I have been lucky enough to visit all three of Madrid’s most famous art galleries since they reopened in June following months of lockdown (the Prado, the Thyssen, and the Reina Sofia). It’s been an interesting experience at each institution, and all have roughly brought in the same measures for this new Covid world.
Right now, we’re in a kind of limbo. Some borders remain closed so there are next to no tourists in Madrid. For the first time in years, the only voices you hear around you are Spanish! And of course, you can experience these great museums almost all to yourself. In many of the museum spaces, the invigilators outnumber visitors! It was a privilege to take the time to study every detail of Picasso’s Guernica at the Reina Sofia without the usual crowds. The same at the Prado where I could enjoy Velazquez’s Las Meninas almost uninterrupted. I doubt there will be crowds at any of Madrid’s museums over the summer so if art lovers can get here, it’s a great opportunity to see works peacefully.
A contactless experience
All museums are selling tickets online to encourage a contactless experience at the ticket office. There’s lots of scanning going on – your e-ticket is scanned, you scan QR codes for audio content, guides and maps (printed ones are no longer on display), and in the Prado your temperature is scanned on entry (you hold your wrist to a scanner and your temperature pops up on a screen).
Keeping an eye on the numbers
There is reduced capacity in all three institutions. For example, only 100 people can enter the current Rembrandt exhibition at the Thyssen at once, and at the Reina Sofia they indicate the capacity for each room.
Signs, signs, signs
There’s lots of new signage everywhere reminding you to keep you two meters apart, guiding you along one-way routes, and making sure you use the right entrances and exits.
Masks: the new must-have accessory
Everyone is in a mask, they’re obligatory here in Spain, inside at least. All the museum staff wear them and at the Prado they top them off with plastic visors too. They’re uncomfortable and sadly hide any smiles but I know I feel safer for wearing one.
There’s anti-bacterial gel everywhere: on entrance, inside the galleries, at entrances to the museum shops, and on exit. You’re required to put on plastic gloves in the museum shops – sustainability is something that at the moment seems incompatible with Covid. You do find yourself trying to avoid touching anything, which is not always possible, and you become strangely interested in how toilets are designed, wondering, for example, will the main door open automatically? Will you have to press for soap?
The Prado have only opened up a small percentage of their collection in a new exhibition called ‘Reencuentro’ which continues until September 13th. It’s quite good as includes all their iconic works in a manageable show and for those who have been before, it’s interesting to see works hung in different places, alongside that of other artists.
For all the stress that Covid has brought, this summer is going to be a special time for art lovers, an opportunity to experience museums like never before. The same goes for everything else that Spain has to offer!
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