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"Protected Art: A Record of the Committee for the Artistic Patrimony during the Civil War"
2003-06-27 until 2003-09-14
Museo del Prado
Madrid, , ES Spain

The Museo del Prado recently opened an exhibition devoted to the methods implemented by the Committee for the Artistic Patrimony (Junta del Tesoro Artístico) in their efforts to safeguard Spain’s artistic patrimony during the Civil War. The exhibition's intention is to pay homage to the collaborative efforts of the main figures involved who are still very little known today, but whose actions were enormously important for the protection of the country’s art treasures: the Museo del Prado, in particular, owes the survival of its greatest masterpieces to their endeavours.

Featuring 174 photographs and 35 objects as well as original documents of the period, most of them unpublished and never exhibited up to now, the exhibition provides a chronological account of the most important events that took place during the fighting in Madrid. The devastating effects of this combat on some of the most important monuments in the city led to the creation of the Artistic Patrimony Committee. The exhibition also looks at the protective methods adopted as a consequence of the very perilous conditions in which the capital’s buildings and art treasures found themselves and concludes with an account of the hazard-ridden transportation of key works of art to Valencia, then Catalonia and finally Geneva. Most of the items in the exhibition come from the photographic files of the Madrid Special Committee, now housed in the Institute for Spanish Historic Patrimony (Instituto de Patrimonio Histórico Español, or IPHE) and the Museo del Prado’s own archives. Other important written accounts come from public institutions such as the National Library and the Archive of the Regional Government of Madrid. In addition, there are extremely important accounts, photographs and unpublished documents which have been loaned or in many cases generously donated by those involved in the events themselves or their descendants.

Protected Art: A Record of the Committee for the Artistic Patrimony during the Civil War is an exhibition organised by the Museo del Prado and the Institute for Spanish Historic Patrimony. The curators of the exhibition are Judith Ara, Associate Deputy Director for Conservation in the Museo del Prado, and Isabel Argerich, head of the Photographic Archive of Artistic Information and the Moreno Archive at the IPHE. They have worked on the preparation of this project for the past two years, carrying out an exhaustive programme of research involving the study of more than 3000 photographs and documentary sources belonging to the institutions involved, as well as locating those who were actually involved or their descendants and consulting the various bodies and archives which contain information relevant to this period. This result of their laborious study is the present exhibition and the publication of a highly detailed catalogue on the subject. This features 148 photographs most of them unpublished (in addition to the photographs, documents and objects featured in the exhibition). A 30-minute audiovisual documentary has also been produced which includes all the surviving documentary material from the period relating to these events, along with interviews with those involved and their descendants. This will be projected in the Museum’s lecture theatre during the months that the exhibition is running.


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