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9.6.04

European Museum Watch

From a little article (Le musée Thyssen-Bornemisza s'agrandit et accueille 220 nouveaux tableaux, June 8) from TV5 (my translation, with links added):

MADRID—On Tuesday, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza presented a new building of 8,000 square meters [86,112 square feet], bringing together 220 paintings from the private collection of art patron Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, including works of Monet, Renoir, Gauguin, and Picasso. This collection "Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza," named for the widow of Baron Hans Heinrich von Thyssen-Bornemisza, will be loaned for 11 years to the Madrid gallery that already houses the historic collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family, purchased by the Spanish government in 1993 for $338 million. The expansion, at a total cost of €44 million [$53.8 million] to the Spanish government, according to the Minister of Culture, Carmen Calvo, allowed the exhibition space to be increased by 50%, with 16 new rooms, and as many as a thousand paintings to be shown to the public.

The collection put together by the Spanish woman Carmen Cervera, fifth wife of Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, is very similar in content to the historic collection, with 17th-century Dutch painting, international and especially American 19th-century painting, and an Impressionist and post-Impressionist group," said Tomas Llorens, the museum's chief curator. The key works now shown to the public include important works of Picasso (Les Moissonneurs [1907]), Monet (Charing Cross Bridge), Renoir (Le Champ de Blé), Degas (Chevaux de course: l'entraînement), Gauguin (Allées et venues, Martinique and Mata Mua). It was because of this last canvas, painted by Gauguin in Tahiti in 1892, that Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza says she became an "art collector."
From Dominique Meunier's article (Le Musée Toulouse-Lautrec d'Albi rafraîchit son enceinte médiévale, June 4) in Le Monde:
With 160,000 visitors each year, the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi is one of the region's most popular. Residing in the Episcopal Palace of La Berbie, near Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, it has some exceptional works, including two paintings by Georges de La Tour (Saint James the Lesser and Saint Jude Thaddaeus, both from around 1615 to 1620), but what draws the crowds, certainly, are the works of native son Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, born on November 24, 1864, a few steps from here in the Hôtel [Château] du Bosc. Thanks to a donation from his parents (Count Alphonse and Countess Adèle) to the city, the museum owns a representative range of the work of the painter of La Goulue: more than a thousand works, including 215 paintings, early adolescent sketches up to a jury at the University of Paris, his last canvas painted in 1901.
Rooms in this medieval building were adapted to house the collection, but since 1922, no renovation has taken place and now that obsolescence has become a crisis, since there is no air conditioning on the upper floors, no handicapped access, and so on. So, some work needed to be done, but how does the museum reconcile the responsibility to preserve a splendid example of medieval architecture with the need to create a modern museum space?
When the work, begun in 2002, is completed in 2007, the museum's exhibit space will have expanded from 2,900 square meters [31,215 square feet] to 4,200 square meters [45,209 square feet]. The total cost is estimated at €21.3 million [$25.8 million]. Considering the amount of work required, three stages are planned, the first of which will conclude in November. It concerns first of all the main hall, spread out over two floors, able to include a 160-seat auditorium, a large entryway, offices, and teaching studios. Reception spaces and an exhibit room will also be installed on the ground floor, as well as new spaces on the fifth and sixth floors. The Mage Tower, a structure oddly built of sealed brick, will be renovated to house an elevator servicing all the floors. On the other side, the Amboise Tower will be the new starting point for visiting the permanent collection and the temporary exhibit rooms. In spite of the difficulty and extent of the construction, the museum will remain open. A number of safety supports had to be put in place, where public safety required that visitors not be allowed entrance to the areas under construction. These safeguards will also be in force during the subsequent two building stages, concerning principally the monumental staircase and the temporary exhibit rooms on the second and third floors.
The museum has an excellent Web site, which includes a presentation on the renovation.

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