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The Prado Museum Has the Most Important
Renovation in its History

This article from the TV5 web site was translated by Walt Ballenberger
The Madrid museum, the Prado, has just concluded the most important renovation
and modernization in its 200 year history, after five years of work which cost 152
million euros.

This prestigious establishment which houses the grand masters of Spain, from
Velasquez to Goya, and which receives two million visitors per year, has increased
its temporary and permanent exhibition space by 50% with the completion of this
work which was presented to the press on Saturday, March 31.
It is an “extraordinary” event for Spain, said the Minister of Culture, Carmen Calvo,
on Saturday, especially in light of the fact that the operation, managed by the
architect Rafael Moneo, was “very complicated”.

The project was conceived in 1994, but work did not begin until 2002.  The project
took two years longer than expected and the cost in the end was three times the
initial estimate.

It includes an ultra-modern underground extension and the placement of the
Jeronimos cloister in the back of the main building, which is called “Villanueva”.  
The public services (cafeteria, bookstore) and the temporary exhibition halls, as
well as the museum restoration workshop, will be reorganized.

The Jeronimos cloister has been completely demantled and restored, and the best
sculptures of the museum will be displayed there. This will allow for “less
congestion” in the main building which will henceforth hold permanent collection
pieces exclusively.  Its surface area has been increased by about 25%, indicated
Rodrigo Uria, president of the administrative council of the museum.

About 40 display rooms will be freed up in the “Villanueva” and the number of
paintings on permanent display, including the famous “Las Meninas” of Velasquez
or the “Maja desnuda” of Goya, will increase from 1,000 to 1,500, said Gabriele
Finaldi, assistant director of the Prado.

The new areas, which include 220,000 sq. ft. (22,000 sq m.) of space will not all be
open until the end of October, and additional work to house a library and an art
school will be completed at the end of the year in a nearby building called the
Cason del Buen Retiro.

The Prado owns about 8,000 paintings of which 1,000 are on display.  3,500
others are on loan to other Spanish art museums, and 3,500 are in storage, said
Mr. Finaldi.

The museum loans its paintings for foreign exhibitions and organizes a traveling
exposition in Spain, but it has no intention to follow the example of the French
Louvre museum, which has just reached an agreement to open a sort of “Second
Louvre” in the emeritus of Abu Dhabi.

The Prado “is not interested in that type of thing” and wants to above all
concentrate its activities in a sort of cultural “campus” in the heart of Madrid, in
parallel with the other great museums in the city such as the Reina Sofia or the
Thyssen-Bornemisza, stated Mr. Finaldi.

A large exhibition of the works of the Venetian painter Tintoretto is doing even
better than the Titian exhibition which had a record number of visitors in 2003
(400,000), he added.

Initially conceived as an establishment dedicated to the natural sciences, the
Prado, upon which construction began in 1785, finally became the “Royal Museum
of Painting” at the beginning of the 19th century.
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