In conversation: Celebrating 200 years of the Prado | National Gallery

Hello, everyone.
Welcome to the National Gallery. This is like a birthday party
where everyone has turned up, so we’re very pleased
to welcome you here to the Gallery. We’ve got a Prado afternoon because we are celebrating the Prado’s
200th birthday, its bicentenary, 200 años del Museo del Prado, and we’re delighted
to have Miguel Falomir, the director of the Prado,
with us for this conversation. This is going to be a little bit like
a gypsy wedding that sort of never ends because we’re going to continue
after our conversation with a lecture by Gijs van Hensbergen on Picasso and the Prado. I hope you will stay for that. Some new people might want to come along
if some of the spaces are empty. And then we’ve got
the projection of a film by the artist-filmmaker Álvaro Perdices, which will take us to the end of the day. So, welcome all to the National Gallery, and, in particular, welcome, Miguel. Miguel and I were colleagues at the Prado. He became director of the Prado
I think it’s about three years ago… -Two and a half.
-Two and a half years ago. And it’s fallen to you to organise the activities
around the Prado bicentenary. We’re very interested
in your experience of this because we at the National Gallery
sit a little bit behind you; our bicentenary is coming up in 2024. So, we want to get
all the information from you, we’re going to download
all your secrets this afternoon so that we know how to do it very well. But why don’t you tell us a bit
about the celebrations of the bicentenary? Well, first of all,
let me thank you for inviting me and for celebrating the Prado
in its bicentennial. This is a very special time for us. So, we’re deeply grateful to you
and the National Gallery. Well, as you have said,
I was appointed two and a half years ago and my first and main duty in this time has been to organise
the bicentennial celebrations. So, it’s a very ambitious programme
with over 100 events and acts, not just focused on Madrid,
but throughout the country. As I will insist later, this is one of the main ideas
behind the bicentennial, it’s this idea of a national museum, not just because it has
the word “national” in its name, Museo Nacional del Prado, but because its vocation
is to be a national museum. So, yeah, it has been very demanding,
and, well, you know, be ready to… work a lot in five years. Let’s go right back to the beginning, 1819, the year of the foundation
of the Museo del Prado, and it’s a foundation celebrated
in this painting. This is a detail from a painting
showing Queen Isabel de Braganza, who is considered the founding mother
of the Prado. Well, the Prado opened
on November 19th, 1819, but there were previous attempts to open a public museum in Madrid, or at least to open the Royal Museum
to the public. The most important initiative was
the so-called Museo Josefino, named after Napoleon’s brother, José, King of Spain for a few years. That project didn’t succeed and we had to wait another decade before the museum opened under the reign of Ferdinand VII, who is, beyond any discussion,
the worst king that Spain has ever had, and I can tell you that we have had
a few really bad kings. And probably the only good decision
that he took during his tenure was opening the Prado, probably, because he was not the mastermind
behind the opening of the museum, it was his third wife that did it, the Portuguese princess,
Isabel de Braganza, who is shown here
in a portrait by Bernardo López. She died a year before the museum opened,
so she couldn’t see it, but she has always been thought of or praised as the founding figure
behind the museum. So, she’s pointing at the museum building, which those of you who have visited
the Prado will recognise, that’s the building as it was. This was not built as a museum of art
in the first place, was it? It was adapted from an existing building. Yeah, the building was designed
by Juan de Villanueva, who was the leading
Spanish neoclassical architect, and it was designed
as a cabinet of natural history, a museum of natural history. It was part of what was in the second half
of the 18th century, the Enlightenment project for Madrid, and it was nearby
the astronomical observatory and the botanical gardens, so these three legs of this project. It was not ever used as such. When Napoleon invaded Spain, the building was not completed yet. It was occupied by the French troops
as barracks. And then it was redone and readjusted to the new function
as a museum of fine arts by López Aguado, and, as such, it opened in 1819. It’s very interesting
because we always talk about ourselves as a museum that is quite different from
museums on the continent, in particular, because our museum was founded,
really, as a result of a decision by parliament to create
a national gallery. This is a royal collection that is opened up as a public collection, still in private ownership,
so still belonging to the monarchs, but opened to the public in 1819. A museum for artists,
but a museum for the public, and a museum which is meant to bring
prestige to the Spanish Empire as well. Well, the museum opened with a very clear, nationalistic agenda. It was founded for promoting and defending
the Spanish school of painting, so it was a very clear idea,
this promotion of national pride. Thank God, a few years after its opening, Italian and Flemish paintings
began to arrive from the Escorial and other royal palaces, and the Prado, since the 1830s, has always had this pan-European profile
that we are very proud to have. But it’s true that when it opened, it only displayed works
by Spanish painters. And, yeah, it was a museum that both the building and the collection
belonged to the king. And for 50 years, it was a “private collection”,
the Royal Collection, open to the public
but still owned by the crown. And I think it’s important
for everyone to know and to realise that the Spanish monarchy, of course, had shown a huge interest
in painting, particularly, commissioning works from Titian directly,
from Rubens, from Velázquez, of course, who was court painter
to the King of Spain. And so this was the wealth of collections that the monarch, Fernando VII,
could draw on when he took the decision with his wife to open the collection to the public. So, there’s an astonishing, sort of,
amount of treasure to be able to draw on. But the Prado has got other bits
of collection in it too, hasn’t it? This year, we are not just celebrating
the bicentennial of the museum, we are also celebrating 150 years of the nationalisation
of the Royal Collection. The monarchy was overthrown in 1868, and the year after
the museum was nationalised and became the National Museum
of Painting and Sculpture. And we have dedicated to this event
an exhibition focused on the painting that you have
in the middle of the screen, ‘The Shooting of General Torrijos’, because it’s a painting that somehow encapsulates this idea
of a national museum. It’s the only painting we have
that was commissioned by the then prime minister, Sagasta, for the Prado,
to be displayed in the Prado, and for celebrating
the conquest of freedom in Spain, so it’s a very emblematic work, and it’s the one
that tells more about the museum as this national place for displaying the history of the country. So, the very interesting thing
about the Prado is it’s a very international collection,
up to about 1800, up to about Goya. After that, it becomes fundamentally
a Spanish collection. But the very interesting thing is that
painting in Spain in the 19th century is predicated
on the existence of the Prado. Had the Prado not existed, painting in Spain
would have been very, very different. And many of the principal
19th-century Spanish painters had a very direct association
with the Prado itself, either because they studied there or they worked there
or because they run the place. Exactly. The directors of the museum
up till the Second World War, all of them were painters. So, Torrijos… Gisbert,
who is the author of this painting, he was director of the Prado
and many more. And then it’s true, you know,
the Spanish 19th-century… Spanish 19th-century painting,
it’s very self-referential. It’s constantly going…
looking backwards to Velázquez, and the big names of the golden age
of Spanish painting. That’s one of the most… So, in 1869, we have the nationalisation
of the royal collections, but immediately afterwards
there’s another great group of works that also enter the Prado collection,
in 1872, from the National Museum of Painting. The Prado was
the Royal Museum of Painting, and then you have
the National Museum of Painting, and those two collections
being brought together in the Prado. Yeah, well, that was important. The Museo de la Trinidad was a museum that was founded in 1837-1838 after the confiscation
of the properties of the church. With the paintings that were
in convents and churches were founded several museums
of fine arts throughout the country. In Madrid, the museum
that collected paintings from Madrid and the cities nearby was named Museo de la Trinidad because it was in the former
Convent of the Trinity in Madrid. And this museum barely lasted
for 25 years, it closed in 1872, and its holdings were transferred
to the Prado. That was important because although
the Prado opened, as I said before, for promoting
the Spanish school of painting, it was mostly the Royal Collection and in the Royal Collection, there were
works by very few Spanish artists, only those who had worked for the court, and most of the works
that the museum had were portraits, portraits that they did
of members of the royal family. But, for instance,
there were none or very few works by El Greco, by Murillo, by all the leading painters
of the golden age, and all these paintings came
from the Museo de la Trinidad. So, that’s why it was so important
for the Prado and its collections, the merging of the two museums. So, at a stroke,
the Prado almost doubles in size. This vast quantity of works, of paintings, which had mostly, as you say,
come from the churches and convents, mostly from Castile… but often very, very large pictures,
series of paintings, a huge number of works, and this presents quite a problem
for the Prado in the 1870s, doesn’t it? Yes. Well, as a result of that,
the Prado collapsed, it couldn’t fit all these works. So, the decision that was taken
was to send most of… most… …thousands of these paintings
as permanent deposits to local museums of fine arts and important government
buildings throughout the country. This started in the 1870s. And, as a result of that, right now, the Prado has
more than 3,000 works of art in permanent deposits,
mostly in museums throughout the country. So, how do you explain, Miguel, the Prado is sometimes described
as a museum of painters rather than a museum of paintings? There’s a huge number of paintings
in the Prado collection. What does that phrase, which is
quite commonly used about the Prado, what does it mean? Because I think that although… The Prado and the National Gallery
opened within five years of difference, but I think that they are
very different museums. Ours is mostly
the former Royal Collection, a collection that was done
in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries by kings who loved painting, but who didn’t pretend to provide
a comprehensive approach to the history of Western painting. They collected the artists they liked and they tried to get as many works as they could
from their favourite artists. As a result of that, what we have, we usually have
more than any other museum, we have by far the largest collection of not just Hispanic painters,
such as Goya or Velázquez, but also we have 99 works by Rubens, the largest collection of Titian
and Bosch, and so on. But we also have some weak points
in our collection because the painters
that the kings didn’t like, they didn’t collect them. No, but what happened
with the Spanish kings is that they were extremely coherent
with the kind of painting that they liked. They started collecting Titian and somehow Titian, as someone said,
was the father of the Prado because he was the keystone around which the kings built up
the Royal Collection. They collected those artists
who were closer to Titian, those who privileged colour over design. So, that’s why we have
this amazing collection of Venetian 16th-century paintings, we have Rubens, we have van Dyck,
we have… …Velázquez, but we don’t have, or we have a smaller collection
of Florentine, for instance, 16th-century painting. So, this is why if you like any of the painters
that are well represented in the Prado, it’s amazing, the experience
of visiting the museum, and that’s why it has always been said that the Prado is a museum of painters
rather than a museum of paintings. You’ve got a very small collection
of British painting at the Prado. Well, you know, the collection,
in the case of the Prado, the problem with the Prado
is that when it opened, Spain lost its empire in America, it lost its influence, and it became
a second-rank European country. From 1819 onwards, the Spanish… the Museo del Prado or the Spanish collectors
or the Spanish market, they couldn’t compete with the American and European
museums and collectors. So, we couldn’t do the kind of collections that were being done, for instance,
in the UK. So, the paintings
that were not collected before 1800, it’s really hard to find in Spain, so that’s happened with British painting,
or with Quattrocento painting, a kind of painting
that began to be collected around 1800, you know. We have a small… exquisite, but a small
collection of Quattrocento paintings because in the 19th century
we couldn’t compete, or with the Dutch painting
due to political circumstances. We were at war with the Dutch Republic and that explains why we have
just one work by Rembrandt and 99 by Rubens. Yeah, and, you know, if you’ve got
50 Titians and 50 Velázquezes, and 200 Goyas, 100 Rubens,
it doesn’t really matter. It is an overwhelming sensual experience,
visiting the Prado. I mean, you are… You do sense that a sort of cornucopia
of wonderful masterpieces is just being poured on your head
when you walk into the museum, you know, with three rooms of El Greco, with a whole wing
practically devoted to Goya, with a whole sequence of galleries
of Titian and Velázquez, and, of course, their very, very finest
works in that collection too. Hieronymus Bosch, who had
very little direct connection with Spain, is best represented in the Prado,
compared to any other museum. In fact, he’s got a Spanish name,
he’s known as El Bosco, which some people think of
as a sort of bullfighter’s name. So, just looking at the history
of the Prado, very significant events
around the Civil War, which was very significant
for the history of the Prado and actually quite significant
for us here at the National Gallery. We had to do our evacuation
very soon after the Spanish Civil War, and a lot of the protocols that were
established during the Spanish Civil War for the safe removal of works from museums to safety at times of conflict were very valuable, let’s put it that way, for the National Gallery
and for other museums when the Second World War broke out. Yeah, again, this year,
we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the ending of the Civil War, which has been by far the darkest moment in the history of the museum. The museum was closed for three years. And the paintings,
or most of the paintings, followed the government that left Madrid, moved to Valencia, then to Catalonia, and the paintings followed the same path. And before the ending of the war, they were sent to Switzerland and they stayed there for a few months. There was an amazing exhibition
at the Geneva Museum of Fine Arts. I always have said that probably was
the best temporary exhibition ever done because the holdings of the Prado, ‘Las Meninas’,
the ‘Equestrian Portrait’ of Titian, and then the paintings came back to Spain. It was a miracle that nothing happened. All of them returned,
a few with some damages, but nothing quite remarkable. And it’s a decision
that has been very controversial. Those who support the idea
of the paintings leaving Madrid have always argued that they were safer outside the city that was under siege by the Franco troops. It’s true that a few bombs
fell into the museum, but it’s… probably, that’s not the main idea because probably the paintings
would be safer in the vaults of the Banco de España. Probably the main reason behind the idea of the paintings following the government is the fact that
having the paintings close gave to the government
an extra legitimacy. The Prado, by then, had a value
that was more than the aesthetic value, it was something that was connected
with the very idea of the soul of the country. You have to remember
that the then President of the Republic had said a few days
before the beginning of the war that the Museo del Prado
was more important than the republic or the monarchy,
so that’s probably the reason why the government
wanted to have the paintings as close as they could. Some scholars have said that probably the government
had in mind to sell the paintings in order to make cash
for financing the war. There is no evidence at all. So, probably the most likely explanation is that, you know, there’s the prestige that was connected with the collection. And then, yeah, it became,
what everybody thought was going to be something
quite exceptional, the first time that a whole museum
was shipped and sent to another place, it suddenly became routine a few months after the ending
of the Civil War with the beginning
of the Second World War. And in a few weeks, we have
a congress in Madrid about it, and I think that there are
members of your staff coming to Madrid to lecture about the experience
of the National Gallery. Yeah. I mean, interesting. One of our curators at the time,
Neil McLaren, was involved with the international panel that was convoked by the Spanish Republic to oversee the safe transport of works, looking after the works
during the Spanish Civil War. You mentioned that phrase of Manuel Azaña, the president of the Spanish Republic
in the 1930s, who said the Prado was more important,
you said it so eloquently, more important than the monarchy
and the republic combined. I mean, for Spaniards, the Prado really is
the most important thing in Spain. Well, probably, if you were
a supporter of Real Madrid, they would say Real Madrid
is more important than the Museo del Prado, but, yeah, it’s something…
quite special for a Spaniard. I would say that the Museo del Prado
is a very fine museum of Old Masters, but at least for a Spaniard
it’s something else. It’s these displays of memory, as Ramón Gaya, an artist, called it, and that’s how we celebrated it in the exhibition
that opened the bicentennial. The way the history of the country and the history
of the institution intertwined is something quite unique. And for many Spaniards, the Prado encapsulates
the best of our history and they are proud, too, that we exist. So, let’s move into our own times. This is the image of the Prado extension designed by the Navarre architect
Rafael Moneo and opened in 2007. I was working at the Prado at the time,
we were colleagues together. This was a very remarkable moment
for the Prado. It was a moment of expansion. It was a moment when the Prado was looking
to extend itself internationally. It was looking to create new facilities so that conservation
and scientific studies could be taken
to the very highest level of expertise. It was really a moment when the Prado
was expanding in every sense, and I think the construction
of the extension, actually, really lies at the centre
of this transformation of the Prado during the early 2000s. Yeah, well,
you have to think that the museum, as well as the country,
had been somehow isolated from… …the rest of Europe
during the Franco regime for 40 years. And I will say that the years
immediately after his death were not the best for the Prado either. I joined the Prado in 1997 and I can tell you that that was a museum in very bad conditions, in any way, but also in terms of the architectural,
the infrastructure of the museum. And it’s true that,
starting 10 years before 2007, around 1995-96, finally, the politicians realised that something had to be done
with the Prado. We were on the front pages
of the international media because there were leaks
in front of ‘Las Meninas’, every two weeks, and nothing worked. I remember that time
and it was sad and hard times. There was a revolving-door
director situation as well, wasn’t there? Being director was the most difficult… …the most risky position in Spain. It’s true, few of them lasted
more than 100 days. So, yeah, it was incredible. I remember, I was on the front page in the then Herald Tribune saying, “The Museo del Prado,
the sick museum of Europe.” So, that’s how the situation was then. But at the end, as I was telling you, the politicians realised
that something had to be done. The different political parties
signed a pact that they decided to put the museum aside
for any political quarrel. And they realised
that they have to transform the building and modernise it, and then that an addition
had to be added or had to be built. And after many problems, at the end, Rafael Moneo,
the Spanish architect, was the one who was chosen
for designing the extension. It was very important for us because finally we got
appropriate spaces for the laboratory, for temporary exhibitions,
for the conservation workshops, for the storerooms. I remember when Gabriele
joined the museum, every time that we did
a temporary exhibition, we had to dismantle the main gallery. The conservation workshops
were in galleries, they were occupying galleries and so on. So, yeah, this was important,
because it provided us with these spaces that allowed us to compete
with our colleagues abroad. And this was probably
the physical transformation of the museum, of the institution. There was also a very important
legal transformation of the museum. The Museo del Prado got its own law. It was the first cultural institution
in Spain that got a specific law,
it’s the so-called “Prado Law”. And this law gave the Prado
an autonomy that it didn’t have before. Thanks to this law,
we were able to raise funds. In the past, every penny
that we made from the tickets went straight to the Ministry of Culture
when the museum closed. And it gave the direction of the museum
more power and more autonomy, so it has been absolutely vital for us. Let’s come up to the centenary itself. And you will have noticed, all of you, that both Miguel and I are wearing
the 200 años badge, but it looks as if it was Moneo’s building that inspired the design
of the celebratory badge. Well, the… That was, as I said, my main duty
when I was appointed director, and we were thinking about
what we can do with not too much time and a shortage of money, I have to say. Well, probably many of you
are aware about the… …peculiarity of the Spanish
political situation right now, right now we don’t have a government, or we have a provisional government, and we have had two budgets in four years. So, let’s say that the political situation
doesn’t help at all. So, even so, you know… -No comment.
-I know that it might sound familiar to you for other reasons, but… So, anyway, we began to work and what we had was a very clear idea, that what was going to be the main idea behind the bicentennial was to remind
mostly the Spanish population that the Prado belongs to everybody. But everybody both in a geographical
and a social… sense, that it’s a museum
that is located in Madrid, but it’s not a madrileño museum, it belongs to every Spaniard. But also the idea
that it belongs to everybody, not just the elite or the middle class that is the kind of the profile of… …the average profile
of the public we have. And these have been the two main ideas. And according with them, we have designed
a very ambitious exhibition programme and many more activities. Well, these, the ones
that you have on the screen, it’s the exhibition that opened the bicentennial. In designing the exhibition programme, first I thought that
we had to start with an exhibition celebrating and telling the history
of the institution in these 200 years. It’s this exhibition,
Museo del Prado: A Place of Memory. It’s this idea taken from the sentence
by Ramón Gaya that you have there, and it was an exhibition
with around 160 pieces, following the history of the museum since it opened in 1819 till now, highlighting the milestones
in the history of the museum, but also showing the deep impact that the Prado has had
in the development of Western painting, how the “discovery” of the Prado
was fundamental for instance,
for the French Impressionists, or the relationship that Picasso
and other 20th-century artists have always had with the Prado,
Francis Bacon and so on. So, that was the exhibition
that opened the bicentennial, and then we thought of exhibitions that somehow could fill in the gaps
in the collection. As I have said before,
we are a wonderful museum, but we have some weak points. The two main ones are
the Quattrocento painting, for the reasons that I told you before, so we have done this exhibition
on Fra Angelico and the beginnings
of the Renaissance in Florence. We have a small but exquisite group
of paintings by Fra Angelico, so that was the core of the exhibition. It was curated by Carl Brandon Strehlke, we don’t have a specialist
on Quattrocento painting. Well, it has been a very successful one. And the other is this exhibition
that we have done in close collaboration
with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, about the golden ages
of Spanish and Dutch painting. It’s an exhibition that has been
curated by Alejandro Vergara. It closed yesterday
with more than 450,000 visitors. And it’s an exhibition that has… …it had not just an aesthetic purpose but also a political idea behind it. Spanish and Dutch painting have always been presented as opposites: one was done in a very, very Catholic country,
a monarchy, the other was in a mostly
Protestant country, a republic, with merchants instead of nobility. And we don’t ignore the many differences between the two schools of paintings, but instead of highlighting
the difference, we have highlighted the coincidence and telling that there is a common ground
between the two of them and, well, it has been quite interesting. You’ve got it on screen, the Fra Angelico. I think one of the things
that’s remarkable about the Prado is that the pictures are physically in excellent shape, as a general rule, and that’s largely because they’re
commissioned by the King of Spain, they stay in the Royal Palace, and then they move to the Prado,
and that’s it. There’s no more history than that,
in a way, so, the works have been either
very, very well looked after or sort of benignly neglected, which means that they’ve come down
to us in very, very good shape. And when a major restoration project
is undertaken, and you can see the Fra Angelico there, Fra Angelico came into the Spanish
Royal Collection in the 17th century, but the conservation of the picture,
I think, has shown the picture in all its magnificence and glory and you can see the colours
shining out there. This happens again and again when pictures are cleaned at the Prado because, generally speaking,
they preserve their skin, the Prado conservators
always talk about the picture’s skin, and that skin has been preserved, it hasn’t been removed
through excessive cleaning or through excessive cleanings
over history as works are passed from one owner
to another, from one dealer to another. And that’s definitely
one of the most exciting… I described visiting the Prado before
as a sort of sensual experience, and I think that sort of quality of the works conserving
all their characteristics, conserving their surface,
the richness of the colour, the quality of the brushstroke and so on, does make it a very, very
sensual experience. Should we look at one or two
of the other things that you’ve done for the bicentenary? Well, we have a couple of exhibitions
for the opening in the coming weeks that are the last two major exhibitions
scheduled for the bicentennial. One is on two female artists, Sofonisba and Lavinia. That’s… If the lack of Quattrocento paintings
and Dutch paintings is something that is very specific
to the Prado, the absence of female artists
is something that we share with almost every other museum
in the world, so we tried to somehow fill that gap
with this exhibition on Sofonisba and Lavinia. We have a strong collection of Sofonisba
because she lived in Spain, and she was one of the maidens
of Queen Isabella of Valois. We don’t have any work by Lavinia, but the idea is to show two women,
two female artists, who understood and practiced painting
in completely different ways. One was a non-professional painter,
Sofonisba, who focused herself mostly
on portraits and self-portraits, while the other, Lavinia,
was a professional painter who competed with her male colleagues and who practiced every genre,
including mythological paintings, and somehow she is the closest person
to Artemisia Gentileschi. Who we will be celebrating in March
here at the National Gallery. And the other exhibition
is on Goya’s drawings. Goya was by far
the most important Spanish living artist when the Prado opened in 1819. We have never done an exhibition
focused on his drawings, and we have 500 drawings by him, so this is going to be
a very special exhibition. He’s probably the artist that… …since the last crisis arrived in 2008, probably the artist that, among the
artists better represented at the Prado, the one that connects better
with our contemporary sensibility. And so you could realise,
we have noticed how he has become even more important than he was
in the last decade or so. That’s coming up very soon. I’m going to shoot ahead
to the touring element of the celebrations because you’re very conscious
that you’re a museum for all of Spain and you’re taking pictures
around the country. There’s a selection of works
that you’ll be showing in different capital cities
of the autonomous regions. Yeah, this idea of celebrating
the Prado as a national museum, well, I’ve already mentioned that we have more than 3,000 paintings
in deposits throughout the county, but the idea to reinforce this,
we thought that the best way to do so was taking a masterpiece
to every region in Spain. That means 18 stages in this project,
touring Spain. And we have tried to choose small cities instead of large cities. We have not visited Barcelona,
Valencia or Bilbao, but smaller places where, many times, their citizens have never had the chance to admire one of these masterpieces. And I have to say that it has been by far the most rewarding project
in the bicentennial. I strongly recommend you
to do something like this. Okay. I’m taking notes. Can we talk a little bit
about the future of the Prado, because the Prado is always in movement,
it’s always growing, it’s acquiring new collections,
but it’s also acquiring new buildings. And the Prado is becoming
not just a museum, but in the last 20 years, we’ve been talking about the Prado
as a museum campus. Yeah, well, the main project
in the horizon of the museum is completing the extension of the Prado with the addition of a fifth building. You can see the main building
by Villanueva, the extension designed by Moneo, the two of them are connected
through a path, then we have the administration office, the Casón del Buen Retiro
that houses the library, the archives, the brain of the museum,
the offices of the curators. And then, a few years ago, the government gave us this other building
that used to house the Army Museum. The Army Museum was transferred to Toledo
and this building was given to us. Both this new building
and the Casón del Buen Retiro are the only two remaining parts
of the former Palace of the Buen Retiro, a palace that was destroyed during the French invasion,
the Napoleonic invasion, and shortly afterwards. Well, there was an international
architectural competition. It was won by Norman Foster
and Carlos Rubio, and now I’m struggling with the government in order to get funds for financing it. The works are supposed to last four years, and we want to believe that with the coming budget
we will finally get the funds. It’s not a very expensive project,
but it’s important for us because, in the same way
that I told you before, that the Moneo extension provided the spaces for services, it didn’t provide spaces
for displaying more paintings, and we have at least
around 300 very high quality paintings in the storerooms
that should be displayed, and the place
for displaying these paintings is the so-called Hall of Realms. And the most amazing thing is that we have the paintings that
used to be displayed in that building, including the Hall of Realms that was the most emblematic part
of the palace, with five equestrian portraits
by Velázquez, ‘The Surrender of Breda’ by Velázquez,
plus many other paintings. So, the idea is to recreate that balance with the very same paintings
that used to be displayed there. And then one of the most,
I think, attractive aspects of Foster’s project is that he turns pedestrian the spaces
between the different buildings, so it will become a true campus. And he’s very respectful
with the historical part of the building, that are the two lower tiers. But then the upper one was added
in the very beginning of the 20th century, he totally dismantled it and created this very spectacular gallery, 85 metres long, 17.5 metres wide. That’s an open space that I’m thinking about moving
the temporary exhibitions there, but we’ll see. So, here’s some images of the interior as it now is,
on the left-hand side. This is the room for which Velázquez
painted his equestrian portraits and ‘The Surrender of Breda’, which is somewhere along there. Well, it’s called the Hall of Realms
because in the painting decoration they display the coats of arms of the different ranks
of the Spanish monarchy. And, yeah, there were the portraits of the king, the queen,
and his predecessors, the 12 scenes depicting battles
won by the Spanish monarchy, and the Twelve Labours of Heracles because the Spanish kings pretend
to be descended from Hercules as two of his works took place on the Spanish peninsula,
the ‘Peninsula Ibérica’, so that’s the reason why
they somehow connected with Hercules. Those of you who have studied
with ‘A Palace for a King’ by Jonathan Brown and John Elliott, that amazing piece of art-historical
and historical research dating from the 1980s, will know that that was
the sort of historical reconstruction of the Hall of Realms
and of the Palacio del Buen Retiro. Now here we are,
a generation and a bit later, looking to that being reconstructed,
it’s very remarkable. We have the building,
the interior decoration, and we have all the paintings,
it is a remarkable opportunity, and this is what you will be leading
in the next few years. When do you hope it will happen, Miguel? When can we come and celebrate
the opening of the Hall of Realms? Well, once it starts,
it’s supposed to last four years. It is also true that it is
a historical building. When you start, you don’t know
what you are going to find. But, yeah, I want to believe
that in five years… …we could. So, just as we’re celebrating
our bicentenary, we can jump on an EasyJet flight and come and celebrate your opening. I’d like to close with some of the
projects that we’ve done together, Miguel, recently and looking ahead to. There is a special relationship, actually, between the Prado
and the National Gallery, and there has been for many years. Our collections, in some ways, sort of plug into each other very nicely. We’ve got a strong group of Velázquez, we’ve got a very strong group
of paintings by Rubens, we have superb paintings by Titian,
often from the same sets. And it’s an opportunity to work together,
both at curatorial level but also in terms of research on the conservation history
of the collections. And just looking back,
this, in fact, is a show that happened both at the Prado,
slightly different, and at the National Gallery,
some of you may remember the Titian show we did here in the Sainsbury Wing in 2002. And then, very shortly afterwards,
it was shown at the Prado with the Prado kind of pulling out
all their big guns from their own collection. That was a very happy collaboration. And this show here, Miguel,
which you also curated. ‘Renaissance Faces’. Curated in London by our Deputy Director,
Susan Foister, For us, this partnership with the
National Gallery has been very important. As I said before, the Prado, for a while,
was an isolated museum. And, for us, when we began to realise that we had to open or we had to begin
to collaborate with our colleagues abroad, well, the National Gallery was the model
that we wanted to follow, and so I think this has been
a very fruitful partnership and I’m sure it’s going to continue. Most recently, of course,
we celebrated Lorenzo Lotto together. That was an exhibition that happened
at the Prado and then here. Again, you were curating the show, together with our own curator,
Matthias Wivel. A beautiful, beautiful show, focusing on the remarkable
suite of portraits that Lorenzo Lotto created
over the course of his career. It included that beautiful picture,
which, of course, is a Prado painting. And looking ahead… …this is a very remarkable project
that we are working on together. In the spring of next year, we are going to try and bring together
Titian’s ‘Poesie’, that remarkable group of late mythologies that Titian paints in the 1550s for the King of Spain. So sent mostly from Venice to Madrid and constitute
this extraordinary reimagining of the stories of the loves of the gods, with a sensuality and a, sort of,
level of painterly commitment that I suppose was really unprecedented. These pictures have been dispersed, and we’re hoping
to bring them back together in the spring here in London, because we share the two
that we have at the National Gallery, which are this one here and this one here, together with Scotland. The show will also be seen in Edinburgh. Then it will go to the Prado
where the ‘Venus and Adonis’ is. And, finally, the exhibition
will also go to Boston, where the remarkable ‘Rape of Europa’ is. That’s a remarkable project. It’s one that I don’t think
would be possible unless we’d had the close
working relationship we have had for the past 20 years
with the Prado Museum. It’s thanks to those special relationships between scholars, between curators
and between people, that means our institutions can do
very, very remarkable things. I’m looking forward to this hugely. I’m going to draw to a close,
but just before we finish, Miguel, you’ve been working at the Prado now
for about 20 years, you said. For 22. 22 years. And you’ve been director for nearly three. What is it that for you,
for you personally, is really special about the Prado? Well, I suppose that,
being as I am a Spaniard, this connection
that goes beyond the aesthetic, that makes this sort of attachment
between the institution, the country, and the richness of the collection, but that’s what makes it quite unique. I don’t see myself… I’m not… I was not a museum person,
I used to teach at the university, and I don’t see myself working
in another museum except the Prado. It’s the kind of collection
that I like to work with, and, yeah, it’s probably this emotional attachment -with the institution and its history.
-Very good. Miguel Falomir, thank you so much
for joining us today. -Happy birthday to you.
-Thank you.

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