Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Recent Acquisitions at National Museum of Decorative Arts

A few weeks ago I attended the official presentation of the new exhibition at the national Museum of Decorative Arts here in Madrid, which displays a selection  of the more than seven thousand items the museum has acquired, has received in donations, or has been assigned since the start of the millennium.Unfortunately I found it hard to follow the explanations given by the museum director and the experts, so I was glad to be able to attend this guided tour in a smaller group.

Our guide Javier explained the different mechanisms that allow objects to be acquired, such as payment in lieu of taxes, or an irrevocable offer of sale submitted to the Junta de Calificaci├│n (Board of Classification, Valuation and Export of Historical Heritage Assets). Giving in lieu of tax liabilities has declined since the economic downturn in 2008 left the Spanish government (and many others) more in need of liquidity than art objects.

There is only very limited space for display at the museum so most pieces will sadly have to join their 60000 odd brothers and sisters in the museum's different warehouses and at other museums.
One of the most notable pieces for me is the huge Ezekiel tapestry made in Flanders for the Medicis, and purchased a few years back by the Spanish government. Spectacular for it's size and even more for its remarkable state of conservation and not having suffered the distortion that so often spoils the figures, and which no restoration can cure.

Amongst the more recent items are furniture and fittings from the from the iconic Torres Blancas (white towers) apartment building seen by visitors arriving in Madrid by car from the airport. These are classic seventies design that must seem like antiques to young people today, but can serve as an inspiration to contemporary designers. There's also a prototype plastic mop-wringer bucket from the 1950s, now a design classic.

Yesterday was the first tour of the exhibition, but it is available again. I'll give the details here, although the event, like all the labelling and signage, is in Spanish. It's at 12 noon on Tuesdays and in the afternoon at 17:30 on Thursdays in January and February, booking required (telephone 91 050 57 55 from 9:30 to 14:30). Otherwise, you can just go there and explore the exhibition by yourself; it's on the first floor.

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