Sabah at the Royal Collection: This is what the audience thinks of the building, the works and the story

It’s 10 am and the July sun is already shining on the Plaza de la Armería, which stretches between the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral. Braving the sweltering heat, tourists queue to get to the capital’s central monuments. At the end of the promenade, the silhouette of southwest Madrid can be seen under the mist, mountains in the background, while a large group of francophone young people, distinguished by blue masks, laugh and take selfies, responding to the instructions of their guide: there you can see the zoo and the amusement park; Further to the left, the Carabanchel neighborhood. We have not yet passed the access door to the newly opened building Royal Collections Gallery, But now we are faced with the first attraction: the view that crowns the construction done by the architects Tonon and Mansilla It was built to house more than 650 pieces on display (selected from a heritage of 170,000). After the inauguration storm (the official inauguration will be with the Kings on Tuesday 25 July), normal life begins in this place, whose inauguration, on 28 June, has been the biggest artistic event in Spain in recent decades.

Separated from the group of teens, a couple also overlooks the city from above. Their names are Ana and Jose. They say they wait their turn to enter, which they book for 11, when the crowd begins to pile up for the morning rush around 12. They arrive with no clear expectation of what awaits them, but for the time being, outsiders like what they see. “I’m deeply into architectural mixtures, they don’t bother me,” Anna says of the building, a sober gray and geometric mass integrated into the opulent appearance of the royal palace, not without controversy. They also said that Louvre pyramid It’s awful and I think it’s great “, adds this woman from Madrid, whose profile, waiting for the first official data, seems to match that of the many visitors who come to the fair on Thursday mornings: locals and middle-aged.

View of the Royal Collections Gallery.
Santi Burgos

Vegas records Those who have written about the exhibition have already warned of the sheer volume that opens up inside the building, but even with forewarning, the eight-meter-high detached floors and ceilings never fail to impress. After several cliffside rescues, the historical and cultural tour begins through the collections of art and decorative objects amassed by Spain’s monarchs over the centuries, from Isabella and Ferdinand the Catholic to the present day. At the entrance to the floor reserved for the Habsburg dynasty, Juan and Sandrine, Spaniards and French vacationers in Madrid, only had time to judge the explanatory videos leading up to the visit, in which Juan believes the monarchy is presented very “benevolently”. “I’m an art teacher, so we visit all the museums we can,” explains the Spaniard. “Besides, now in the summer you can’t walk down the street too much either.”

In the exquisite interiors of the galleries, in addition to the proportions, the distribution stands out: in contrast to the classical conception of the museum as the achievement of weatherproof booths, here the whole plan is organized in a single open-plan room. The exact museum was designed by Manuel Blanco, Director of the School of Architecture, he is responsible for modulating spaces based on ethereal showcases and free-standing partitions, which bring paintings and textiles into dialogue with other diverse objects such as books, mirrors, musical instruments, pottery, china, jewellery, furniture, carriages and even humble fountain valves that, against all odds, leave not much interest unnoticed.

View of the Royal Collections Gallery with oil on canvas
View of the Royal Collections Gallery with Velázquez’s “The White Horse” in oil.Santi Burgos

“History is ups and downs and in that ups and downs you have transversal insights,” Blanco explains of the spirit in which things are arranged. From here the viewer has 360-degree walk-throughs, views of the front and back of some of the pieces, as well as cross-cutting views between what is available on one side of the room and the other: cultural artifacts and clothing, household items and religious works that intersect to provide a universal picture of court life. Practically speaking, the lack of partitions makes it easy to move through the apartment, something Carmela Chao, a Cuban-born and Puerto Rican woman who traverses the galleries in a wheelchair, appreciates. However, for Marta, who works as a university professor in France, the fact that space is transparent is more of an obstacle because she believes, “You don’t know where to go.” “The other thing I don’t like is that the billboards are so dark you can’t see anything,” he adds.

Undoubtedly, there is some truth in this statement, because on the floor dedicated to the House of Bourbons, the alarm clock does not stop sounding. In just half an hour, he jumped dozens of times. The commotion is due to the fact that, in order to read the sign, some people come very close to the hoop that protects Desert of architectural glories of Spain, a huge desktop decoration that reproduces episodes from the history of Spain. “We will have to put on more competitions, because although the audience is respectable, there are people who go beyond certain areas; and some cartridges have to be moved to improve visibility,” says Leticia Ruiz, Director of Royal Collections, about areas for improvement once the exhibition begins. Besides the inevitable small unforeseen events, which will be corrected as we go, Ruiz considers the balance of the first weeks of the operation to be very positive: “Everything satisfies”.

View of the galleries of the royal collections.
View of the galleries of the royal collections.Santi Burgos

Notable pieces that promised to spark public interest, such as Saint Michael the Archangel conquers Satana wonderful sculpture by Luisa Roldán, or really dazzling Crown of Our Lady of Atocha, which Elizabeth II made after she survived an attack, also meets expectations, as evidenced by the interactions on social networks around the exhibition, present on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook (which, yes, can hardly be consulted inside the premises, because there is hardly any coverage). “There are things that surprise us, like a video by Marian Rojas about quixote [del que se exhibe una primera edición]which has reached a million hits, ”notes Nuria Rosas, who is in charge of networks. “Franco’s car also attracts a lot of attention, or Solomon’s Pillars Churriguerawhich impresses people a lot, because from seeing them on video to seeing them in person, a lot changes.”

When personally asked by visitors, the most frequent favorite is not one of those pieces, but rather the magnificent royal carriages on display, especially one black float Between 1670 and 1680. Santiago loves most, a Madrid boy of 12 who walks with his grandmother, as well as Pilar and Victor, two young men recently returned to the capital after a season in London, who claim to promote culture against “sun and beach tourism”. In general, the most diverse opinions come from each survey: Jose Gerardo, for example, isn’t attracted to furnishings because the colors look “worn.” Ana, a 25-year-old from Madrid who came with her parents, disagrees that “when speaking of the conquest of America, there is no critical position on this subject.” From the outside, “the building is so ugly you want to blow it up,” recalls Joaquín, who lives with his wife, Teresa, between Cuenca and Madrid, where they went to vote. “But inside it’s changing: It’s amazing,” he adds, agreeing with Jawad, who traveled to Europe with his family from New York. “I didn’t know there were so many monarchs, to be honest,” he laughs. But it is amazing to see all this richness and history mixed with modern things. It’s a great”.

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