‘Removal of artworks could have been done better’ says museum head
Director of Lleida museum responds to criticism from Aragon president that some pieces arrived “damaged”
A day after disputed artworks were taken from Lleida Museum and returned to the Sixena monastery on the orders of an Aragon judge, the issue continues to generate controversy. The head of the museum in Lleida, Josep Giralt, responded to comments made by the Aragonese authorities that some of the pieces arrived in a “very deteriorated” state.
“If the Aragonese government says that these pieces arrived damaged, they should be concerned about how they were removed, which probably could have been done better,” said Giralt on Tuesday, who added that all the Sixena pieces had been “very well preserved” in his museum, under optimal conditions of temperature and humidity.
Earlier, the Aragon president, Javier Lambán, had criticized the condition of the artworks. “We do not know if we will have to go back and ask for compensation for the poor treatment that the pieces have suffered,” he said. Lambán also said it was “disgraceful” that Catalonia should question the capacity of the Aragonese to look after their own cultural heritage.
“If the Aragonese government says that these pieces arrived damaged, they should be concerned about how they were removed, which probably could have been done better”
Josep Giralt · Lleida Museum head
The Aragon president also said his government may demand the return of three items not included among those taken to the monastery on Monday. One is in Lleida Museum and another two in Catalonia’s National Museum of Art (MNAC, in Catalan). Lambán also called for the return of murals from the monastery now on display in the national gallery.
Giralt responded by saying that the missing item in his museum was no doubt in storage in the Bishop’s Palace and that once it had been located would be returned to Aragon. On Monday, a fragment of an altarpiece originally part of the Sixena collection bought by the Catalan government in 1983 was taken to Aragon despite not being covered by the court order.
Museum begins a week of “mourning”
Meanwhile, Lleida Museum intends to open free to the general public all week. While visitors will no longer be able to see the artworks, the museum intends to keep the spots where they were once on display empty as a sign “of mourning” for the lost pieces. Museum director Giralt said that the empty spaces would be maintained until after the Christmas holidays, when they will be filled by other items from the museum’s collection.