trust is the main firefighting system. The Californian Getty (1997) believes that his building (built with marble and cement and protected by steel) would withstand the fire. Even its extensive green area, with systematically pruned oaks, would act as a retardant if a fire breaks out. No one wants to lose their heritage. The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation (New York) has created the most ambitious private program (with a budget of 10 million dollars, about 9 million euros) in the artistic history of the country to face (through grants) the climate crisis. MoMA is designing a cold storage vault. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is building something unprecedented: a floating gallery on a barge on the Delaware Waterfront River, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles is drawing on funds from the Frankenthaler climate initiative. Who wants to dance to a slow song in a burning room.
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