The History of the Collection

The conversion of the ‘Centro de Arte Reina Sofía’ into a ‘National Museum’ in 1988 was based around the objective of building up a Collection that brought all the various state collections of modern and contemporary art together in one place. In 1992, the Museo Reina Sofía’s new Collection, with its twin declared intentions of permanence and growth, was shown for the first time.

The groundwork was laid by the incorporation of the Collection from the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art, which had been open from 1894 until 1988. This included prize-winning works from the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in Madrid and competitions at the Spanish Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, as well as pieces representing the avant-garde movements, given as donations or bequests in lieu of taxes, such as was the case of the heirs to the estates of Julio González (1973) and Joan Miró (1985), respectively. This initial contribution grew with the addition of the Prado Museum’s 20th century art collection, which included an outstanding collection of Cubist paintings given by the historian Douglas Cooper. Further donations (such as those consisting of works by Le Corbusier in 1988 and Lucio Fontana in 1991) continued to arrive, and in 1992 the Dalí bequest, as set down in his will, completed a crucial chapter in the representation of the avant-gardes, and that same year the arrival of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica provided the cornerstone on which the museum’s discourse would be based from that day forward.

As well as these examples, from the very beginning the Collection grew because of a committed acquisition policy begun in 1987 geared equally towards Spanish art and a variety of international contexts. A clear example is the way that throughout the 1990s the museum’s ‘Operación Picasso’ saw the incorporation of a group of works purchased from the heirs to the artist’s estate, which would complete the historical and aesthetic panorama around Guernica. In 1995, Picasso’s birth year (1881) was taken as the chronological starting point of the Collection, and successive acquisitions have widened and internationalised its scope, reinforcing a discourse that now ranges from the beginnings of modernity to contemporary output. This discourse is constantly fuelled by further donations and bequests, such as those that have provided the Museum with groups of works by artists including Jacques Lipchitz (1997), Robert Capa (1999), Antonio Saura (2001), Gustavo Torner (2004), Brassaï (2009), Roberto Matta (2011) and Val del Omar (2012).

The Collection has recently expanded even further in terms of format (film and video are pivotal areas in the Museum’s development), historical context and geographical framework (Latin America has become a fundamental line of work), all of which means the creation of present-based pluralistic takes on modernity, its precedents and its repercussions. The Museo Reina Sofía continues to add to the Collection through its acquisition policy, with a special emphasis on donations and long term loans/deposits.