“We resumed our daily life, we have made a huge effort to be able to open the centers on June 1, because we consider it important to be able to offer these spaces to the city, seeking that there are not only bars and beaches and for culture to be part of our daily life, as was the case before ”, explains Elisa Durán Montolío (Barcelona, 1958), Deputy Director General of the La Caixa Banking Foundation and head of the Foundation’s Culture, Education and Scientific Dissemination areas, as well as the eight CaixaForum de Spain: Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Zaragoza, Palma, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona; in addition to CosmoCaixa, dedicated to science in Barcelona; centers that added more than seven million visitors in 2019.
And they are already opening, he says, “because at the beginning our position was to do it in consensus with the great museums; But we soon realized that each city would open on a different date and since the dates being considered were very late, around the 20th, when it could be opened since May 18, we have decided to open all the centers next Monday. The work is already done, all the hygiene and safety measures have been adopted and if the exhibitions are already mounted, it is an act of irresponsibility not to open. Another thing would be that it had been agreed to open on June 5; but the 15 or the 20 seems excessive to us ”.
According to the person in charge of these centers, the biggest headache has not been to implement these measures, but “to re-plan all the exhibitions on the calendar; talking to all the museums and lenders to extend them ”. And he cites, as examples, those dedicated to the world of vampires in Madrid and Surrealism in design in Barcelona, which closed this May and will be extended until September 7 and 27, respectively. Cámara y Ciudad, made after the agreement with the Pompidou, which was half transferred on March 13 from Barcelona, can be seen in Madrid from June 1 to October 12. The center of Girona will open with the exhibition on Apollo XI with automated modules, Tarragona with the Faraón exhibition and Lleida with the exhibition on historical avant-gardes with pieces from IVAM.
This adaptation of the calendar takes exhibitions like Art and Myth ahead. The Gods of the Prado, planned to be held between May and August in Barcelona with works by the first Spanish art gallery. “It has had to be rescheduled for next year or next. Completing the puzzle is very complicated ”.
For the centers in Barcelona and Madrid, he assures, the implementation of measures such as limiting the capacity to one third “will not be a problem, since they have rooms with capacity for 395 and 336 people, respectively; reason why a third means 131 and 112 at the same time, that in this situation we would like to have them at all hours ”. And he assures that these control measures have already been adopted in samples such as those dedicated to Andy Warhol and Disney, two of the most successful in recent years.
Durán explains that the work has been carried out along three lines: “guaranteeing safety, comfort, so that people forget about that safety and quality, which we already provided, but increasing it with the presence of more educators in the rooms, to attend to the doubts of the visitors ”.
For her there is no doubt that “in the middle of March we entered a different situation and we have to see how the public affects the fear effect from now on. Although seeing the terraces I think less than I thought a few days ago; in addition to the fact that until September the activities will not return ”. But he also believes that: “We have an advantage over other museums and that is that we dedicate ourselves to the national and local public, due to our social activity; that more than 90% visit us in all centers, except Palma, where 35% are tourists, due, among other things, to the low cultural offer of great museums on the island, beyond Es Baluard ”.
For this reason, he maintains, “the spontaneous visit of the tourist in which there is no recurrence, does not concern us. In our centers, visitors come an average of 2.8 times a year; so in this sense we play in favor. We are not going to change the way we have to do our exhibitions, always with a story and very pedagogical and without looking for big queues. What we are going to do is intensify our experience ”. Another difference with respect to other museums is “having managed to visit us thinking that there is always something that may interest them and not because they see a specific exhibition, while most museums with permanent collections are associated with the idea that If they have seen each other once, there is no need to go back.
Durán’s responsibility leads him to administer an astronomical figure. The La Caixa Banking Foundation has 565 million euros this year (this year’s budget for Culture of the Generalitat is 314 million), which is distributed in 60% -339 million-, for the social sphere, 20% for research and another 20% for culture and education, at a rate of 113 million each. “These figures will not be recalculated to increase social spending due to the current situation; for us culture contributes to the well-being of people and the progress of society. We are awaiting the dividends of the Criteria group in order to grow in all three areas; but none at the expense of the others ”, he clarifies.
One of Durán and his team’s biggest challenges is preparing for the reopening of CosmoCaixa the great science center they have in Barcelona. “As these museums do not open until phase 2 we have a few more days, but for an immersive center whose motto is‘ forbidden not to touch ’changing the visit is quite a challenge. The 20 spaces in which the 6,000 square meters of exhibition are divided into which there are 150 visual and 100 interactive modules have been analyzed. Many have been automated and will activate when the visitor passes. In the rest an educator will do it manually. In the end, 65% of the museum can be visited through an established tour of about two hours. Once we move on to phase 2, it won’t take long to open it because we have a lot of work on it, ”he explains.
On whether museums have to rethink their future, she assures that “they have to focus not on the tourists who visit them strangely, although they are surely the ones who provide the income and therefore cannot despise it”, because, for her, the important thing is “local audiences and that cultural consumption is promoted with pedagogical exhibitions. It is what we do out of social responsibility and it is why we will continue working, intensifying and improving it, of course. We are not going to change lanes.”