Renovation of the Modern Art Rooms at the National Art Museum of Catalonia. 2014 — Museums

Renovation of the upper floor of the National Art Museum of Catalonia, which contains the collections of painting, sculpture, photography and decorative arts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Awards: Prize from the Association of Art Critics of Catalonia (ACCA) 2014

Institutional sponsor: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC)

Location: Barcelona, Catalonia

© Photography: Pepo Segura

Remodelling the modern art rooms at the MNAC was a real challenge. In total they constitute an area of 5,000 m2 of exhibition space and more than 1,400 exhibited works. All this inside a building full of columns, transition spaces, false walls and successive renovations. The intervention of the architect Gae Aulenti in 1980 seems to have wanted to hide the previous building, and offered very linear and monotonous routes. That is why our first movement was to clean it up, organize the distribution of space, radically change the lighting and update the routes so that they made sense in the context of the exhibition, while respecting as far as possible Aulenti’s contribution and the building’s history.

We aimed to create a dynamic rhythm for visitors. As such, we organized the pieces in the form of romantic opera in four acts, including an overture and an epilogue. The beginning of this path is always marked by a light box that explains the content of each act, distinguished by a different colour. The chosen colours are present in the original building (like dark brown), or in the works on exhibit, as is the case of the green upholstery on the furniture, or the red from the intimate portraits of the 19th century. The artificial lighting before the intervention was homogeneous and was directed at the architectural elements, so that the pieces did not stand out at all.

We wanted a more subdued and focused lighting on the pieces, a mise-en-scène that would allow visitors, in the different rooms, to rediscover an always epic Fortuny, an intermezzo before the light that pierces the coloraturas of a stained glass piece by Joaquim Mir, a fugue where their eye rediscovers Gaudí and Jujol, spaces filled with war by the crashing of bombs and an aria finale by Picasso that bids us farewell by reminding us that nothing has ended. Only then can we understand the extraordinary vibrancy of the art of this period, not only as a series of chronologically ordered works, but as an experience that incites visitors to enjoy and to reflect.

National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) Website