Two centuries can bring a lot of baggage but as director of Spain’s National Prado Museum, Miguel Falomir has turned unpacking the past into its own form of fine art. Marking its bicentennial this year, the museum has much to celebrate: its dusty reputation as Spain’s most parochial museum has been swept away, reframed instead as active and outward-looking.
In 2017, to coincide with World Pride festivities in Madrid, an exhibition exploring the historical representation of sexual identity ruffled conservative feathers. This year the curator’s spotlight is on under-represented female artists such as Lavinia Fontana and Sofonisba Anguissola, while a 70-plus-hour archive of audio-visual material, dubbed “the Prado’s Netflix”, was launched on its website.
“This is a modern masters museum but that doesn’t mean we have to be strictly traditional or frozen in the past,” says Falomir. In 2018 about 2.9 million people visited the museum, prompting Falomir and his team to rethink ways to sustain audiences. “The era of the blockbuster exhibition is coming to an end,” he says, calling the format “repetitive, ridiculously expensive and limited by a reluctance from museums to lend out their masterpieces”. Instead he has expanded on-staff expertise, widening the curatorial perspective and acumen of its prestigious restoration department.
“Every generation is tasked with building bridges between the collection and society,” says Falomir. “This comes from finding new subjects and new sensibilities, something which I will continue as director.”
Public development and security.
“Brings a wealth of experience.”
“I trust him. Despite our tussle for government funds, our finances are in shape and it’s mostly because of him.”
“Capable, professional, indispensable.”
“New and absolutely necessary to the future of the museum.”
Infrastructure and maintenance.
“His reputation at the National Heritage Institute preceded him; he does amazing work.”
“She has a unique skillset and sensibility towards the daily life of our museum, which helps her navigate each challenge.”
Deputy director of administration.
“When the government offered me the position, I told her I would only accept if she stayed on.”
Spanish Renaissance painting.
“Her commitment to giving women more visibility has seen her curate recent female-focused exhibitions. She is also one of the world’s leading experts on El Greco.”
Deputy director of conservation and research.
“We have been friends for 30 years. He’s extremely proficient at his job.”
“Ana has completely transformed the Prado’s education department, which was once one of our weakest points.”
Restoration and technical documentation.
“He’s helped turn our conservation department into one of the best.”
“She keeps the everyday machinations of the museum ticking; her department controls and co-ordinates our exhibitions. Without her work it’s hard to even imagine the museum functioning.”
José Manuel Matilla
Conservation of drawings and prints.
“As the chief curator of all works on paper he has a curious sensibility towards other forms of expression.”
Head of conservation of sculpture and decorative arts.
“Leticia always finds bright ways to make these pieces speak.”
Conservation for 19th-century paintings.
“Running the largest conservation department in the museum, he has a lot on his plate – but he manages quite well.”