Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya one museum, 1000 years of art
Past temporary exhibitions
North Africa. Ortiz Echagüe
Date: 15th of March 2013 - 1st of September 2013
Free entry

Curator: Javier Ortiz Echagüe

Organised by the Museu Nacional d’Art Catalunya and the Museo Universidad de Navarra

José Ortiz Echagüe (1886- 1980) travelled to Rif for the first time in 1909 where he realised aerial images as a member of the photography service of the Spanish Army. But even from these heights Ortiz remained down to earth. Concurrently, he began to portray local realities; capturing the life, landscapes and customs of the region. Somewhere between documentation and anthropology, his work embraces the emotion of Pictorialism, but without the allegory or literary evocation usually associated with this movement. His photographs of Fez and Tetuan are a good example of this.

However, on returning to Morocco in the 1960s, Ortiz Echagüe was confronted with a different reality: the modernisation of the country. The African typologies that he had captured before, those of such picturesque and ideal exoticism - had now disappeared. Ortiz interpreted this transformation by capturing rarefied environments, persons out of context and solitary landscapes with backdrops of surreal clouds. The result was nostalgia for a vanishing world. In this vein, Sirocco in the Sahara (1965) is his last great achievement. As if at a junction in his work, the experimentation of texture and composition takes precedence over documentation.

Now, the Museu Nacional d’Art Catalunya, in collaboration with the Museo Universidad de Navarra, presents the most spontaneous and creative moment of Ortiz Echagüe’s photography: the initial nucleus of his activity, where we encounter one of the most creative periods in the history of photography. Nevertheless, the exhibition not only focuses on the canon of the photographer, but also lesser known stages of his work: his military photographs captured from aboard the army’s hot air balloons. Ultimately, the total of seventy-nine photographs, together with essential documents, facilitates an understanding of this junction in the work of Ortiz Echagüe during his time in North Africa.

Free guided tours: Saturdays at 4 pm in Spanish and at 5 pm in Catalan

Exhibition Catalogue

The Museum Explores. Works of art under examination
Date: 23rd of November 2012 - 24th of February 2013
Free entry

Curator: Mireia Mestre, head of the Museu Nacioanl d'Art de Catalunya's Department of Restoration and Preventive Conservation

Surprise, discovery, revelation, confirmation or disappointment are some of the emotions and experiences specialists are subject to when they venture into the scientific and technical study of works of art. In the course of its history, the museum has added to the understanding of the works in its collections and other related works, with results that are sometimes frustrating, often curious and also, from time to time, spectacular. The public, however, does not usually get the chance to see the results of this research, which is shared amongst keepers of collections, art historians, conservators, restorers and scientists.

Press file

Using a display of works from different periods, all of which have been subjected to examination –painted panels and polychrome sculptures, painting on canvas and various techniques on paper--, the exhibition aims to stir the public's curiosity and arouse interest in the complex work involved in expertising art.

In recent years, the keepers and restorers have exposed the works to visible and invisible electromagnetic radiation with which they have been able to identify the materials used, penetrate the layers they are made up of and discover how the artists worked and the materials, tools and techniques they used, as well as their procedures.

The original works are presented alongside the images obtained using different types of radiation and with an account of the main contributions by science. Elements be revealed that are not at first sight obvious and that are fundamental for identifying an artistic period, an artist or the history of a work. The public discover revealing testimonies or artists' amusements that have been preserved on the hidden face, the reverse, of works that are only known from their face or front. It also be possible to observe the way in which artists worked during the creative process, on the preparatory drawing or when making changes to the composition. The show sets out to explain the changing fortunes and the different alterations some works of art have seen in their lifetime and how the experts can distinguish between an original, a copy, a forgery or a hyper-restoration. 

Activities centring on the exhibition

Free application The Museum Explores for iPad
and for Android

Pdf of the exhibition rooms

Videos of the exhibition

With the support of:

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