The Reina Sofía returns to the origins in its latest expansion

We will have to wait until November to see the complete rearrangement of the collections of the Queen Sofiaincluding your new extension, where it will be exhibited the most contemporary art: two hundred works from the 90s to today. After the much discussed and controversial expansion of Jean Nouvel, the museum had not grown. Does it now recovering 22 rooms on floor 0 of the south wing of the Sabatini building, allowing you win 2,000 square meters to display a good part of its funds. These rooms were already used for exhibitions in the 1980s, when it was still an art center (it became a national museum in 1990), directed by Carmen Giménez. In them there were large samples

dedicated to Jasper Johns, Matisse, Tàpies, Carmen Laffón, Richard Serra or the prestigious Phillips collections in Washington and Beyeler in Basel. But in the last three decades these spaces were dedicated to material warehouses, craft workshops and offices.

The director of the Reina Sofía, Manuel Borja-Villel, yesterday in the new spaces of the museum
The director of the Reina Sofía, Manuel Borja-Villel, yesterday in the new spaces of the museum – GUILLERMO NAVARRO

The project, whose budget is around 1.9 million euros (one million comes from the 1.5% cultural of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, and 439,620 euros from a collaboration agreement between said Ministry and the Reina Sofía), has had to overcome not a few problems since the works began two years ago. According to Manuel Borja-Villel, “sometimes an extension is a sentence.” On the one hand, delays due to pandemic and lockdown. On the other, the great snowfall in Madrid with the arrival of Philomena. In addition, it has been affected by global supply crisis, which has delayed the arrival of materials. As if that were not enough, it was necessary demolish more than 25 load-bearing walls about two meters thick on which the entire building rests. And all this was carried out in an open museum.

One of the 18th century gates that have been recovered
One of the 18th century gates that have been recovered – REINA SOFIA MUSEUM

You had to be very careful that the vibrations did not affect the works of art on the upper floors. Let us remember the fragility of ‘Guernica’, exhibited on floor 2, and that at that time there was on floor 1 an exhibition of Mondrian, with important loans that are also very fragile. To all this was addeda problem with the UTE Frade Arquitectos-Estudio Aurora Herrera, which in December 2017 was awarded the tender for the adaptation of the A0 floor of Sabatini as an exhibition space. The reason, the drafting of a modified project, which implied changing the service contract. A controversial agrarian between the Museum and the UTE ended with the departure of the latter and the call for a new competition, which won Fernando Pardo, architect who has completed the construction management.

The new spaces, during the works
The new spaces, during the works – REINA SOFIA MUSEUM

The classic spaces of the Reina Sofía, which recover the original architecture of Sabatini, will surely contrast with the tenants who will soon inhabit them: the most groundbreaking works of the museum. Hence, it is a pleasure to walk around this naked beautiful, elegant and serene architecture, that whenever o (k) intrusion with works of art it will be altered by 9/11, M 15, feminist and anti-colonial movements… It would not have been a bad idea to emulate the Pompidou, when in 2009 he paid tribute to the void with an exhibition in which the rooms were bare, with no works to admire. Borja-Villel did not pick up the glove at the proposal.

The rooms open onto the Ronda de Atocha.  There is a new connection between the Sabatini and Nouvel buildings
The rooms open onto the Ronda de Atocha. There is a new connection between the Sabatini and Nouvel buildings – REINA SOFIA MUSEUM

The project allows connect the Nouvel and Sabatini buildings via a new floor, floor 0 (until now it was only possible on floors 1 and 3). The objective, recover and enhance the architectural heritage of the building created by Francesco Sabatini, of whom this year the 300th anniversary of his birth is commemorated, and in which they also participated José de Hermosilla and Juan de Villanueva (architect of the Prado). Thus, the original elevation of the building’s facade has been recovered, two original 18th century railings have been rescued, who were impaled in other areas of the building; Two windows have been recovered and one of the original access doors to the old hospital, bricked up for three decades. The groin vaults remain, very unique. A precious Macael white marble. The walls are pristine white. The rooms of a classical museum are more like those of a modern and contemporary art museum. With the recovery of these spaces –sustainable and efficient, with LED lighting-, the Nouvel square is highlighted, as the rooms open onto the Ronda de Atocha. The last room has a large glass door.

The new spaces of the museum, during the works
The new spaces of the museum, during the works – REINA SOFIA MUSEUM

This building has not always been a museum. In fact, was born as Hospital de San Carlos. It opened in 1781 with 1,561 beds. Over the years, part of the building was demolished and another is currently occupied by the Conservatory. For a time it was only inhabited by cats. He was miraculously saved (It was planned to build a skyscraper), thanks to the fact that in 1977 it was declared a historical-artistic monument. It was acquired by the Ministry of Culture. In 1986 and 1990 reforms were carried out.

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