July 13, 2024

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Reviving Photography of Picasso’s Guernica: A New Era at Reina Sofía Museum

Reviving Photography of Picasso’s Guernica: A New Era at Reina Sofía Museum
Reviving Photography of Picasso’s Guernica: A New Era at Reina Sofía Museum

In a move aimed at engaging younger audiences and embracing the digital age, the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid has lifted the 30-year-old ban on photographing Picasso’s iconic anti-war masterpiece, Guernica (1937). This significant change comes under the leadership of the new museum director, Manuel Segade.

Guernica, a poignant portrayal of the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, has long been subject to image restrictions. According to the museum’s official website, the Spanish Republic acquired this powerful artwork from Picasso in 1937. However, as the Second World War erupted, Picasso, in a bid to safeguard the painting, entrusted it to the protective custody of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. It was only in 1981, after the conclusion of the conflict, that the masterpiece made its journey back to Spain. Initially displayed in the Prado, it found its permanent residence at the Reina Sofía Museum in 1992, where the photo ban was firmly enforced and upheld for decades.

As of September 1st, visitors now have the privilege to capture this iconic artwork through their lenses, albeit with a few restrictions. Flash photography and the use of stabilizing equipment such as tripods and selfie sticks remain off-limits. This decision reflects the museum’s desire to encourage a more dynamic flow of visitors around the artwork, as shorter interactions are expected in the quest for the perfect selfie.

Manuel Segade, who assumed his role as director in June, envisions a future where the museum achieves 100% photographic accessibility, particularly catering to the younger demographic, whose reality often revolves around screens. This shift is not only about photography but also an acknowledgment of how this generation approaches and engages with reality.

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While this decision ushers in a new era of accessibility, it also rekindles the long-standing debate surrounding photography in museums. Critics like art commentator Jonathan Jones have previously decried the use of cameras in cultural spaces, lamenting the intrusion of flashes on delicate artworks. The Louvre’s experience with the Mona Lisa has been particularly contentious, with camera flashes disrupting the viewing experience.

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Notably, Guernica made headlines last June when Mick Jagger, the iconic Rolling Stones singer, enjoyed a private viewing of the renowned Second World War masterpiece during a museum closure. At that time, the photo ban remained in effect, sparking a social media backlash due to the perceived exception granted to the rock legend.