BARCELONA, MUSEUM CAPITAL
Joan Clos, Mayor of Barcelona
Historically, culture has always been a strong point of Barcelona,
a foundation and engine for a changing society and a barometer
of the city's development.
More specifically, since the restoration of democracy, Barcelona's
cultural activity has highlighted its emergence as a national
and international benchmark for quality in many different spheres
Barcelona aims to become ever more a cultural capital and to stand
on an equal footing with the great cities of Europe. A major part
of this drive are our museums. Among the city's foremost assets,
they house a rich, extensive and high-quality patrimony, and promote
public participation in our heritage.
Barcelona's civil society has been to the forefront in the development
of the city's rich range of museums. The first museums emerged
due to public initiative and the efforts of private collectors.
Another important factor in their development were the universal
exhibitions of 1888 and 1929, which left a legacy of outstanding
facilities that serve to house many of the city's main museums
today, such as, for example, the Catalan National Museum of Art
(Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya) in the Palau Nacional de Montjuïc.
Another especially important factor and one which is highly characteristic
of Barcelona, is the role played by the City Hall as promoter,
patron and owner of numerous museums.
The decisive turning point for the dynamic transformation of Barcelona's
museums took place in 1985 with the establishment of the Plan
for Museums. The plan established the basis for municipal action
in the field, adapting the museums to the ever-changing social
reality of the city and developing the concept of a museum with
critical capacity and the ability to generate and create culture.
Now, Montjuïc, the old city or Ciutat Vella and the Ciutadella
park are the settings for a large part of the city's extensive
cultural facilities and are fundamental elements in the Barcelona
museum network. The undoubted quality of the museums themselves
derives from the range and depth of the collections, the renovated
and extended facilities, improved management and the promotion
and dissemination of their content.
In addition, thanks to the patronage of Catalan financial institutions,
the museums are also reaching new areas: the Centre Cultural de
la Fundació "la Caixa" in Palau Macaya, the Centre
de Cultura de la Caixa de Catalunya in La Pedrera, the Fundació
Godia, the Egyptian Museum, the Casa Casarramona and other initiatives
are milestones marking progress into different areas of the city.
We now have a new, ambitious project which will establish a new
cultural pole in the city, in the area Ildefons Cerdà conceived
as the centre, les Glòries. This project will be known
as El Tresor de Barcelona (The Treasure of Barcelona) and will
house some of the city's most outstanding public and private collections:
the Ceramics Museum, the Textile and Clothing Museum, the Graphic
Arts Museum, the Decorative Arts Museum; along with the city's
entirely new Museum of Design, Architecture and Urbanism. Undoubtedly,
this blend of tradition and innovation will be a reflection of
the dynamic, changing city - the progressive city which treasures
its historical legacy; but also the city to the forefront of modern
and avant-garde movements, in keeping with the spirit of the new
This new museum, the sum of many museums, will complete the cultural
facilities available in the Glòries area, alongside the
Auditori, the National Theatre and the Archive of the Crown of
Aragon, and will reinforce the area's identity as a cultural centre.
It is one of the City Hall's major urbanistic and cultural projects,
and is linked to the 22@, in Poblenou, and the Universal Forum
of Cultures 2004, to take place in the Besòs area.
The concept of the museum as a container of culture and knowledge
has now given way to a more dynamic model aiming for closer contact
with the public. Barcelona's City Hall has striven to have a heterogeneous
range of museums with the common link of high quality. The incorporation
of the Macba, the CCCB, the Maritime Museum and the Barbier-Mueller
to the previously existing museums and the extensions to the Picasso
Museum and the MNAC are examples of this drive to open up new
areas and proposals. As part of the new model of museum, projects
such as the Primavera del Disseny (Spring of Design), the Triennal
d'Art, the Set Dies de Poesia de Barcelona (Seven Days of Poetry)
and the Sònar Festival broaden the sphere of activity offered
by the city's museums. They are a clear reflection of municipal
policy and an example of cooperation and dynamism.
We have now crossed the threshold of a new century and we are
aware that the museums cannot remain aloof from the social and
economic changes taking place in our advanced societies. Access
to new technologies leads to demands for new services and creates
new needs. We are faced with a challenge to adapt the city's museums
to this changing society. To meet this challenge, Barcelona City
Hall, through its Institut de Cultura, aims to renew the museum
network, to improve museum management and accessibility by extending
opening hours, improving signposting and attracting new segments
of the public, but also to strengthen our artistic and cultural
heritage and collections.
Barcelona City Hall's Cultural Strategic Plan sets out lines of
action for adapting to all these changes. However, in order to
bring our artistic and historical heritage into closer contact
with the public it will also be necessary to reassess the role
of all administrative bodies and the responsibility they must
assume in the field of cultural affairs.
A major highlight of Barcelona's cultural calendar is the Conference
and General Assembly of the International Council of Museums (ICOM
2001), which will enable pooling of experience and the challenges
facing museums around the world in the 21st century. The Conference
embodies a recognition for Barcelona, which will host representatives
from more than 140 countries in a far-reaching discussion of museum
policy over the coming years.
This is, undoubtedly, a great opportunity to become a point of
reference, to showcase our approach to museum policy and our cultural
and historical heritage.
Increasingly, the word culture is a synonym for knowledge and
interchange. Knowledge, in turn, means dialogue and an effort
to build peace and harmony among peoples.
The Universal Forum of Cultures 2004 aims to be a world meeting
for culture, peace and dialogue. Culture and dialogue are basic
to the concept of peaceful coexistence in the 21st century, for
relations among humans and the relation between humans and the
space they inhabit.
This is the great challenge facing Barcelona 2004. Through the
Forum, Barcelona will become a unique, creative organ, a plural
and diverse coming together, in keeping with the spirit of the
city itself and its museums.
Our aim is that Barcelona's museums will rise to the occasion.
Our future plans and objectives will be a clear reflection of
the city's drive to become a point of reference for museum policy
around the world.