Madrid’s Prado to show ‘reverse’ of Iconic Paintings

Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Madrid’s Prado to show ‘reverse’ of Iconic Paintings

Until 3 March 2024 the Museo Nacional del Prado and Fundación AXA are undertaking a journey that moves beyond the surface of artistic masterpieces to allow for the contemplation of a fascinating reality: the hidden side of the work of art, its reverse.

Alongside works from the Prado’s own collection, which have been the subject of a lengthy process of research on their other sides that is now presented in the exhibition, On the Reverse also includes generous loans from other national and international institutions. They include Assemblage with Graffiti by Antoni Tàpies from Fundación Telefónica, Cosimo I de’Medici by Bronzino from the Abelló Collection, Self-portrait as a Painter by Van Gogh from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Artist in his Studio by Rembrandt from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and The empty Mask by Magritte from the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, giving a total of around 100 works on display.

Curated by artist Miguel Ángel Blanco, for the installation of the exhibition Rooms A and B of the Jerónimos Building have been painted black for the first time. On the Reverse takes the form of an open survey which gives maximum freedom to the spatial relationship between the works, devoid of any hierarchy or chronological ordering and including the presence of creations by contemporary artists such as Vik Muniz, Sophie Calle and Miguel Ángel Blanco himself, represented by three of his box-books from the “Library of the Forest”.


The Museo Nacional del Prado is encouraging visitors to look beyond pictorial execution and see paintings as complete objects

Image of the exhibition galleries On the Reverse. Photo © Museo Nacional del Prado.

Taking his starting point from a contemplation of Las Meninas, in which the reverse of the vast canvas on which Velázquez is working occupies a large portion of the pictorial surface, the exhibition’s curator, contemporary artist Miguel Ángel Blanco, proposes an unusual approach to painting by turning the works around in order to encourage visitors to establish a new and more complete relationship with the artists who created the approximately 100 works on display.

Numerous studies have been undertaken to date on individual works which have interesting backs for different reasons and some museums have explored this aspect in a partial manner through small exhibitions focused on the reverse of works in their collections. However, with the collaboration of Fundación AXA it is the Museo Nacional del Prado that is now approaching this subject with the necessary ambition. In addition to undertaking a complete reassessment of the backs of works in its collections, the Museum has also located examples in some of the world’s leading museums which reveal how an appreciation of works of art is enriched when their contemplation is not limited to the front.

The exhibition, which is structured into sections that focus on different aspects relating to the reverse of works, includes artists never previously seen at the Prado, among them Van Gogh (1853-1890), René Magritte (1898-1967), Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Pablo Palazuelo (1915-2007), Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012), Sophie Calle (1953), Vik Muniz (1961), Michelangelo Pistoletto (1933), José María Sicilia (1954), Wolfgang Beurer (active 1480-1504), Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761-1845), Carl Gustav Carus (1789-1869), Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916), Martin van Meytens (1695-1770), Wallerant Vaillant (1623-1677), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), and Max Liebermann (1847-1935).

Main Image :Vik Muniz. Verso (Las Meninas), 2018. Mixed media. Courtesy of the artista and the Elba Benítez Gallery

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Image of the Day

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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