The Reina Sofía National Art Center Museum (Spanish: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía MNCARS) is Spain’s national museum of modern art and contemporary art devoted to all artistic production from the beginning of the twentieth century to today.
Founded in 1990 after originally being created as an art centre, Museo Reina Sofía is among the culminating events of the Spanish transition to democracy, recovering Pablo Picasso’s Guernica as well as an outstanding representation of the international avant-gardes and neo-avant-gardes. In short, the founding of this museum means the recuperation of the experience of modernity previously missing from the Spanish context and the opportunity to try out new models of narration from a periphery that is neither lateral nor derivative, but is rather an entry way for new stories, historiographic models and artistic episodes that tip the balance of the orthodox canon of the main museums.
The museum was officially inaugurated on September 10, 1992, and is named for Queen Sofía. It is located in Madrid, near the Atocha train and metro stations, at the southern end of the so-called Golden Triangle of Art.
The museum is mainly dedicated to Spanish art. Highlights of the museum include excellent collections of Spain’s two greatest 20th-century masters, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Certainly, the most famous masterpiece in the museum is Picasso’s painting Guernica. The Reina Sofía collection has works by artists such as Eduardo Chillida, Pablo Gargallo, Julio González, Luis Gordillo, Juan Gris, José Gutiérrez Solana, Joan Miró, Lucio Muñoz, Jorge Oteiza, Pablo Serrano, and Antoni Tàpies.
International artists are few in the collection, but there are works by Francis Bacon, Joseph Beuys, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Robert Delaunay, Max Ernst, Lucio Fontana, Damien Hirst, Donald Judd, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Yves Klein, Fernand Léger, Jacques Lipchitz, Magritte, Henry Moore, Bruce Nauman, Gabriel Orozco, Nam June Paik, Man Ray, Diego Rivera, Mark Rothko, Julian Schnabel, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Clyfford Still, Yves Tanguy, and Wolf Vostell.
The Museo Reina Sofía program is three-fold: on the one hand, rethinking the function of the museum today; on the other hand, analysing the mechanisms for mediation between the public and the institution; and finally, proposing new contexts and stories through the collection and exhibits that lead to a new notion of modernity.
The institution no longer considers its task to be simply the transmission of culture. Instead, it works with other agents and institutions, creating networks and alliances that strengthen the public sphere and position Museo Reina Sofía as a reference of prime importance in the geopolitical South. Similarly, the public is no longer conceived of as a homogenous and uniform multitude, but rather as a collective, multiple agent that questions, rejects and forms opinions, that builds, so to speak, its relationship with the Museum through the singularity of the artistic experience.
The building that houses Museo Reina Sofía is comprised of two parts: the museum’s new wing, inaugurated in 2005 and built under the direction of the French architect Jean Nouvel, and the part that was originally built as the General Hospital, promoted by Philip II of Spain in the 16th century and later by Charles III of Spain. The original plans were drawn up by the engineer and architect Jose Agustín de Hermosilla in 1756 and continued by the Italian architect Francesco Sabatini during the second half of the 18th century. Today its appearance is far from the initial conception, due to the multiple modifications it has undergone despite the fact that it continued to be used as a hospital until 1968. It was then abandoned, leading to its deterioration during the subsequent years, until it was acquired by the Ministry of Education, in 1976, to be renovated and transformed into a cultural centre. In 1986, as a culmination of Spain’s transition to democracy, the Reina Sofia Art Centre (Centro de Arte Reina Sofía) was created. Four years later it would become a National Museum (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía), with the founding of the current museum.
The Museum’s continual development in terms of its collections and activities led to the decision to study the possibility of increasing its floor area. The studies performed ended in 1999 and, following an international call for bids, the architect Jean Nouvel was chosen to direct the construction of the new building. His plans, in addition to meeting the needs expressed by the Museum, called for playing an active role in the neighbourhood, intervening and transforming the urban surroundings, while generating new services and a public square. The creation of the latter, made possible by the arrangement of new buildings and the southwest façade of the current Museum, gave a new space to the city.
The origins of the MNCARS go back to the Museum of Modern Art (MAM), an institution created in 1894 and inaugurated four years later, which was located in the southwest corner of the National Library and Library Palace. It started with the works of nineteenth-century artists after Goya, although over the years new pieces were incorporated, many of them paintings of the twentieth century, which were gaining an increasing prominence in the collection and simultaneously relegating to the nineteenth century, which were increasingly seen as a burden for the image of modernity that was intended to give the museum. In this way, a group of artists, led by the architect José Luis Fernández del Amo, achieved that by Decree of October 9, 1951 the Museum of Modern Art was divided in two, the National Museum of Art of the 19th Century and the Museum Nacional de Arte Contemporáneo, without changing its location, with the Contemporary Art Museum with the lower part of the headquarters and the 19th with the Alta. Fernández del Amo was its first director, position in which he remained until 1958. However, in 1968 both collections were reunified, constituting with them the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art (MEAC), although the unification was ephemeral, since by Ministerial Order of February 5, 1971, the “Section of Art of the XIX Century” was created. of the Museo del Prado, which involved the transfer of 19th-century works to this museum, which were exhibited at the Casón del Buen Retiro since June 24 of that year, when the section was inaugurated, while the The pieces of the 20th century remained in the MEAC until its dissolution and its integration into the Reina Sofía.
The building is on the site of the first General Hospital of Madrid. King Philip II centralized all the hospitals that were scattered throughout the court. In the eighteenth century, King Ferdinand VI decided to build a new hospital because the facilities at the time were insufficient for the city. The building was designed by architect José de Hermosilla and his successor Francisco Sabatini who did the majority of the work. In 1805, after numerous work stoppages, the building was to assume its function that it had been built for, which was being a hospital, although only one-third of the proposed project by Sabatini was completed. Since then it has undergone various modifications and additions until, in 1969, it was closed down as a hospital.
Extensive modern renovations and additions to the old building were made starting in 1980. The central building of the museum was once an 18th-century hospital. The building functioned as the Centro del Arte (Art Center) from 1986 until established as the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in 1988. In 1988, portions of the new museum were opened to the public, mostly in temporary configurations; that same year it was decreed by the Ministry of Culture as a national museum. Its architectural identity was radically changed in 1989 by Ian Ritchie with the addition of three glass circulation towers.
Subsequently, the collection was moved to a building in the University City of Madrid, until in 1986 the Queen Sofia Art Center was created and an important part of the funds (especially those of the 20th century) were transferred to the current building. The ground floor of the building of the University City was then assigned to the National Exhibition Center and the rest to the Museum of the Spanish People, integrated since 1993 in the National Museum of Anthropology. Since 2004, after rehabilitation, the entire property serves as the headquarters of the Costume Museum.
Installed in the Sabatini building, former General Hospital of Madrid, the museum was officially inaugurated on May 26, 1986 as the Reina Sofía Art Center, in honor of Queen Sofia of Spain.
Its initial objective was to host temporary exhibitions (hence its name as a center and not as a museum), but two years later, through Royal Decree 535/1988, of May 27, it became a state museum, taking the name of National Museum Reina Sofia Art Center. It opened its doors to the public on September 10, 1992, with artistic funds from the MEAC. Its new status as a national museum led to a very active purchasing and loan policy, in order to offer a solid repertoire of Spanish art in connection with international currents.
An 8000 m2 (86,000 ft2) expansion costing €92 million designed by French architect Jean Nouvel opened in October 2005. The extension includes spaces for temporary exhibitions, an auditorium of 500 seats, and a 200-seat auditorium, a bookshop, restaurants and administration offices. ducks scéno was consultant for scenographic equipement of auditoriums and Arau Acustica for acoustic studies.
Along with its extensive collection, the museum offers a mixture of national and international temporary exhibitions in its many galleries, making it one of the world’s largest museums for modern and contemporary art.
The Reina Sofía Museum is divided, therefore, into two buildings, called Sabatini and Nouvel, plus two exhibition venues in the Retiro Park: the Palacio de Cristal and the Palacio de Velázquez, both built by the Spanish architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco. These last two venues host temporary exhibitions or special presentations by artists or works from the museum’s collection.
Chronologically, the collection is an extension of the Prado Museum, covering the period from the late nineteenth century to the present. Royal Decree 410/1995, of 17 March, rethought the state collections, marking the birth year of Picasso (1881) as the dividing line between the Prado and Reina Sofía, a criterion that has been questioned as too rigid and that is going being diluted by the latest initiatives of this museum, such as the incorporation of examples from Goya and Sorolla.
The trajectory of contemporary art in Spain, for decades ignored by private collecting and public bodies, explains that there are many gaps in the international repertoire of the museum, although it has some relevant examples of multiple artists. The collection takes contemporary Spanish art as a core and contextualizes it in international currents with examples of foreign authors, from Pierre Bonnard to Louise Bourgeois, emphasizing those linked to Spain, such as Robert and Sonia Delaunay, André Masson, Francis Picabia, Alexander Calder, Torres García or Rafael Barradas.
The inventory of artistic assets comprised, as of September 2014, 18,154 works, including 3408 paintings, 1654 sculptures and installations, 3148 drawings, 5502 prints, 3630 photographs, 346 pieces of video, film and audiovisual, 354 of arts performatives and intermediate and 98 of architecture, design and decorative arts. Of these, 1100 are exhibited, 6% .15 On the other hand, some pieces sold in deposit by third parties are also exhibited in order to complete the museum’s own funds.
In September 2014, the legacy that the collector Soledad Lorenzo plans to donate to the Museum was published, and consists of almost 400 pieces by important artists such as Antoni Tàpies, Txomin Badiola, Miquel Barceló, José María Sicilia, José Manuel Broto and Eduardo Chillida, among others.
Early twentieth century
The collection starts with Spanish authors of the turn of the century, such as Ramón Casas, Anglada Camarasa, Romero de Torres, Ignacio Zuloaga, Isidro Nonell, Joaquín Mir, María Blanchard, López Mezquita, Julio González, Santiago Rusiñol, José Clará, Francisco Iturrino, Julio Antonio or José Gutiérrez Solana (painter whose file was also acquired in 1999).
They are artists belonging to diverse tendencies, such as Modernism, Realism or the incipient Cubism, reflection of the variety of art of the early twentieth century. According to criteria more stylistic than chronological, the repertoire exposed ignored artists such as Joaquín Sorolla, whose absence was paliled with the oil Arrival of fishing, deposited by the Museum of Fine Arts of Asturias.
Contemporary international artists such as Pierre Bonnard, George Grosz, Medardo Rosso, Albert Marquet, Kandinsky, Joaquin Torres Garcia or Willi Baumeister are also present in the collection.
The background of works belonging to Cubism is of great importance, adding to the paintings of Picasso and Gris those of Georges Braque (Bottle and Fruits, 1911; Playing cards and dice, 1914), Albert Gleizes, Fernand Léger, André Lhote, Amédée Ozenfant and other authors such as Robert and Sonia Delaunay, as well as sculptures by Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz and Picasso himself.
The set of works ascribed to surrealism and related movements is also outstanding, and brings together a very diverse list of authors: Francis Picabia (of which there is an excellent representation, with paintings and drawings), René Magritte (Le secret du cortège, 1927; Grelots roses, ciels in lambeaux, 1930), Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Brassaï, Victor Brauner, Jean Arp, Paul Klee, Kurt Schwitters (Dadaist collages), Max Ernst or Joseph Cornell. The collection of works by the French artist André Masson is particularly noteworthy, in which the oils La famille en état de métamorphose (1929) or La sorcière (1942-43) stand out, as well as numerous drawings and sketches related to bullfighting and Spanish landscapes .
Gris, Picasso, Dalí and Miró
The Reina Sofia Museum has excellent collections by Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró, four Spanish artists who are among the most important of the 20th century and whose works constitute the mainstay of the museum.
The repertoire of Juan Gris from Madrid is singularly rich, despite having to be reunited in its entirety in recent decades, since his first work was not incorporated into the Spanish national collections until very late. It was La guitare devant la mer (The guitar before the sea), bought in 1977 for the MEAC.19 However, at the present time the author’s collection includes nineteen paintings, 20 among which are some of his best works, such as The bouteille d’anis (The bottle of anise) (1914), Portrait of Madame Josette Gray (Portrait of Madame Josette Gray) (1916) or the cited The guitar before the sea (1925).
Picasso’s representation in the museum centers on the 1930s, because although the artist’s collection has been gradually reinforced with several acquisitions, the presence of works from other periods is still limited. The earliest work of this artist who keeps the Queen Sofia is the Woman in Blue, 1901, belonging to the so-called «Blue Stage», followed by two paintings of Analytic Cubism (The fruit seller, 1910, and The Dead Birds, 1912 ), other surrealists, several of his expressionist style of the 1930s and some of his later years (three large canvases on the theme The painter and model, 1963). The collection consists of a total of 292 works, including 29 paintings, 18 and four of its main sculptures: Tête de femme (Fernande) (Head of a woman [Fernande]), considered the first cubist sculpture, Femme au jardin ( Woman in the garden), La femme au vase (La dama oferente) and L’homme au mouton (The man of the lamb), as well as drawings and engravings. Among the latter stand Sueño y mentira de Franco and La Minotauromaquia. However, he does not have any representation of his important work in the field of ceramics.
The most well-known work of the museum is undoubtedly Guernica, one of the most relevant and iconic works of modern art, which is exhibited along with multiple preparatory sketches and original photographs documenting its realization, taken by Dora Maar. The painting and some of the sketches were guarded for decades in the MOMA in New York and arrived in Spain in 1981, being initially deposited in the Casón del Buen Retiro, until the group moved to this museum in 1992. Picasso had painted this work commissioned by the Government of the Second Republic, to decorate the Pavilion of the Spanish Republic of the International Exhibition of Paris in 1937. Another work for the same pavilion, sculpture The Spanish town has a road leading to a star, by Alberto Sánchez presides over the MNCARS entrance.
Salvador Dalí’s remarkable collection of works is due in large part to the painter’s legacy, which bequeathed his property to the Spanish State, being distributed between this museum and the Dalí Theater-Museum of Figueras. Highlights masterpieces such as Portrait of Luis Buñuel, Girl in the window, The endless enigma and The great masturbator, as well as sculptures and drawings.
Along with Gris, Picasso and Dalí, the background of Joan Miró stands out. Initially it was integrated almost entirely by the works delivered in 1985 in payment as payment of the inheritance tax by his widow, Pilar Juncosa, and the rest of his heirs: 24 paintings and 203 prints.Almost all the paintings were dated between the years 50 and 1983, but later, by means of purchases, they were also entering works of his first time, around the 20s. Of the numerous works of this artist that conserves the museum, among which there are fifty five paintings, they stand out The house of the palm tree (1918), Femme et chien devant the lune (Woman and dog in front of the moon) (1936), or Le sourire des ailes flamboyantes (The smile with flaming wings) (1953). In the central patio one of his sculptures is exhibited, Oiseau lunaire (Moonbird) (1966).
Spanish art of the second half of the twentieth century: from abstraction to Pop art
The Spanish figurative art of the central decades of the 20th century has examples of artists such as Pablo Gargallo, Pancho Cossío, Francisco Arias Álvarez, Francisco Bores, Benjamín Palencia, Maruja Mallo, Alberto Sánchez, the surrealist Óscar Domínguez, José de Togores, Ángeles Santos Torroella, Joaquín Sunyer or Joan Ponç.
For its part, the abstract way of mid-twentieth century in Spain has works by sculptors Jorge Oteiza and Eduardo Chillida, the latter present with some large pieces and several tons of weight. Other authors are: Pablo Palazuelo, Pablo Serrano, Antoni Tàpies, Manuel Millares, Lucio Muñoz, Luis Feito, Rafael Canogar, José Guerrero, Esteban Vicente, Eusebio Sempere, Team 57, Gustavo Torner, Antonio Saura; later figurative figures, such as Antonio López García and Carmen Laffón, to finally culminate in the “Pop art” aesthetic, followed (with variations) by Equipo Crónica, Luis Gordillo, Eduardo Arroyo or Guillermo Pérez Villalta.
Spanish authors of recognized prestige, such as Miquel Barceló, Jaume Plensa and Juan Muñoz, along with young artists who develop their work in the last decades, complete the complete journey through contemporary Spanish art and its contributions to the world artistic scene.
International art of the second half of the 20th century
The presence of foreign artists has increased in the collections of the museum in a remarkable way, especially in regard to the second half of the twentieth century.
The mid-century fund includes works by Diego Rivera (Flower Seller, 1949), Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Henry Moore, Anthony Caro, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Francis Bacon (Lying figure, 1966), Yves Klein (sculptures) and paintings, including one of his famous Anthropometries), Nancy Spero, Jean Tinguely, Asger Jorn, Pierre Alechinsky, Pol Bury, Constant (the last four, members of the CoBrA group), Lucio Fontana (Concetto spaziale, La Fine di Dio, 1963 ) or Christo.
They are represented artists of different tendencies such as tachism (Jean Dubuffet, Henri Michaux, Wols, Jean Fautrier, Serge Poliakoff), Pop art (Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton, Alex Katz), Conceptual art (Joseph Kosuth, Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, Cildo Meireles, Marcel Broodthaers), abstraction in its various forms, Arte Povera (Mario Merz, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Luciano Fabro, Jannis Kounellis), Kinetic Art (Alexander Calder, Jesus Soto), Land Art or minimalism (Donald Judd, Robert Mangold, Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre). From this last movement there was the opportunity in 1988 to acquire, under very advantageous economic conditions, a substantial part of the Panza di Biumo collection, one of the best in the world, but Reina Sofía refused the offer. On the other hand, the North American abstract expressionism, in spite of its transcendence in the art after the Second World War, is one of the most poorly represented contemporary movements in the museum, due to its high price in the market. There are hardly any works by Mark Rothko, Sam Francis and Cy Twombly, three by Robert Motherwell (including one of his most outstanding series, Elegy to the Spanish Republic), and many others by Morris Louis (Vernal, Crown (Corona) and Lamed Beth, all of them belonging to his series Veils (Veils) -the last two bequeathed by his widow-, and nothing of Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning or Clyfford Still.
Late twentieth-century artists such as the Fluxus movement (Wolf Vostell, Nam June Paik, Robert Filliou, Öyvind Fahlström), Anish Kapoor, Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Richard Serra, Julian Schnabel (series of paintings To the people of Spain, 1991) , Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, Martin Kippenberger, Olafur Eliasson, etc., show the latest trends in contemporary art internationally.
Following a plan promoted by its new director, Manuel Borja-Villel, the museum presented on May 28, 2009 a reordering of its collections, the most profound in twenty years. His main novelties were the breaking of the purely linear criterion of the previous arrangement, the mixture of disparate authors forming thematic rooms, and the incorporation of numerous new and stored works, as well as engravings by Francisco de Goya, with copies initially provided by the Museum of the Meadow and posteriomente by the National Calcography. Goya is considered a precursor of several modern currents but was excluded from this museum due to chronological limitations.
The new arrangement starts on the 2nd floor of the Sabatini Building, with works until the 1930s. It continues on the 4th floor of the same building, with the art that goes from the postwar period to the beginning of the 60s; this section was again reordered in 2010. The route passes to the first floor of the new Nouvel Building, and concludes on the 0 floor of said building, with the most recent works.
At the beginning of its journey as a museum and art center, with the permanent collection not yet fully outlined, the exhibitions were a fundamental complement, from the moment they welcomed artists or trends scarcely or nullified. Over time, important anthologies have been celebrated that complete or complement what exists in the museum: thus, those dedicated to Antonio López in 1993, to Picasso in 2006, or the most recent of Dalí in 2013 have been especially important. , all of them with excellent reception by the public.30
The Reina Sofía Museum also houses a free access library specialized in art, whose funds amount to more than 100,000 books, 3500 sound recordings and nearly 1,000 videos. The library is located in the wing of the extension of Jean Nouvel, open to the outside by large windows, and with a large glass lamp of the Royal Factory La Granja presiding over the reading room.