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Museo de Arte de Ponce announces exhibition of masterpieces from the Prado Museum
Alonso Cano, La Crucifixión, segundo tercio del siglo. El Museo Nacional del Prado.

PONCE.- Museo de Arte de Ponce and Banco Santander announced the exhibit El Greco to Goya: Masterpieces from the Prado Museum, a selection of 25 paintings from the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. This prominent exhibit, which includes works by renowned artists such as Francisco de Goya, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco de Zurbarán, will be open to the public at Museo de Arte de Ponce from March 25 to July 9, 2012.

The Prado’s director for conservation and research, Dr. Gabriele Finaldi, visited Puerto Rico for the announcement, joining María Luisa Ferré Rangel, president of Museo de Arte de Ponce Board of Trustees, Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the museum’s director and chief operating officer, and Javier Hidalgo Blazquez, chief executive officer and president of Banco Santander de Puerto Rico.

Finaldi, born in London in 1965, is considered one of the world’s leading experts in Spanish and Italian painting, a distinction that has enabled him to organize important international exhibitions and publish insightful studies of painters such as Jusepe de Ribera, Zurbarán, and Velázquez. In 2002, he was named associate director of conservation and research at the Prado Museum, where he spearheads the sweeping reorganization and expansion of the museum’s permanent collection.

El Greco to Goya was born out of an exchange agreement signed between the two museums in 2008. The goal of the pact is to make the cultures of Spain and Puerto Rico more widely known and appreciated, especially the art works in the collections of the two museums, which are joined by a common goal: to widen knowledge of the human condition through art. María Luisa Ferré Rangel noted that the collaboration between the two museums came at a historic moment, when both institutions were in the process of revitalizing their infrastructure in order to expand their services to the public and better care for and exhibit their artistic treasures. “This remarkable juncture led, in 2009, to a very successful exhibit at the Prado of a show titled Sleeping Beauty: Victorian Painting from the Museo de Arte de Ponce, which allowed the Spanish people and the museum’s visitors to learn about, and recognize, the universal value of our collection. Today it gives us great pleasure to announce the second event stemming from this reciprocal agreement, El Greco to Goya: Masterpieces from the Prado Museum, a truly magnificent exhibit that underscores the historical link between Spain and Puerto Rico.”

Sleeping Beauty was curated by Gabriele Finaldi, whose job it was to define the concept of the exhibit, its research and other scientific objectives, and supervise the hanging of the 17 works chosen for the show, as well as oversee the evolution of the exhibit through all its phases, including the publication of its catalogue. Two years later, the Museo de Arte de Ponce reciprocates, bringing to Puerto Rico from the Prado, a careful selection of 21 masterpieces, this time under the curatorship of Cheryl Hartup with the leading advisory of Dr. Agustín Arteaga. These works help to illustrate a vast history of religious paintings, still-lifes, and portraits of Spanish royalty from the 17th to the early 19th century, all done by great masters who worked for the Spanish crown.

Grouped into subject categories, the works reflect a wide spectrum of the culture of the time, opening an interesting path for an analysis of the political and social history of this important period for the Spanish Empire.

El Greco to Goya centers on the artistic traditions of the country and the ideological ideas on which the Spanish School was founded in the 17th century. It includes a considerable period of Spanish history, from the reign of Charles I of Habsburg (the Emperor Charles V) through that of King Ferdinand VII de Bourbon, which means that this exhibit will provide visitors unique contact with many of the great masterworks of Spanish painting, as well as exposure to the artistic achievements and innovations of the great artists of the time. “Our interest is in giving the public access to the finest examples of world art. In this case, we have chosen works that are absolutely iconic, works that people tend to seek out when they visit the museum’s extraordinary galleries in Madrid. It is rare for such an important group of paintings to be removed from the active walls of the Prado—including the Velázquez Gallery, where Las Meninas is on permanent display—for a loan of this sort. We must, therefore, recognize the distinction granted us by the Prado National Museum Foundation, its director Miguel Zugaza, and Gabriele Finaldi, all of whom have helped with and approved this remarkable selection of works,” stated Dr. Arteaga.

The exhibit will be complemented by 15 works by the Spanish School that are similar in subject-matter and chronology and that belong, in their majority, to the Museo de Arte de Ponce’s permanent collection. This group includes paintings by Luis de Morales, Jusepe de Ribera, El Greco and his studio, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, and Franciso de Goya, among others. It will also include Self-Portrait as a Campesino, a work done in Puerto Rico in 1776 by Spanish painter Luis Paret y Alcázar during his exile in the then-Spanish colony.

The educational program designed by the Museo de Arte de Ponce for this exhibit is especially interesting. It is sponsored by the Banco Santander, with additional support from Goya de Puerto Rico. “It is a privilege for our institution to be the principal sponsor of El Greco to Goya, as this represents an extraordinary opportunity to continue to broaden our commitment to higher education on the island. On this occasion, we make it possible to see first-hand an important selection of masterpieces from some of the most renowned artists in the history of Spanish painting, as we sponsor the educational activities that will be an essential part of the exhibit. Today, Santander reiterates its commitment to the defense of art, history, and culture, essential elements in the identity of a country,” said Javier Hidalgo Blazquez, president and chief executive officer of Banco Santander Puerto Rico.

As part of the Museo de Arte de Ponce’s educational program, the museum will offer thematic tours, art workshops, curricular-integration workshops for teachers and art experts, and a series of lectures on the works and the main themes that run through the exhibit. The first of these lectures, The Prado Museum: Looking toward the Future from the Past, was given by Gabriele Finaldi on Tuesday, September 13, in the Plaza Caribe Foundation Gallery in the Museo de Arte de Ponce.

Carlos Unanue, president and general manager of Goya de Puerto Rico, spoke about that company’s long history of support of the Museo de Arte de Ponce, a support based on the affinity between the two institution’s educational and cultural objectives. “Goya de Puerto Rico wishes to maximize the educational potential in El Greco to Goya by providing interpretive activities for the various audiences that will be visiting the exhibit. We hope to help them understand better, go deeper into the history of the works, and have a greater enjoyment of their subject-matter,” he said. Goya’s sponsorship will make possible podcasts and bilingual (Spanish and English) audioguides to the exhibit, in order to heighten visitors’ experience during their physical or virtual tour of the works.

When the exhibit opens in March of 2012, a cycle of specialized lectures will be given by the Museo de Ponce’s assistant curator of European art, Pablo Pérez d’Ors, and other invited experts. Among the subjects to be discussed are Kings as Collectors: Universal Legacy; Paradises Lost: Paret and Puerto Rico; Eye, Ear, and Devotion: The Function of Religious Painting in the Spanish Siglo de Oro; and Other Goyas: The “Caprichos” Series. Pérez d’Ors is also coordinating a series of more informal talks and roundtable discussions about the exhibit in general and specific subjects within it, such as religious art, portraiture, and still-lifes. Musical and cultural events are planned, such as evenings with the Spanish guitar, flamenco nights, and tastings of Spanish cuisine, as well as laboratories for adults, young people, and children and curricular-integration workshops for teachers. Chief curator Cheryl Hartup is now at work on the catalogue to accompany the exhibit.

Museo de Arte de Ponce | Goya |

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