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Prado Museum and Focus-Abengoa Foundation pay tribute to Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez for his moral constancy and intellectual stature

February 26, 2008

Madrid, 26 February 2008.- The Prado Museum and the Focus-Abengoa Foundation in Seville have paid tribute to Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez in recognition of a lifetime’s work dedicated to art, reflected in the infinite publications, exhibitions and above all his remarkable skilled eye capable of spotting the most hidden features in pictorial creations, dissecting them and making them accessible to every specialist, like a guide to our understanding of the magnitude of the artist. This tribute has taken the form of an colossal work called "In Sapientia Libertas", whose title sums up the two values coveted and cultivated by the honorary director of the Prado Museum and history academic: the wisdom and freedom to which every intellectual should aspire. The book incorporates articles from numerous people grouped around three fundamental themes: "Palabras para el amigo" (Words for a friend), "Un maestro para la memoria del arte" (An authority for the memory of the art) and "De una vida y una obra" (From a life and a work). The last section contains the intellectual autobiography of Pérez Sánchez and a selection of interviews that he carried out during his career, demonstrating his ideology and all of them highlighting the great constancy and the enormous moral and scientific stature of the honorary director of the Prado Museum, in the academic and human fields, and in the field of research and cultural management. A comprehensive, balanced and exhaustive bibliography completes this section of the profile of the great man, written by Roberto Alonso Moral, which genuinely captures the size and eminence of the director of the museum from 1983 to 1991, history academic and the only tenured Spanish art historian of the Academia dei Lincei in Rome.

Of note in Palabras para el amigo are the words that open the section belonging to Javier Solana, Minister of Culture in 1983 and responsible for appointing him as director of the Prado Museum, who entitles his article "El mejor director para el mejor museo" (The best director for the best museum). His words are joined by those of Francisco Brines, Antonio Gala, Juan José Millás and Francisco Nieva, and this personal and intimate section is closed by the words of the Director General of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, Anabel Morillo, who had a close relationship with Pérez Sánchez during his later years and whose collaboration and that of Miguel Zugaza, has brought this volume to light.

An original engraving by Guillermo Pérez Villalta, "Alacena de memoria", numbered and with series, has been produced, which has been given in advance to all those invited and represent the way in which the painter from Tarifa wanted to pay tribute to the most important Spanish still life specialist.

Un maestro para la memoria del arte contains two texts of great passion, by Manuela Mena Marqués, which symbolises and concentrates the spirit of Alfonso still alive in the museum; and the other by art critic and historian Francisco Calvo Serraller, who in his "37 years of visiting exhibitions of Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez", admits to being one of the most loyal and fervent disciples of the great man, ever since the classes he received at the Complutense University.

Escritos para un homenaje (Letters for a tribute) comprises the second large section of this work, combining scientific articles from his disciples, as well as from the most outstanding national and international individuals in Spanish art history, featuring names like Víctor Nieto Alcaide, Fernando Marías, Gonzalo Anes, Fernando Bouza, Mina Gregori, Nicola Spinosa, Enrique Valdivieso, Cruz Valdovinos, Peter Cherry, Carmen Garrido, Gonzalo Borrás, Gabrilele Finaldi, Antonio Bonet Correa, Benito Navarrete, Juan Manuel Bonet and Valeriano Bozal, among others. More than ninety collaborators pay tribute to the great man with their scientific contributions, which includes in the "Tabula Amicorum" individuals and friends of great cultural importance and intellect.

Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez’s relationship with the Prado Museum started very early. He entered it as "a jack of all trades" as he described himself, under the wing of his maestro Don Diego Angulo in 1961, and actively collaborated with Sánchez Cantón and Xavier de Salas to review the storerooms and the location of the "Prado disperso" (the distributed Prado) – a name that is highly fitting for Pérez Sánchez, who tried to rescue lost or neglected works. He was made Professor of History of Art at a very young age at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and subsequently moved to the Complutense. He was Sub-director of the museum from 1971 to 1981, and voluntarily stepped down from the institution for the appointment of Federico Sopeña, which did not further the scientific profile desired for the country’s most important cultural institution. The principal problems during this period at the Museum were written about by Pérez Sánchez through dissertations in his book "Pasado, presente y futuro del Museo del Prado" (Past, present and future of the Prado Museum), published by the Juan March Foundation in 1977 and a genuine "manual" for those who wanted to diagnose the institution’s main problems. The move of Pérez Sánchez to the museum as its director was decisive and he left his mark on every renovation and modernisation work that he carried out with resolve and energy, whether reorganising the rooms, the exhibition policy (unchanged to date), which meant that the Museum would pay for itself, or the launch of the education department. From 1983 to 1991 the Prado hosted the most thorough scientific exhibition ever seen at the museum and changed its international image around the world. Its contact with the public and the accessibility and promotion of the exhibitions reached a milestone with the Velázquez anthology in 1990, which received a record number of visitors in the history of the museum as well as printing and selling a record number of catalogues for what was a temporary exhibition.

Some restorations of emblematic works, most famously of the work "Las Meninas", were debated from the outset, but have been acknowledged by every expert since, such as the relevant and highly necessary work of John Brealey, head of restoration at the Metropolitan Museum, who was invited by Pérez Sánchez and with whom he shared many memorable moments. The relationship with the members of the board of trustees was always smooth, transparent and highly professional, earning the institution great prestige and respect and which would take a long time to recover after his departure from the continuous upheavals of directors, until the arrival of Miguel Zugaza who instilled the institution with the necessary composure for the current and definitive modernisation program.

His relationship with the Focus-Abengoa Foundation goes back nearly to the start of this period. Javier Benjumea Puigcerver, its founder, established a heartfelt and sincere relationship with Pérez Sánchez, going on to carry out a large part of his scientific projects in the Foundation in collaboration with his disciple Benito Navarrete and with the ongoing support of Anabel Morillo, Director General and loyal follower of the postulates of Alfonso, and the reason why this tribute to the man that gave so much to the Prado and the Foundation is so important. His special knowledge of 17th century Spanish and Italian painting has become the key to a collaboration that is now very permanent. Their passionate and selfless collaboration has made numerous exhibitions at the Foundation possible, such as "Tres siglos de dibujo sevillano" (Three centuries of Sevillian drawing), "Pintura española recuperada por el coleccionismo privado" (Spanish painting revitalised by private collecting), or "De Herrera a Velázquez" (From Herrera to Velázquez) in particular. "El Primer naturalismo en Sevilla" (The first naturalism in Seville), among others, has also been a great success. Finally, his support was decisive in the acquisition of Velázquez’s "Santa Rufina" and in the creation of "The Diego Velázquez Research Centre" at the Foundation’s headquarters. The acquisition by the Foundation for Seville of the this work in July 2007 is perhaps the final triumph in so many years of work, collaboration and unending dedication.

The Focus-Abengoa Foundation was started in 1982 as a result of the cultural work begun in 1972 by Abengoa with the publication of the works "Temas Sevillanos" (Themes of Seville) and "Iconografía de Sevilla" (Iconography of Seville). A collection of documents, books and recordings on the Kingdom of Seville and by Sevillian authors was created at the same time. This initial cultural work showed Abengoa’s directors the importance of the company’s involvement in activities that directly benefit society, beyond its core technology based work, and from this the Cultural Fund Foundation of Seville was created.

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