When I heard that CaixaForum Barcelona is planning to open an exhibition displaying masterworks from the collection of Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid alongside those deposited in Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, I knew that’s something I better not miss. Having fresh memories of my visit to Museo Thyssen in Madrid, I sincerely hoped to see the highlights of their collection hanging on the walls of any color except for salmonish orange. Therefore, with a mix of excitation and anxiety, the very first day after the exhibition opened I headed for CaixaForum.
I entered the exhibition room, passed by a vivid, colorful mural that welcomes visitors at the entrance, looked around, and breathed a sigh of relief. CaixaForum lived up to my expectations! The exhibition is intimate, thoughtfully arranged, and beautifully displayed. Divided into five sections given Latin titles — Sacrum mysterium, Dramatis personae, Vanitas, De rerum natura, and Scaena urbis — the exhibition forms a walk through Art History illustrated with exceptional masterpieces: paintings of Fra Angelico, Bellini, Cézanne, Canaletto, Freud. However, this walk is not strictly linear and chronological, but rather contextual. You look deep into the eyes of Rembrandt’s dense self-portrait and after a moment you find yourself standing in front of Picasso’s lyrical Harlequin with a mirror.
Each artwork has been given a generous amount of space around it. Apart from the colorful introductions to each of the five sections, the rest of the exhibition space is pure and neutral, allowing the paintings to shine their own light. Believe me, the objects that arrived from Madrid can only dream of such conditions. On a daily basis, they are crammed together one by one on walls painted aggressive orange, and illuminated with the kind of light that brings tears to your eyes instantly. I don’t mean to belittle Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, God forbid! I just believe that taking care of such a marvelous collection is a great responsibility. Now that the museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary, let’s hope that the question of some serious refurbishments of its exhibition space will be raised.
What makes the A Thyssen Never Seen exhibition even better, is its educational program. There is a whole separate room called Un petit Thyssen mai vist (Cat. A Tiny Thyssen Never Seen), where kids are encouraged to create their own exhibition. They can use high-quality reproductions printed on thick magnetic plates, as well as to draw their own artworks. One wall of the room serves as a storage room, the other as an exhibition space where selected artworks can be arranged freely. The concept is brilliant, and one couldn’t wish for a better role model for it than the exhibition at CaixaForum. I’m sure it will inspire a whole generation of future art curators (creative and thoughtful ones)!
I can’t think of a better title for this exhibition than the one chosen. It sums up perfectly my general impression after leaving CaixaForum: “Finally, I had an opportunity to see those masterpieces as they really are”. Furthermore, I find the Museo Thyssen’s idea of celebrating an important anniversary by creating a traveling exhibition an excellent one. It is a unique opportunity for many people to stand eye in eye with an original artwork they could hitherto know only from reproduction (if at all). I highly recommend that you pay a visit to CaixaForum in Barcelona by February 5th, as well as that you check out the other plans of Museo Thyssen to make the year 2017 an unforgettable one. Cumpleaños feliz.