The National Museum revives its modern art section
The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, one of the iconic buildings of Montjuïc and Barcelona, is well-known for its collections of Romanesque and Gothic art, but not for its impressive collections of modern art.
The museum has been working since 2012 on a strategic project to restore its modern art section to its rightful place at the centre of national cultural and artistic life, and on the international stage. This work has culminated in a new presentation of the collection, which has been open to the public since last September.
The project has had the support of Obra Social de La Caixa as part of the effort to create a new museum area in Montjuïc which was set in motion last January with the setting up of the Montjuïc Muntanya dels Museus Association, which Fira de Barcelona is part of.
The origins of the modern art collection of the Museu Nacional has certain relationship with the world of trade fairs: it was set up with the Universal Exhibition of 1888 and has been closely linked to the history of Barcelona and Catalonia. It reflects the political, social, cultural, industrial and technological advances that have been made, as well as the Guerra Civil.
The collection consists of over 1,350 works by 260 artists, most of which have never been on display or are little-known, but which explain the origins of modernity and the role that art and artists played in the creation of the contemporary world. Besides the traditional artistic disciplines – painting, sculpture, drawing, engraving – the new presentation of the collections also includes posters, illustrations and caricatures, photographs and cinema, architecture and the decorative arts.
Most of the collection comes from the vaults of the museum itself, but there are also other collections, such as the Sagrada Familia (with works by Antoni Gaudí, among others) or the family collection of Josep Maria Jujol, and it occupies 4,000 square metres of the first floor.
A trail through history
The new presentation follows the route of modern art over the course of a hundred years, from the second half of the 19th century to the 1950s. A temporary exhibition dedicated to the period between 1950 and 1977 will be inaugurated in early 2015 in order to complete what would be a complete narrative of modernity.
The collection is arranged in four main areas and an epilogue: “The rise of the modern artist”, “Modernism(s)”, “Novecentismo(s)” and “Art and the Civil War”. The epilogue will deal with the immediate post-war period and the 1950s.
The galleries devoted to modernism will acquire special relevance in the new presentation, because this movement came to influence every field of culture, and Barcelona was one of Europe’s leading exponents. The importance and number of the works by Gaudí, Jujol and other architects of the period should be emphasised, along with artists such as Ramon Casas, Santiago Rusiñol, Isidre Nonell, Carles Casagemas and Picasso, who are complemented by an important number of Spanish and European artists, from Regoyos to Zuloaga, and Sisley to Eduard Munch.
The modernist collection of the Museu Nacional is without doubt a reference point for this movement. Other movements are also represented, such as magical realism, social art and surrealism. The complex nature of the avant-garde is present in the form of artists such as Manolo Hugué, Juan Gris, Olga Sacharoff, Otto Lloyd, Barradas, Torres-García, Gargallo, Julio González and Salvador Dalí
Besides this, there are also the artists and creators who were linked to surrealism, rationalism and other movements of the thirties, like GATPAC (Group of Architects and Technicians for the Progress of Contemporary Architecture) and ADLAN (Friends of New Art). The galleries that deal with the civil war are especially interesting because of the size of the museum’s collection. The traditional arts give way to new forms of expression: posters, photography, photo collage and the emergence of new mass media such as cinema and advertising.
The post-war years are very well represented by the Dau al Set group. It can be seen as a new beginning, a sign that the transformative role of art never dies.