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Museo Nacional del Prado
Calle Felipe IV s/n

Until March 3, 2024, the Museo del Prado and the AXA Foundation embark on a journey that crosses the surface offering the contemplation of a fascinating reality: the hidden face of works of art, their reverse.

Along with works from the Prado collection, which reveal the result of a long process of research on their backs, generous loans from national and international institutions are on display, such as Assemblage i graffiti, 1972 (Assemblage and graffiti) by Antoni Tàpies from the Fundación Telefónica; Cosimo I de Medici by di Cosimo, il Bronzino, from the Abelló Collection; Van Gogh's Self-Portrait as a Painter from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam; Rembrandt's Artist in his Studio from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; or Magritte's The Empty Mask from the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, reaching almost a hundred works on display.

The exhibition space, curated by the artist Miguel Angel Blanco, -with rooms A and B of the Jerónimos building painted black for the first time- proposes an open route that gives maximum freedom to the spatial relationship with the works, without hierarchies or chronological order, giving entry to contemporary artists such as Vik Muniz, Sophie Calle or Miguel Angel Blanco himself with three book-boxes from the Library of the Forest.

This exhibition, structured in chapters that deal with different aspects related to the backs, will host authors that for the first time will be exhibited at the Prado such as Van Gogh (1853-1890), René Magritte (1898-1967), Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Pablo Palazuelo (1915-2007), Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012), Sophie Calle (1953), Vik Muniz (1961), Michelangelo Pistoletto (1933) and José María Sicilia (1954) or Wolfgang Beurer (f. 1480-1504), Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761-1845), Carl Gustav Carus (1789-1869), Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916), Martin van Meytens (1695-1770), Wallerant Vaillant (1623-1677), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) and Max Liebermann (1847-1935).

Among the different chapters are: The artist behind the canvas; This is not a back; The stretcher as a cross; B faces; More information on the back; Ornaments and ghosts; Folds, cuts and cut-outs; Backs facing the painting. Turned over and Nature in the background. 

In El bastidor como cruz, one of the essential components of the backs, real and represented, the frames, is highlighted. In the small works they form rectangles, reinforced at the corners; in the larger ones, a cross is needed to strengthen them. Thus, figuratively, the cross supports the pictorial image. The canvas is nailed to the stretcher, it is crucified, and to transport the paintings we hold them by the stretcher, we carry the cross. François Bunel the Younger, Georgia O'Keeffe or Mark Rothko interpret this type of secular and artistic Stations of the Cross, and thus share the penitential condition of the painting The Christian Soul Accepts His Cross, by an anonymous French artist. The accumulation of wood that we see in this one is repeated in Douglas Duncan's photograph of Picasso's workshop, from whose Guernica -a sacrificial scene- we bring part of the original frame, which is perhaps the most punished in history: an authentic Ecce Homo.