Madrid's Prado museum to display more female and foreign artists

By Sam Jones

The Prado in Madrid has announced plans to make the museum a “far more inclusive” place by reordering its permanent collection to ensure greater representation of works by female and foreign artists.

Miguel Falomir, the Prado’s director, said “one of the few positives consequences” of the Covid pandemic had been the time the museum’s enforced closure had given staff to re-evaluate its treasures and how they were displayed.

Falomir said that while some areas of the museum were splendidly laid out, others were “anachronistic and perpetuated 19th-century historiographical models”.

He said the decision to make the museum more inclusive was not a sudden one and was motivated not by “the whims of curators or the director” but by a desire to better explain different schools and times.

The Prado attempted to lay bare the gender imbalance in its collection with an exhibition last year called Uninvited Guests, which explored how artworks bought and garlanded by the Spanish state between 1833 and 1931 treated women as people and artists.

However, the exhibition was criticised by some female artists and academics, who accused the museum of echoing the very misogyny it sought to highlight by focusing on many works by men rather than celebrating those by women.

Falomir said the reorganisation would begin with the Prado’s 19th-century collection, adding that some changes should be evident by the summer. “It’s obvious that some of the lessons of Uninvited Guests will be brought to the collection and we’ll try to give a more plural vision of what the Spanish 19th century was,” he said.

“There are artistic phenomena and artists who have been totally excluded until now – not just women but aspects as important as social painting, which hadn’t found a place in the 19th-century collection … or painting from different parts of the world, such as the Philippines, whose art is finding itself more and more appreciated.”

The director said the museum would continue to stage “landmark” exhibitions of works by female artists as well as featuring more women in the permanent collection and acquiring more pieces by them.

Falomir said the Prado was also promoting research into projects to raise the visibility of women and would soon be offering a research grant for the investigation of gender issues.

But he insisted the rethink had a far wider remit. “As I’ve often said, it’s not just a question of gender – although women have certainly been excluded from the museum’s permanent collection and its exhibitions,” said Falomir.

“There are also whole periods in the history of art and whole regions that have been excluded. Bit by bit, we’re going to have a more inclusive Prado when it comes to this.”

In October, the Prado will open an exhibition called Return Voyage that will explore the importance and influence of colonial art from Latin America.