It's 9.15 in the morning. Is Thursday. There are still 45 minutes left before hundreds of people swirl before the doors of the Prado Museum. But inside the museum there is already a frantic activity. Everything must be ready to receive visitors. We have an appointment with four pinacoteca workers: three active and one already retired for a decade. They do not usually appear in the media, although one of them was the protagonist a few weeks ago: he went to Oviedo to receive, together with Javier Solana and Miguel Falomir, the Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities, on behalf of the Prado workers . Is Laura Fernández, head of vigilantes. «It was a tremendous joy. All my family is from Asturias. It made me very excited. Representing all museum workers is a tremendous pride ». They accompany you on our appointment Celia Guilarte Calderón de la Barca, head of institutional relations; Javier Sainz de los Terreros, digital communication management technician, and Luis Lapausa, who worked fifty years in the Prado. He entered in 1960, with 15 years, as an elevator operator, then became a room guard and ended up in the carpentry area.
On Tuesday, the Prado turns 200. We want to know what they think about him who best knows him. Luis is greeted at each step by former classmates. He brings with him, as if it were a treasure, his Prado worker card, issued by Diego Angulo in 1970. He entered thanks to his aunt, who worked there. Years later, three daughters followed in his footsteps: Charo is today head of the media relations service. Luis confesses that it would have made him more excited to work in the Army Museum. But over the years, like everyone else, he came to love the Prado. Of course it was other times. When there was a snowfall or it rained a lot, remember, the museum was closed. If he was caught talking at work, he was punished by making guards. And not everything shone like gold: «I've come to see rats in the meadow».
From the Casa de Socorro to the police station
Have many anecdotes to tell. Some in Velázquez's elevator, which worked with crank. "When I carried a lot of weight, you had to stop before, because if it didn't sink," he explains. It was about to happen with Doña Sofía and her family "on board". Fortunately, there was no misfortune. On another occasion, a visitor kept pointing his foot. Since I didn't know English, I didn't understand him. «I thought something was wrong and I took him to the Relief House. The doctor laughed. I was looking for "The child of the thorn", a sculpture of the museum ». Or the day he "hunted" a young American on the back of the eagle of "The Apotheosis of Claudius," another sculpture. They all finished in police station and in the courts.
Laura Fernández (32 years old) went to a physiotherapist and radiodiagnostic technician, but at age 18 she tried as a room attendant … and that's where she is today. For two years, as head of guards. «I took the taste. It was a joy to arrive in the mornings, before the opening to the public, and walk around the rooms alone, watching the works in silence. I really enjoyed it. Now too. When I do the search in the morning, I walk alone in all the rooms in complete silence. There are about 120 guards in the museum. They are awarded a fixed room a month, but there are four that change surveillance every day because they are more stressful and require more work: room XII of "Las Meninas", that of Bosco, that of black paintings and "The executions" , of Goya, and that of «Las Majas», also of Goya.
Celia Guilarte Calderón de la Barca (38 years old) left the National Sculpture Museum of Valladolid, where he worked ten years, for the Prado. It arrived a year and a half ago. «The fact that a museum is not in Madrid marks a lot. He is credited with the provincial museum label. The change of scale is considerable. There is a very significant qualitative and quantitative leap. Dora Maar said: "After Picasso, only God." And, after the Prado, where are you going? It has its own brand, which I even think exceeds the Spain brand». Would it be possible to close a Prado room as Beyoncé and Jay-Z did in the Louvre with the "Gioconda"? «If it is done outside opening hours to the public, I don't see any problem. But the museum does not want to abuse icons. It is measured a lot where “Las Meninas” appear so as not to suffer a “Gioconda effect”. There will come a time when the Gioconda becomes independent from the Louvre ».
Javier Sainz de los Terreros, a 37-year-old from Pamplona, has the mission of spreading the museum through the digital media. «When I came to Madrid, I used to visit the Prado. For me it was a goal, aim as high as possible. Working in the Prado sometimes gives a bit of vertigo. It carries a great responsibility. I feel that there is a great pride, respect and admiration through the Prado in every corner of the world ». It is the visible head of the museum in the social networks, where there is an increasing demand from the public. The Prado has 600,000 followers on Instagram; 1,250,000, very active, on Twitter, and a million more on Facebook. 35%, says Javier, are from Latin America. But there are also many lobbyists: “It happens as with football, that everyone has a coach inside. Everyone has a Prado director inside and he tells you how he would manage the collection if he were a director ».
Very diverse audiences
As for the public, Laura Fernández says that today there are more koreans than japanese and middle-aged women are, in general, the most interested in art. What is the weirdest thing you have ever seen? One guy, he warns, «has already undressed several times before works by Goya and Dürer. He does it as a performance and uploads it to social networks. But I've also seen people praying before the Cristo de Velázquez». Sainz de los Terreros points out that, with social networks, «the potential public of the Prado has exploded. It is global. It is not necessary to come to the museum, although the experience of seeing the works is always much better. The museum concept has been expanded. It is, of course, the building and the collection, but also the YouTube channel, with all the knowledge that the museum treasures; the website, social networks … There are many ways to enjoy the museum ». To Luis all this dreams to Chinese: «In the 60s, the visitors were mostly Germans, Italians and French. Very polite. More men were the Americans. There were very few Asians. There was not as much public as today. Just to see "Las Meninas", which was then alone in room 15, next to a mirror ».
And the Prado has changed a lot. Remember Lapausa that the burning chapels of directors they were made in the museum, in the crypt of the Goya roundabout. Beruete's, with Cristo de Velázquez presiding over the coffin. This work, says Luis, was covered with a curtain during Holy Week. What work would you steal from the Prado? Celia, "Epimeteo and Pandora", two small sculptures of El Greco; Laura, "The passage of the Styx lagoon" by Patinir. Javier doubts: «I would stay with the devotional virgins of Gérard David. They are very delicate ». Luis comes up: «Las Meninas». Remember that they stole a painting in the Prado. "It seems to me that it never appeared." And have you witnessed the attack on any work? Laura comments that on a Three Kings Day she was terrified: «I was watching the room Goya's black paintings. Suddenly I saw an umbrella flying through the air. An Asian visitor had escaped. He gave one of the works. It was minimal damage. The restaurateurs fixed it. My whole body was shaking. It was «The pilgrimage of San Isidro».
What should improve in the Prado? For Guilarte, «we have a great virtue: all the companies that support us continue with us, they have a great fidelity. Our handicap, perhaps, is to be able to continue increasing collaborations. HThere is still much to do in sponsorships. All recruitment involves a huge effort. They are months and months of negotiations. Companies don't give you money without expecting anything in return. Another great challenge is to publicize the transfer of spaces. It is not something elitist. It is a joy to invest in a private visit to the Prado. It has been doing since the 19th century. We must take away fear and respect from people. The Prado imposes a lot ».
Laura Fernández points out that visitors see «a little messy museum tour. Many people come in asking where to start, what is the route … They find it difficult to locate. There has been talk of changing the numbering of the rooms. Goya, for example, is on all three floors ». Luis would have liked the painting of the 19th century to have remained in the Cason. What do you think of the project of Kingdom Hall? «As the Prado continues to grow, it will remain with the Cibeles. It's already too big, ”Luis warns. For Celia, on the other hand, «it has an absolute historical justification. You have the container and the content ».
As for the entry of contemporary art in the Prado, Javier says that “there have been very interesting exhibitions in which there has been dialogue between the contemporary and the Prado collections. It has always been done in the museum. Picasso copied Goya, Goya to Velázquez… I'm agree". «I like it a lot, it works very well, but it has to be justified. It is seeing classical art in another way. You see Fra Angelico's floors and you see Pollock. We are contemporaries Contemplating with our eyes a classic work is very difficult. It is much harder to understand classical art than contemporary art, despite what people think, ”adds Celia.
The female quota is not fulfilled, nor by far, among artists. But what about the template? There are more women than men, but in 200 years there has been no museum director or president of the Board of Trustees. “It is part of the Prado's challenges to have realities that until recently were not counted,” says Javier. «It is a reflection of society. Nor are there women candidates for the presidency of the Government, ”says Laura. Luis remembers that at the time he was not allowed to have vigilant women in the Prado. Today, it has completely changed: of nine heads of vigilantes, eight are women.
There are those who criticize that museums have become theme parks. What do you think? «I was very impressed by a statement from Frances Morris, director of the Tate Modern, saying that the museums had lost their superiority and competed with the rest of the leisure spaces. I believe that, without losing the essence of what it is, museums have to meet the demands of society. With temperance and with the ground, and taking small steps. Without losing the dimension. That they do not become theme parks, ”reflects Celia Guilarte.
In what the four coincide is in highlighting the commitment and delivery of all the people who work in the museum. They feel they are part of something very important. That is already 200 years old.
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