Beyond the Prado: Museums and Identity in Democratic Spain by Sara Reuben Holo
When Francisco Franco's long dictatorship of Spain ended with his death in 1975, the transitional government set out to create a democracy that celebrated rather than suppressed regional and ethnic diversity. Its success is often described as 'the Spanish miracle'. The new leadership committed itself to developing institutions that respected and represented Spain's many cultures and traditions. In Beyond the Prado, Selma Reuben Holo argues that Spanish state and regional leaders consciously used the power of museums to foster democratic identity in the country's citizens. In case studies such as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Sephardic Museum in Toledo, and IVAM, the modern contemporary art Museum in Valencia, Holo tells how museums and their exhibitions have touched off vigorous debates around such issues as Basque autonomy, the relationship of art museums and politics, Catalan identity, and the opposing pull of local and global cultures. Holo chronicles how neglect of the Prado and government acquisition of the renowned Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection have affected Spain's public image and describes the controversies surrounding Picasso's Guernica. In their variety and activism, Spanish museums convey an image of a complex democracy that has transformed uncertainty and disagreement into an eccentric postmodern solidarity. Holo suggests that they provide lessons that could be useful elsewhere.