Fotografía publicada en el artículo «Museums: A New View on the Cliff», en Time, vol. 88, n.º 5, julio de 1966. Foto: Eric Schaal / Cortesía Eric Schaal Estate


This year marks the centenary of the birth in Manila of Fernando Zóbel, soul and promoter of the Cuenca Museum of Abstract Art, whose opening in 1966 can be considered a magical and unexpected episode: it was created by artists, but not in honor of just one of them. them, in a context in which, almost twenty years before the opening of the germ of the current Reina Sofía, contemporary art museums were a rarity in Spain. It was neither an initiative of strict aesthetes nor was it addressed to them, it settled in a city that then had around 30,000 inhabitants and favored, in addition to an aesthetic and cultural transition in our country, the fact that many authors of the moment decided to purchase a house. in Cuenca following in the footsteps of Gustavo Torner, Gerardo Rueda and Zóbel himself.

Another very particular circumstance in the history of this center occurred in 1981: concerned about its future when he died (which, unexpectedly, would not take long to happen, in Rome and in 1984), Zóbel proposed that the March Foundation take over. of its ownership by donating its collection of Spanish abstract art, its library and its archive. The Museum, therefore, went from being managed by a private patron to another institutional one, without losing the public vocation with which it was created: the Cuenca City Council continues to be the owner of the Hanging Houses, a building with origins in the 15th century that has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest.

Throughout its nearly six decades of existence, this space has been expanded and intervened on various occasions to adapt it to museum needs; A first expansion, which involved the incorporation of three rooms, took place in 1978 and, since that change of ownership in the eighties, other modifications have been carried out until reaching the fundamental one in 2016: then a first stage of its construction began. air conditioning, completed in 2022, and a recovery of rooms for educational purposes, and a multipurpose room was also equipped.

The external perception of the Museum has not changed; The interior morphology and the existing connections between the different floors and buildings have been subtly modified to improve accessibility, routes and museum functionality in these years (in which it has avoided closing its entire facilities beyond the essential time, just two weeks).

The old dining room of the Mesón de las Casas Colgadas, the White Dining Room on the third floor, has been incorporated as another room and, by increasing its exhibition space, the March Foundation has reorganized and expanded the center's collections with works and artists that have worked in the Spanish abstract tradition. For their part, the rooms with historical value on the first floor, until now dedicated to internal use, have been converted into museums and will be used for the exhibition of graphic works and small formats, integrated into the permanent collection route, and will also house temporary samples.

The space dedicated until now to these exhibitions will be converted – all its openings open to the natural light of the Huécar gorge – into the aforementioned multipurpose space, where events and presentations can be held. The new workshop of the Museum's educational program has been installed next to it (which about five thousand schoolchildren come through each year) and one of the old warehouses has been recovered as a new space for cabinet exhibitions and special projects. Finally, in the last room of the permanent collection, an expanded and technically conditioned space has been installed in terms of lighting, relative humidity and temperature, which will also be dedicated to exhibitions. In addition, the Museum will have an improved bookstore-shop and remodeled toilets.

The Hanging Houses, 1967. Photography: Jaume Blassi

On the occasion of these works, a selection of the collections from the Museum of Abstract Art have traveled, in the last two years, to half a dozen national and international venues where they have been able to compare themselves with works by other authors, in some cases contemporary to those represented. , and be discovered by other audiences (we are referring to the José Guerrero Center in Granada, the Fundació Suñol and La Pedrera in Barcelona, ​​the Meadows Museum in Dallas and the Ludwig Museum in Koblenz); Now they have landed in Madrid, at the Juan March Foundation, where they can be seen until June under the curatorship of Celina Quintas, head of the Cuenca center, and the American art historian Anna Wieck.

The capital is the last stop on the journey of these pieces before returning to their usual headquarters: in Castelló we will find proposals by artists who, whether they were part of the collection of this Museum from its beginnings or not, were in all cases collected by Zóbel, since Rafael Canogar and his emblematic vision of Toledo to the recreations of Geraldine Chaplin or Brigitte Bardot by Antonio Saura through compositions by José Guerrero (his gloomy redwhose acquisition allowed the Granada native to acquire a house in Cuenca), Chillida, Palazuelo, Torner, Sempere, Cuixart, Millares, Ràfols-Casamada, Eva Lootz, Miguel Ángel Campano, Soledad Sevilla or Elena Asins.

There are nearly forty large-format pieces and sculptures chosen, to which are added other small-format pieces, graphic work, posters representative of the history of the center (some very original) and documentation that shows the good reception of its inauguration or of the artists who came to visit it. One of the first to visit it was, by the way, Alfred H. Barr, founder of the MoMA in New York, who in 1967 baptized it as “the most beautiful small museum in the world”, the quote that gives the exhibition its title (Barr would return after).

The most beautiful small museum in the world.  Juan March Foundation, Madrid.  Photography: Alfredo Casasola
Fernando Zóbel.  The River IV, 1976. Juan March Foundation Collection, Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, Cuenca

The museography of the exhibition has attempted to respond (without imitating) the intricate and peculiar character of the Hanging Houses museum, which Manuel Fontán del Junco, director of Exhibitions at the Juan March Foundation, has referred to today as a place exquisite and rare for its conjunction of vernacular architecture – with its coffered ceilings, plasterwork and Gothic mural paintings -, spaces that respond to the contemporary conception of the exhibition hall as a white cube and Italian museography; for establishing itself from the beginning as a museum without walls (since 1962 Zóbel was producing graphic work and artist books, and expanding the Good News of abstract art in a context in which it was not promoted); for offering the rich library of this artist, which had volumes that were difficult to find at that time in Spain (today it is completely digitized); and for its emergence outside the then official culture.

Those who remember what the first years of the Museum were like, or understand that it has had an impact on their lives, participate in the compilation of an oral memory, undertaken by the March Foundation when it realized that their testimonies could begin to be lost due to the age of some of these witnesses. We can all be, for our part, the start of this new stage of the Museum of Abstract Art: on November 21, an open day will take place in which anyone interested will be able to enter its spaces, already air-conditioned according to current criteria, with a completely resolved interior design, its collection back and several exhibition projects underway related to it.

The most beautiful small museum in the world.  Juan March Foundation, Madrid.  Photography: Alfredo Casasola

The most beautiful small museum in the world.  Juan March Foundation, Madrid.  Photography: Alfredo Casasola
The most beautiful small museum in the world.  Juan March Foundation, Madrid.  Photography: Alfredo Casasola

“The most beautiful little museum in the world”


C/ Castelló, 77


From April 26 to June 30, 2024

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