The museums of Barcelona reopened in mid-June, after three months closed by the coronavirus, in the hope that the summer would compensate for the lost visits and anticipating a harsh autumn for the regrowth. But it has not been so. The number of people affected has continued and the Government’s recommendations on 17 July to reduce public activity and those of European governments not to travel to Catalonia, on the 21st, have prevented tourists from attending the event. city: a group that represents 86% of the annual visits to the museums of the Catalan capital. In addition, the people of Barcelona have not taken advantage of the opportunity offered by an empty city to visit their museums and have continued to turn their backs on them. The result is a drastic drop in visitors of around 90% over the same period last year. The figures, although they were as expected, are still surprising if we take into account that all the hygienic and sanitary measures have been adopted by the museums and messages have been sent insisting that these centers were the safest places for their large spaces and the generalized asepsis. The current situation is the worst in the recent history of museums in Barcelona, even higher than that experienced after the attack of August 17, 2017, which meant a one-off stop overcome a few weeks later, when tourists and Barcelonans they returned to the streets and museums.
At the MNAC the figures speak for themselves. In July, 15,212 people visited it, compared to 91,895 in July 2019: 86% less. From the center they assure that after the reopening, on June 10, they had not stopped growing until doubling the figures of July with respect to June, “especially on the weekends, that we received between 1,500 and 1,700 people every day. But on the weekend of July 17, when the Generalitat extended the restrictions, we dropped to 600 ”. 90% of MNAC visitors are locals when in normal situations they receive 50% from Barcelona and 50% from foreigners. “We don’t depend so much on tourist fluctuations and storms because interest in the permanent collection is growing,” they point out.
In this museum they are already working thinking that next spring will be the time to restore a certain normality. That is why they have readjusted the 2020 budget, expecting a deficit of 1.5 million. Until December it will only be inaugurated Intruders, with works from the Sunyol collection among the permanent. In the calendar of 2021, the exhibition on Gaudí remains “with announced dates”.
From the Macba, its director, Ferran Barenblit, which will continue only until October 2021 after it was announced in July that it would not renew for another four years, describes a similar situation. After reopening on June 3 with 64 people, visitors grew to the recommendations of travel restrictions. In his opinion, it is a consequence that “museums are a thermometer of other situations, they are centers that have the same problems of society, those who visit us are heroes”. Visitors are around 15% of those who visited it in pre-life periods. Still, Barenblit doesn’t want to hear about profitability. “We are a public museum and it is essential to open. The administrations have promised to support us “, he explains. At Macba “nothing has been canceled. Everything is postponed “, like a project with the Guggenheim in New York that has been postponed” but it will be done “.
Elisenda Poch, coordinator of the CCCB, explains that after reopening on June 12, visitors began to arrive timidly, but after perceiving security in the rooms they were encouraged and reached 2,000 people a week, 1,000 less than before the pandemic. Many activities have been carried out in the digital field, but as they do not have a permanent collection, they depend on temporary exhibitions and are concerned about mobility problems due to restrictions. It closes on the 31st Gameplay and they are already preparing the William Kentridge show, which will open on October 8th. Before that, they will host Sónar + D and BAM de la Mercè.
The Picasso Museum reopened on June 12. In July, 9,740 people visited it, a very low figure compared to other years. 83% were Spanish (67% from Barcelona), an unprecedented situation in a center 90% occupied by tourists. With the reopening of the borders, the trend was corrected and 73% became French, German, English and American audiences. At the center expect exhibitions such as the one dedicated to Never, the surreal object owned by Picasso that was believed to be lost, increase visits.
The Joan Miró Foundation reopened on June 12, only from Friday to Sunday. After a few first weekends with a majority of local audiences, in early July the first foreign visitors began to arrive: French, Italian and German. However, in July it received 2,763 visitors, 90% less than in July 2019. On the billboard, until November 29, you can see the exceptional exhibition, the first in Spain, by the artist Nalini Malani.
Avalanche in September
Municipal museums have not counted visits since their reopening. But Carles Vicente, director of the Icub’s Memory, History and Heritage Service, says that, despite the general decline, the response from Barcelonans has been good for the “word of mouth, which has been considered a good time to visit these quiet spaces ”. He acknowledges that no specific campaign has been launched to increase visits; “Perhaps in September”, a period in which there will be “an avalanche of initiatives, perhaps excessive, than could not have been scheduled before”. Vicente points out that after the activities of the expanded Greek –which will bring proposals from the creation factories to the municipal museums in October–, before the start of the Biennial of Thought, a “powerful” Museum Night is being prepared; for La Mercè, Oliva Artés will be reopened, where the Muhba will explain contemporary Barcelona, and in December the Museum of Design will be able to see the exhibition on modernism as the origin of design.