Marking the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Museo del Prado’s extension, one of the most complex and important projects within Raphael Moneo’s prestigious international career, the photographic exhibition Revisiting Moneo’ s Prado offers visitors the chance to appreciate unique spaces, unobserved details and effects of light. Located mid-way between narrative and observation, Joaquín Bérchez’s images construct a demanding visual dialogue which in turn reflects the one that Moneo has established with Juan de Villanueva’s exceptional Neo-classical building through his own rigorous and committed design.
Bérchez’s photographic gaze reveals architectural fragments in brick, stone, marble, stucco, wood, bronze and glass. He leads us into the Hall of the Muses, the oblique, wedge-shaped vestibule and the new cloister. In the Hall of the Muses Bérchez’s camera captures the goddesses, proud of their newly restored basilica, standing in the hemicycle as we listen in on their secret conversations, while another image creates a modern-day bel composto of the inquisitive Polyhymnia.
These photographs also record the oblique cube of the principal vestibule, which is fully connected to the basilical hall despite having its back to it. Through these images we enter this contemporary passing-through or “promenade” space in which the camera’s lens investigates materials and forms that constitute one and the same thing: architecture. Cast shadows, granite calligraphy, details and panoramas, all remind us that construction is flow.
As with Palladio’s Basilica in Vicenza, the “modern-age” cloister has been given a double facing which, by looking both inwards and outwards, allows it to both fit into the Museum and turn towards the surrounding city of Madrid. Hypnotic geometrical plays of light and shadow and unexpected compositional effects are used by the photographer to explore fleeting lines of brick or Cristina Iglesias’ woody bronze that creates a contemporary myth from the form of a primitive cabin. Through its daring interplay of viewpoints, Joaquín Bérchez’s photographic investigation becomes a convincing reminder of the extent to which the discipline of architecture, from Juan de Villanueva to Rafael Moneo, is an intrinsic and essential part of a Museum now approaching its Bicentenary.