the large exhibition that the Miró Foundation has inaugurated this Saturday and that will remain open until March 25 next year, has cost three years of work by hundreds of specialists. Its logistics is so complex and delicate that few visitors imagine it when they see so much beauty concentrated in a building that was built so that Miró’s work speaks for itself. The idea came from Rosa Maria Malet, director of the Miró Foundation, who convinced the directors of the Tate Modern in London and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. “Miro’s friendliest work has been widely publicized, but we think that the time has come to show the world its political and social commitment, its indignation at wars and injustices, its Catalanness and its resistance against the dictatorship.” Malet speaks in the still empty rooms of the foundation, that the day General Franco died, he did not annul his actions and inaugurated an exhibition as if nothing had happened.
Designed elbow to elbow by the architect Josep Lluís Sert and Joan Miró , the beautiful white building was erected on the mountain of Montjuïc, with panoramic views over the popular, working and republican Barcelona. See those rooms as white and empty as when they were built is a unique feeling. “Every time Miró came without warning, he noticed how we had the blinds, because he was afraid that so much natural light would affect his paintings,” recalls Malet. The day the artist saw how Malet had ordered and cataloged his letters, drawings, notes and personal papers, he said: “You have stripped me.”
Part of those personal documents and preparatory drawings, which almost never appear to the public, accompany the exhibited works. This fund is indispensable for any specialist and scholar of Miró’s work. “As we are the only one in the world, our small and specialized foundation has so much international prestige that it makes things a lot easier when working together with major museums such as the Tate Modern in London, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Pompidou of Paris, the Guggenheim of the United States and with private collectors, “says Teresa Montaner , curator of the foundation and one of the curators of La escalera de el evasion .
For more than two years, Montaner and his team have dealt with invisible work.
“Make requests for loans to museums and collectors, wait for them to say yes or no, have prepared alternatives, locate the works in private hands … Then, the legal procedures and permits, because in state museums involved several ministries and administrations . We also control that the insurance policies are adjusted to the value of the works in the market and that cover all contingencies: damage, theft, disasters and natural disasters, in addition to the security requirements of each museum and each individual, “he says. . The diaspora of Miró’s work throughout the world makes everything difficult, because each country has its laws and regulations. That diaspora is explained because during the Second World War Miró only had one dealer in the United States and there many of his works remained. Later, he was a cursed artist in Franco’s Spain but admired and consecrated abroad.
Once negotiations and procedures have been completed, the most delicate operation begins, which is to coordinate transportation. Meanwhile, the exhibition team removes and stores the exhibited works to make room for those who will arrive. The rooms are painted, the lights are reoriented and false walls are raised so as not to have to move those large Miró tapestries that are the jewels of the permanent exhibition. Specialists and architects simulate the new exhibition in computers and mark to the millimeter the exact place where each painting will be hung and each sculpture will be placed. “
Where we temporarily wall the tapestry goes the triptych The hope of the condemned to death , which Miró painted in 1974, when the execution of Puig Antich. In this room will hang from the ceiling Burnt fabrics , which will be seen on both sides and are another example of his art more violent and outraged, “says the director. They also design the location of the panels and panels with the explanations of each work. Everything is planned, nothing can move one iota, and each change requires the permission of the owners of the works, which cede on the condition that they are displayed on that wall and not on another.
Another professional comes to that meeting and suffers. He is responsible for the exhibition department
Jordi Juncosa . It depends on the most complicated and delicate, which is the planning, logistics, transportation, unpacking, placement of the works and repeat the entire cycle when the exhibition is over and go to Washington in March next year. “The most complicated are the transatlantic air travel and the customs regulations, ministries and various administrations. There is too much bureaucracy, officials and paperwork, “sentence.
In addition to suffering for any bureaucratic mishap, it coordinates special transports. “Transportation by land is easier. The trucks are sealed and have mechanisms that control temperature and humidity so that the works do not suffer sudden changes and their health conditions are the same as in London, New York or Barcelona, ”he says. These vehicles are equipped with special boxes with shock absorbers that absorb vibrations and carry alarms for detection and automatic fire extinction. As if that were not enough, “the packaging is made and painted with non-flammable materials that prevent the filtration of water, humidity and the formation of fungi”, adds Juncosa. The packaging of each museum has its own color . In the case of the Miró Foundation, it is that red so unique of the artist. Those of the Tate Modern are of a beautiful blue.
Each box has labels and codes that indicate how many hours later it can not be opened and if it must be done before the owner’s representative. “The works are distributed in several trucks to diversify the risk and up to a certain limit of the value of the frames that go in each vehicle. In each one, two drivers travel and the restorer of the museum or the individual who lends them “. Arrived at their destination, some boxes go to the reserve store of the foundation and others are arranged in the room where the works they contain will be exhibited. After the mandatory hours or days for the fabrics to acclimate, the restorer of the foundation and the representative of the owner intervene.
Then comes one of the most exciting moments.
The workers, equipped with white gloves, unseal and open the boxes and disassemble the rigid polyurethane protectors. Then remove the foams, sponges, plastics and soft special fabrics that protect the canvases. Once this is done, each table is arranged with great care on the restoration table. Elisabet Serrat is the restorer of the foundation. Receive emails from colleagues in the Tate Modern and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. In the envelope there are very detailed conservation reports of each piece. Equipped with a magnifying glass with a flashlight, see every millimeter of each work. “The waves, the dust, the cracks, the old restorations …”, he enumerates. Record each detail in a general photograph, in more specific ones and in some sketches. “This is how the story of each painting , its travels and the museums it goes through is written.”
The protocol will be repeated in reverse when the exposure ends and each frame returns to its owner. “If there were any change, we would detect if it was originally, in the transfer or during the loan,” he says. As they are contemporary works they pose fewer complications than the old ones, “because with the passage of time all the oils are drying up and cracking. It is very rare that a painting comes badly of origin, because in this case it does not travel anymore, “he says. After signing the minutes of the state of each piece and filing the copy, check the room and the location points. “The environmental conditions, the temperature, the intensity of the light …”.
It’s the time for the truth. The person in charge of the exhibition gives the last instructions, and the workers begin to hang the painting. “They are specialists in fine work,” he says while holding his breath. There is a reverential silence among the specialists. But everything is so programmed and scheduled, that the operation lasts a few minutes. A tense relief goes through the room. “My work ends when the exhibition opens. I suffer, but it makes up for working with such beauty, “confesses the head of the operation. He is right, because the farmhouse looks splendid and safe.
It is one of the most important works in the history of art and comparable to a Da Vinci. Of such an incalculable value, it scares to hear the price stipulated by insurers. “In the United States and Great Britain, the State takes over and is responsible for insurance, but in Spain it only covers that contingency in public museums and the law does not include private institutions and foundations,” laments Rosa María Malet, who talks about art never talks about money. As he almost never talks about the time they stole Miró paintings that were happily recovered. Not one that was lost forever when the 1937 exhibition in Paris was dismantled. Nor of the tapestry that succumbed under the rubble of the Twin Towers of New York that fateful September 11.
The farmhouse is one of the great attractions of the exhibition.
It has only been three times in Barcelona and it will take many years to return. Miró began painting the painting in the summer of 1921 in Mont-Roig del Camp (Tarragona) and finished it the following year in Paris. It was when he went to the countryside, took off his shoes to feel the earth that gave him energy and painted natural. “It is a mythical painting that Miró mythologized even more because he always spoke about it and marks a before and after between his art with Catalan roots and his surrealist phase. Here is all his rural world and everything he loved: farm implements, the garden, tomatoes, a snail, an ant, some spikes … “, recites Malet while recalling the emotion of the painter, who only managed to see him in his city when he was already nonagenarian. Before it was his friend Ernest Hemingway, with whom Miró boxed in Paris. The writer bought it after a dice game for a ridiculous price because it was too big for the apartments in the United States. So much loved that picture, that a house in Havana was built identical to the farmhouse. Only death separated them, and his widow donated it to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
The ritual and the reverential silence are repeated every time other works such as Cabeza de campesino catalán (1924), the series of Wild paintings (1936) or El segador , exhibited in 1937 in the pavilion of the Spanish Republic in Paris next to the Gernika de Picasso Or Tierra labrada (1923), which is said to never return to Europe. “We have combined the protest works with other more lyrical and poetic works to talk to each other,” says Malet.
That is why the famous Constellations and their emblematic stars contrast so much with May of 68 or with those three sculptures that the foundation almost never exhibits and they are titled Their Majesties . Convicted and confessed Republican, Miró made them with remains of agrarian tools in 1974, when the then princes of Spain were his neighbors in Mallorca and spent the summer in a house below the artist’s residence. Beyond, the torn series of lithographs Barcelona , which he made during the Second World War. There are only five complete collections in the world, and one is from the foundation.
With almost everything ready for the inauguration
the rooms welcome other foundation specialists who do those works that some visitors do not observe. This is the case of Magda Anglès, responsible for the edition of the catalog, which is published in Catalan, Spanish and English and written by several specialists in Miró. “But it is not a book for specialists, but informative, because we have included original documents, letters, unpublished writings and drawings of the foundation’s fund.
All this allows us to see that Miró was a city man, very methodical and very routine, who idealized the countryside, “he says. Its greatest difficulty has not been to ensure reproduction rights, but to translate the titles of the paintings into several languages. “In addition to the differences and nuances between Castilian, English and Catalan, when he titled his paintings in French, he resorted to surrealistic automatic writing, and we searched for translators specialized in lexicon and artistic vocabulary”. In terms of graphic quality, he has opted for photomechanical printing, which elevates it to the category of handicraft work. “We had not published such an important catalog for many years,” he summarizes.
When Miró created his foundation in Barcelona against all odds and in adverse political circumstances, he wrote
“The foundation is an open door to the future, an international cultural exchange with my absolute faith that Catalonia will play a great role in the world of morning”. True to this legacy, the communication department launches a system of new technologies for visitors that until now has only been used in London and New York. They are iPads, iPhones and smart reading and QR reading systems that when they focus on each frame have access to images, texts and related links. “For this, we have negotiated with Wikipedia the updating of the texts on the works of Miró and a system that recognizes the language of each mobile and translates them automatically,” says Mercè Sabartés.
The pedagogical department also develops specific activities for the schools that visit the exhibition. And another department prepares a sample of the protest posters that Miró made during the last years of the Franco regime and that will be seen in the Museum of History of Catalonia. All this is complemented by a guided tour of Miró’s Barcelona. This route, which can be traveled on foot or by public transport, passes through his home, his school when he was a child, the drugstore where he worked as an accountant, the academies where he studied and was forged as an artist, the first gallery where he exhibited …
Everything is in the heart of the historic and ancient city, from which he took so many natural notes.
The visit continues through the Gran Teatro del Liceo, where he went with his friend and composer Frederic Mompou. And for the historic Siete Puertas restaurant, which they then went to dinner with their wives and where they keep their favorite menu, the table where they sat and displayed drawings and dedications that Miró made for the establishment. Another unique space is the Majestic Hotel, where he stayed and, while his wife was taking a nap, he relaxed in a living room in front of a painting by the modernist Modest Urgell. Do not miss in that visit the mosaic he made on the Rambla “to welcome those who arrive in Barcelona by sea,” he said. Neither the great sculpture Woman and bird that raised “to welcome those who arrive by land”. Nor his mosaic at the airport “to welcome those who arrive by air”. Now, Barcelona welcomes that universal artistic heritage that has arrived by land, sea and air.