Saturday, 16 May saw the latest Night of Museums, an initiative promoted by the Council of Europe, which for the last five years has provided us with the exceptional opportunity to discover and visit more than 2,000 museums all over Europe between 7.00 p.m. and 1 a.m.
In Barcelona 27 different museums took part, with audio-visuals, cinema, concerts, perfomance art, guided visits, readings… on a Saturday night… and for free!
Who goes to a museum at night? Who caught that cultural Saturday Night Fever? Here is our report on The Night of the Picasso.
The doors of the Museu Picasso de Barcelona opened promptly at 7 p.m. and within an hour there was already a queue. Most of the visitors were local people, but there were quite a few tourists as well — we heard so many different languages that it felt for a moment as if carrer Montcada were the UN! The first foreigners we spoke to were a Swiss couple, stylish senior citizens dressed up for their visit… In perfect Spanish they told us: ‘We’re fans of Picasso, and despite the crowds we didn’t want to miss this! We’ve already had dinner and we’ve come now because there are fewer people. We love the nightlife of the Mediterranean, the fact that whole families go to a museum at night: it’s magical, wonderful… in our country it’s too cold to do this kind of thing.’
By half past eight carrer Montcada was full of people, and with the Museu Picasso, the Barbier-Mueller Museum and Design Hub Barcelona all within a few metres of one another, it was hard to tell the queues apart.
As for the music, right from the first set the whole courtyard was packed with a varied audience of middle-aged couples, families with kids, young people… Could anything be more cool than enjoying a drink in the courtyard of the Picasso while listening to live jazz?
By nine o’clock the exhibition rooms were full. In the room showing pieces from the ceramics collection of pottery we spoke to a Barcelona woman accompanied by three girls who were looking at the works with some surprise. ‘What made you decide to come along to the museum this evening,’ we asked. ‘I’ve brought my eight-year-old daughter and two of her friends, because I felt it would be something different for them.’ ‘Look, mum,’ the girl said, ‘Picasso made mud pies, just like I do.’
In front of Las Meninas we met an Italian couple in their thirties: ‘It’s thrilling that our first visit to Barcelona should coincide with this magical night! Anything that brings culture closer to people is good,’ they told us enthusiastically… and then in a quieter voice asked us to recommend a nice romantic place to go for a drink…
By half past nine the queue was shorter, but the forecast was still over an hour’s wait to get in. The ten o’clock jazz set also had a capacity crowd, but the audience had changed a little: mostly young adults, more piercings, and fewer children. ‘This is a party for everyone,’ a group of young locals told us, then went on debating whether to stay and queue or go somewhere else. ‘Let’s go to the Macba and then have a drink in the Raval…’
At midnight we had a few words with the museum’s director, Pepe Serra. He was pleased at the massive turnout, not only for the Picasso, but for all of Barcelona’s museums. The figures were very high: 3,500 visitors to the Picasso in one night! ‘A museum should be run for the people,’ he told us with conviction. ‘Initiatives like this one are great, but we need to remind the public that the municipal museums are free every Sunday afternoon, and that’s even better because we can get closer to more people. The museum should be a place for participation, not just for consumption.’
With these words our report comes to a close, but not before thanking all of the staff for their input: technicians, gallery attendants, guides… Marta from Events, Manel and Anna from Press, Deirdre from Visitor Relations, who, together with 12 colleagues, 31 assistants and 4 security guards, always with a friendly smile, attended to the visitors.
Did you go to the Night of Museums? Did you go to the Picasso? How did you experience that Museums’ Night?