Madrid’s Prado museum gets first new boss in 15 years

Spain's Prado art museum, home to masterpieces by Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez, on Wednesday appointed Italian Renaissance specialist Miguel Falomir as its director as the world-renowned gallery nears its bicentenary.

Madrid's Prado museum gets first new boss in 15 years
File image taken on February 1st 2012 shows Miguel Falomir talking to the press next to an authenticated contemporary copy of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa presented after it was found in the Prado's

Falomir, the museum's deputy director and long-serving curator, will replace outgoing director Miguel Zugaza who is stepping down after 15 years at the helm of the Madrid museum.

Last month, the Prado's selection committee unanimously chose the 51-year-old former art history professor to be its new director and the museum's trustees approved the decision on Wednesday, a statement from the Prado said.

Falomir joined the museum 20 years ago as head of its department of Italian and French paintings and since 2015, he has served as the Prado's deputy director of conservation and research.

He has been responsible for organising major exhibitions at the museum on Titian, Tintoretto, Jacopo Bassano, and Raphael.

Zugaza announced in November that he would leave his post to return to his previous job as the head of Bilbao's Fine Arts Museum, which he held between 1995 and 2001.

He took charge of the Prado in 2002, vowing to double the number of visitors, with the figures jumped from 1.7 million in his first year to more than three million in 2016.

Zugaza oversaw a transformation of the Prado, opening in 2007 a modernist new annex which offers visitors plenty of natural light and blends in with the original gallery which was built in the early 19th century.

The extension and renovation of the museum — the biggest in its history — allowed it to show some 400 additional paintings alongside the 1,000 that were already on display in the permanent collection.

The Prado will mark its bicentenary in 2019.


Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.


In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.