MADRID, Spain, June 14, 2007 – Madrid’s Prado Museum (Museo Nacional del Prado) has completed the most extensive expansion in its 200-year history with the $202.6 million (152 million euro) restoration of the 17th century cloister of the monastery of San Jerónimo el Real and the opening of new galleries for temporary exhibitions. Increasing the museum’s space by 50 percent, it provides room to present more of the museum’s collection and adds facilities that bring the institution up to 21st century standards. The new spaces are now open to the public every Saturday and Sunday until July 1 and the official inauguration will be in October.

One of Spain’s most distinguished architects, Pritzker prize-winning Rafael Moneo, devised an ingenious and sensitive addition that respects the original structure designed by Juan de Villanueva in 1785. Moneo’s design links the museum to a new complex that incorporates the cloister of the Jerónimos church, which was painstakingly dismantled – all 3,000 blocks – and then rebuilt.

The new 167,023-square-foot space includes a large underground area that connects the new building to the original Villanueva structure. Concealing the link between the old and new buildings beneath a roof garden, Moneo brings to mind the traditional landscaped gardens of the 18th century. The expansion has added almost 15,000 square feet of temporary exhibition space divided over four rooms. The inclusion of the Cloister into the new building creates an exceptional light-filled space for a sculpture gallery. There’s a lecture hall with seating for 438 people, a large reception area and visitor area, a new gift shop/bookshop, a new cafeteria-restaurant, specially-designed areas for restoration and larger and better equipped storage areas with a sizeable loading bay.

Moneo’s architecture emphasizes natural materials. Madrid granite, brick and patinaed bronze cover the façade while the interior is also faced with granite as well as oak, cedar, and natural bronze. Glass plays a significant role in his work. Here, Moneo creates passages of natural light that filter in to different areas of the building. The architect commissioned sculptor Cristina Iglesias who describes her monumental bronze doors as a “plant tapestry.” Opposite this striking doorway is a parterre of almost 9,000 Tuscan dwarf box plants.

The inauguration of the Jerónimos building is an important step in the Prado’s continuing expansion in which several independent buildings will eventually be joined in a single urban ensemble, creating a “campus.” This new Museo del Prado campus will comprise the Villanueva-Jerónimos complex, the Casón del Buen Retiro (1637), the Salón de Reinos in the Museo del Ejército (the Army Museum,1633) and the creation of the Loan Management Centre located in Ávila in the Casa del los Águila.

The enlarged and remodeled Casón del Buen Retiro will house the Prado’s library, research activities and an innovative educational project, the Escuela del Prado. While the Salón de Reinos, or Room of the Kings in the former Army Museum, will provide additional space to exhibit more from the permanent collection and to present temporary exhibitions.

Villanueva’s building first opened to the public in 1819 as the National Museum of Painting and Sculpture with 311 works from the Spanish Royal Collection that originated from the 16th century under Emperor Charles V. Succeeding Spanish monarchs – both Habsburgs and Bourbons – added to the collection. Today the Prado has the world’s foremost collection of Spanish paintings dating from the Middle Ages to the 19th century including outstanding masterpieces by Berruguete, El Greco, Goya, Murillo, Ribera, Sorolla, Zurbarán and Velázquez.

Another high point is a collection of 16th to 18th century Italian masterpieces including works by Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Correggio, Caravaggio, Gentileschi, Mantegna, Raphael, Tiepolo, Tintoretto, Titan (36 paintings) and Veronese. Spain governed the Netherlands in the16th century which explains the wealth of the Flemish and Dutch collections represented by: Hieronymous Bosch, Brueghel, Van Dyck and the world’s largest group of works by Rubens, 80 in total. A small number of German paintings, high in quality, are by artists like Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach. Both the French and English schools are also represented. In all, the Prado’s collection consists of 8,600 paintings, 2,410 prints, 6,383 drawings and 1,086 sculptures as well as coins, furniture and a considerable holding in the decorative arts including the Dauphin’s Treasure.

The Prado Museum is located on Paseo del Prado, call: 011-34-91-330-28-00, fax: 011-34-91-330-28-56 or e-mail: museo.nacional@prado.mcu.es. Open daily, except Mondays, from 9 AM to 8 PM. Admission is about $8, or 6 euros, except Sundays (9 AM to 7 PM) when it is free. Visitors under 18, over 65 and students from EU countries are admitted free of charge. Students from non-EU countries pay about $4 or 3 euros. Go to http://museoprado.mcu.es/home.html

For information about Spain, contact the Tourist Office of Spain in New York (212-265-8822); Miami (305-358-1992); Chicago (312-642-1992) or Los Angeles (323-658-7188) or go to www.spain.info

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