Reina Sofía and Prado strike historic loan deal

Twenty Goyas will bolster rehang

MADRID. The director of Madrid’s Reina Sofía museum, Manuel Borja-Villel, has made a groundbreaking agreement with his counterpart at the Prado, Miguel Zugaza, that will see 20 prints by Goya go on long-term loan from the Prado to the Reina Sofía. The deal may be seen as controversial because, under the terms of a royal decree issued in 1995, the Prado owns Spain’s national art collection up to 1881—the birth of Picasso—while the Reina Sofía is custodian of art after that date. The Goyas going on loan (the series “The Caprices” and “The Disasters of War”) were made between 1799 and 1810, which not only stretches the spirit of the 1995 agreement, but reorders a central theme of Spain’s art historical conventions: that modernism began with Picasso. The loans will rotate from a wider selection of 162 works by Goya.

The plan emerged from Mr Borja-Villel’s decision, in early 2008, to reorganise the Reina Sofía’s collection. “When I was rehanging [the museum’s symbolists collection], I thought about the origins of Spanish modernity and how important [it] was not to limit the understanding of the Spanish history of art. Only then [did] I realise how crucial it was to have some works by Goya as reference,” he said.

“When I was convinced that we should have some of Goya’s works, the ministry of culture encouraged and supported my idea. Last month I had two meetings with Miguel Zugaza and we couldn’t have come to a better agreement,” he continued. “This is the starting point of a collaboration to use historical works from the Prado to explain modernity in a broader context. We are rewriting the history of art of this country and this cannot be done in solitude. The collaboration bringing Goya’s prints on loan will be the first—[with] more to come. Both museums are 100% open to future loans.”

As with Picasso’s Guernica, the works will still belong to the Prado. Mr Borja-Villel adds: “This agreement does not over-ride the…decree [separating the] collections; [that would] depend on the ministry of culture.”

Mr Borja-Villel regards Goya as key to the full understanding of 20th-century art.

“Goya’s influence on his contemporaries was minimal (he was eclipsed at the time by artists trained in the classical style of David and Ingres) but Goya explains better than any other the art of the 20th century. [His influence] can now be traced clearly from Manet through Picasso to Surrealism, Polke, the Chapman Brothers, Rona Pondick, Yasumasa Morimura, David Reekie and so on,” he said.

“Nobody expressed the ravages of warfare and the extremes of human experience like Goya; it made him the envy of Picasso, who, as a young artist, copied his signature over and over, as though to absorb the personality and abilities of his one supreme influence. And it is perhaps the wildly imaginative freedom of Goya’s late work that has kept him so contemporary.”

The Goyas will be hung in a newly refurbished gallery at the Reina Sofía, close to other modern Spanish painters such as Zuloaga, Gutiérrez Solana and Darío de Regoyos. “[On 28] May, when the new, completely rehung permanent collection will be [opened] to the public, Goya will be there,” says Mr Borja-Villel.

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