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Day At The Prado Museum – Not De Nada : 2.5 minute read, posted on 04/07/21 for 29/06/21

I’m told that nada (if you habla espanol), means ‘nothing’, which wasn’t what we had to say on our big day out to the Prado Museum in Madrid. We especially wanted to see Goya’s Black Paintings. They’d been removed from display for restoration. It was time for them to be cleaned we were told, and timely apparently, with the slump in visitor numbers due to Covid. But still … There was no de nada (no problem), absolutely none at all, in our hearts when we found out. 

From The Guardian 30 January 2019

And could you blame us? The museum website said nothing of what was closed or removed —for restoration or otherwise— from the permanent collection. Neither were there notices at the ticket counter or at the start of the queue where we still had to line up to show proof of status for ticket discounts. This wasn’t the way to manage expectations, to our minds at least.  

Told upon arrival that there were no room plans in languages other than Spanish because it’s an international language was harsh I felt, if not brutal (plain rude even, perhaps racist —It’s true one of us looks more Filipina than anything else, another can pass for Kazakh—which was no excuse of course!). Whatever the reason for her snootiness, the attitude and patience of the frowning woman behind the ASSISTANCE counter was as curt and short as her dirty blonde hair and left no doubt in our collective minds that the Prado’s reputation online was well-deserved. And yet the troops persevered, marching onwards (and upwards two stories), our sights set on beholding Goya’s Black Paintings for ourselves. Everything else was a plus, despite the mounting negatives —Oh, and did we mention the NO PHOTOS policy? (For security reasons, or simply to annoy paying guests who live in the Digital Age?)

We’d been here two hours going on three, enjoying the other exhibits just going with the flow. Our feet ached. Our backs cried, sometimes out loud. We needed to sit down but pushed on with the specific target in mind.

            “Can you help, please?” we finally ask the suited señor standing at one end of the long walk through gallery on the upper floor. “Where are the Black Paintings?”

           “None, you will see none today” he tells us looking somewhat taken aback at being asked a question. Did he feel our disappointment? Is this what he said to his mate when they resumed chatting?

Walking away from the pair, it was our moods that had turned black. This was the point when it was decided that we had seen it all. Stopping only for art-cards in the Museum Shop we noticed too, that there was only one print from the Black Paintings series that we’d missed out on seeing. But what was the point of purchasing even a single one to take home? The memory for us, like the Black Paintings themselves, was for the most part ruined.

The fourteen panels transferred to canvas were from a mural cut out of the walls of Goya’s house (and nearly destroyed), where he had painted them in private. Everything about them was tragic like our visit which, if not for the brilliant El Boscos, and could sum up our Prado experience. If other TripAdvisor(s) hadn’t moaned for some years about similarly upsetting incidents, we might have thought that they don’t want foreign tourists here anymore. Like at the Reina Sophia Museum the day before: nearly all the Dalis were cordoned off without notice or warning. Is this what traveling is like now everywhere, or is Spain special? If and when we do ever come back, it will have to be with decipherable layout plans printed from the website in advance. When in Spain, bring your own, or just for the Prado? To get over it we might start some Black Paintings of our own when we get home, and happily stay put for longer …

For the earlier post: Artfully Unsure

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