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Revisiting Moneo’s Prado. Photographs by Joaquín Bérchez Monday, October 30, 2017

The Museo del Prado is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the largest extension in the history of the Museum - designed by Rafael Moneo - with a commemorative publication that includes a text by Jorge Fernández-Santos illustrated with a photographic essay by Joaquín Bérchez, and a summary of the contribution made by the extension to the overall modernisation of the Museum initiated at that time.

In addition, the Museum is presenting an exhibition of photographs by Joaquín Bérchez, a photographer, architectural historian and senior professor of art history at the Universidad de Valencia.

To complete this celebration, the Prado is presenting ten, new 360-degree videos made with support from Samsung, a technological sponsor of the Prado. The videos show working areas in the extension that are not normally accessible to the public.

Revisiting Moneo’s Prado. Photographs by Joaquín Bérchez

Miguel Falomir, Director of the Museo del Prado; Rafael Moneo, arquitect and patron of the Royal Board of Trustees of the Museo del Prado; and Joaquín Bérchez photographer. © Museo del Prado

The Museo del Prado is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Rafael Moneo’s extension with a publication that offers a reflection on this project in terms of architecture and museology through a photographic essay by Joaquín Bérchez, a study by Jorge Fernández-Santos and an additional text that reveals the extremely positive transformation that the Museum has undergone over the past ten years. The publication Museo Nacional del Prado. Rafael Moneo, 2007-2017 is also intended as a tribute to that architect and to the dialogue he established with the Juan de Villanueva’s pre-existing building.

In addition, the photographic exhibition Revisiting Moneo’s Prado, on display until 28 January in the Jerónimos Cloister, offers a visual dialogue through 26 photographs by Joaquín Bérchez which echoes the dialogue established by Rafael Moneo with Villanueva.

Making use of a daring range of viewpoints, Bérchez’s photographic gaze explores materials and geometrical forms such as receding lines of brickwork and Cristina Iglesias’s woody bronze doors with the aim of reminding visitors that the discipline of architecture is an intrinsic and permanent aspect of a museum.

In these 26 digital photographs, printed on 320 gr. cotton paper, Bérchez’s camera moves through the Hall of the Muses, the main entrance lobby that links the old and new buildings, and the Cloister, capturing our attention with unique spaces, previously unnoticed architectural elements and effects of light.

The Museum’s extension

Inaugurated by Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain, Don Carlos and Dña Sofía, on 30 October 2007 the most important extension to the Museum undertaken in its almost 200 years of history opened to the public, designed and executed by the architect Raphael Moneo. At the same time the Prado embarked on a complete process of institutional renewal and modernisation which encompassed its scholarly activities, exhibition programme and communications strategy and made use of new management resources in order to do so. The importance of the Museo del Prado’s enlargement and modernisation is reflected in the unprecedented parliamentary agreement reached in 1995 which allowed this project to be undertaken independently of any subsequent changes in Spain’s political scenario.

New spaces

Rafael Mondeo’s design for the extension linked the Villanueva Building to a complex consisting of a new building and the restored Jerónimos Cloister - the new Jerónimos Building – through a wedge that acted as a visitor reception and distribution area.

On the outside the link between the old and new buildings is concealed by a landscaped platform planted with box hedges which draws attention to the Museum’s rear façade and creates an urban perspective that leads to the nearby Botanical Gardens. Secondly, the new brick structure built around the old Jerónimos Cloister is aligned with the façade of the Jerónimos church, leaving some of the cloister’s restored and reconstructed arcading visible from the outside.

The extension’s façade opens onto this new exterior space through a pair of monumental bronze doors comprising six moveable bronze panels which Rafael Moneo commissioned from the sculptor Cristina Iglesias.

The extension added a further 15,715 square metres to the Museum’s surface area (adding 50% to the pre-existing surface area of the Villanueva Building) and gave the Prado spaces and installations suitable for expanding both its internal activities of curating and caring for one of the world’s greatest art collections and its external activities in the form of visitor services and activities.

The development of the Museum’s cultural and exhibition activities has expanded enormously with the addition of the new, modern auditorium and new spaces for temporary exhibitions.

The temporary exhibitions

Starting with The 19th Century in the Prado, the exhibition that inaugurated the new spaces, the Museum launched a comprehensive exhibition programme; in the year 2016 it was able to present 13 exhibitions, more than triple the number than in the year prior to the extension’s opening.

Rooms A, B, C and D of the Jerónimios Building have housed exhibitions devoted to some of the most significant artists represented in the Museum, either in the form of retrospectives or through works that reveal specific aspects of their output: Goya in Times of War (2008), Rembrandt, History Painter (2008), Joaquín Sorolla (2009), Late Raphael (2012), The young Van Dyck (2013), El Greco and Modern Painting (2014) and Jheronimus Bosch (2016). In addition, the Museum has presented exhibitions on artists not represented in its collections such as Chardin (2012) and Ingres (2016). Other exhibitions have presented the collections of leading international institutions such as The Hermitage in the Prado (2011) and Treasures from the Hispanic Society (2017). The extension has also allowed for presentations of the work of 20th-century artists including Thomas Struth, Cy Twombly, Francis Bacon, Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Arroyo and Cai Guo-Qiang. Finally, in conjunction with the Jheronimos Bosch exhibition held in 2016 the Museum presented its first multimedia artistic installation, created by Álvaro Perdices and Andrés Ibáñez.

Visitor numbers

The organisation of more exhibitions, together with expanded and redesigned activities and services, has led to a 40% increase in visitor numbers. The year prior to the opening of the extension saw 2,165,581 visitors to the Prado, which by 2016 had risen to an unprecedented 3,033,754.

The number of Spanish visitors increased considerably following the opening of Moneo’s extension, passing from 36% to 60% of the total, while the number of international visitors went down (from 63% to 40%). However, these percentages have been levelling out since 2009. In 2016 visitors from outside Spain represented 61% of the total. The principal countries of origin for non-Spanish visitors are, in order, the United States, Italy and France.