The unseen work involved in putting on an exhibition

Our latest exhibition, Secret Images. Picasso and Japanese Erotic Prints, has been awarded the ACCA Catalan Art Critics’ Association prize in the Historical Research Exhibitions category. The ACCA 2009 Awards ceremony was held on March 23 in the MACBA, where the prize was received by the Museum’s Director, Pepe Serra, and the two curators, Ricard Bru and Malén Gual. This award represents a much-appreciated recognition of our work and a stimulus to undertake further research along similar lines. We almost feel as if we were dreaming. Not only have we learned a lot and had great fun working on this project, but the exhibition has had a very positive reception from critics and public alike and now we have won the prestigious ACCA Prize, which we have collected so excited.

ACCA award ACCA award
The Director of the Museu Picasso and the curators of the exhibition Secret Images receiving the prize.
MACBA, 23 March 2010. Photo: Teresa Sala

But the prize is not just for the curators and the director: it’s a prize for the whole team at the Museu Picasso. An exhibition is the result of a collective effort in which the curators would not get the desired result without the part played by all of the others. It’s all about teamwork, organized and brought together by the management, in which the less visible tasks are by no means the least important.

The exhibition coordinator works closely with the curator, and is responsible for taking care of the loan of works, contacts with collectors and lenders, harmonizing the work of the different departments, organizing and supervising the montage and in many cases documenting work and even co-curating the show.

The editor in charge of the Museum’s publications is responsible for the excellence of the catalogue, which will often include essays by several authors, and she must orchestrate its internal coherence, making sure there are no repetitions, gaps or mistakes and that any quotations are exactly right. Together with the curators and the designer, the editor articulates the thesis that is being put forward and makes it intelligible. In many cases, her involvement goes well beyond her own specific role and she will help track down important but hard-to-find pieces.


The people in charge of the library and the archive, and especially of the photo archive, help the curators find documentation, provide them with the sources available in the Museum itself and facilitate contacts with and requests to other institutions. They also often compile the bibliography at the back of the catalogue.

Once the loaned works arrive at the Museum the work falls mainly on two departments: Registration and Preventive Conservation. The Registration department is in charge of the movements of the works, both the Museum’s own and those form external sources. The ‘doctors’ (as we call the restorers who diagnose and cure artworks) determine the condition of works on their arrival and take appropriate steps to ensure they will be returned in the same state of conservation, carefully controlling temperature and humidity. They advise the curators on the best place to exhibit a piece and solve the problems that arise from the fragility of certain works.

If you don’t get the word out you don’t get visitors. The Museum has to let people know about the exhibition and attract them to come and see it, because if the public doesn’t visit the show our work has been a waste of time. The Press and Communication department and the webmaster are particularly important at this stage, because without them and their press campaign, advertising, publications, exhibition website and dynamic social networks people wouldn’t come along to the Museum in the first place or keep coming back. At the same time the Activities staff run guided visits, talks and workshops for adults and children, facilitating their engagement with the exhibition and a more in-depth appreciation. Meanwhile, the Visitor Services department takes care of the visitors and the logistics of visits.

And none of this would be possible without other less visible but vital departments: Contracts, responsible for drawing up and implementing inter-institutional agreements and contracts with the firms that provide transport, security, design, montage and so on; Administration, which deals with budgets, tenders and bills, smoothing and speeding up the process as far as possible and advising the technical staff on administrative matters; Production, which is involved in the setting up of the show and facilitates the work of the external contractors, and, finally, Security, which looks after the safety of people and artworks.

A great collective endeavour. Our warm thanks to the ACCA jury and to all of the Museum staff.

Malén Gual
Conservator and co-curator of the exhibition Secret Images

  • Mar
    March 30, 2010

    Moltíssimes felicitats! Realment l’exposició era molt interessant. Esteu fent una tasca impressionant. Felicitats a tot l’equip!

  • Museu Picasso
    April 1, 2010

    Moltes gràcies, Mar, en nom de tot el museu. Estem preparant noves exposicions i activitats i conèixer les vostres opinions ens ajuda (ei, les crítiques també;)

  • Teresa-M. Sala
    March 26, 2010

    Després de llegir la crònica de la Malén Gual, il·lustrada per sorpresa amb fotografies meves, sobre el ben merescut premi ACCA reitero les meves FELICITACIONS a la tasca d’equip. Una exposició té molts invisibles i arriba a bon port si, com en l’àmbit esportiu, tothom treballa de forma cohesionada. I el gènere expositiu requereix recerca, creativitat, rigor, i sobretot treball, ingredients que s’han de combinar amb una mica de sort també. Va ser un plaer visitar-la, assaborir-la i en aquest moment recordar-la amb el catàleg que queda com a memòria de la mediació. Espero que continueu per aquesta mateixa línia… Teresa-M. Sala

  • Museu Picasso
    March 27, 2010

    Moltes gràcies en nom de tot l^equip del Picasso, Teresa, per les teves paraules.

  • Museu Picasso
    March 27, 2010

    Moltes gràcies en nom de tot l^equip del Picasso, Teresa, per les teves paraules.

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