The room attendants hang their works

Elena Fernández, Pablo Sánchez and Rocío Vázquez are three of the 10 employees who can exhibit their works in the museum for the first time

Elena Fernandez He was in his early thirties when he signed a temporary contract at the Prado Museum as a security guard. After 21 years living in the corridors where the famous works of Velázquez, Goya o Rembrandt – to start by mentioning a few – now it is his turn: one of his paintings is on display in the most important and impressive art gallery in the world. And that is no small feat.

For the first time in their 205 years of historythe Prado Museum exhibits the paintings of its room guards inside. For this unusual exhibition, 10 easelseach with a different work, in front of the windows of the Ionic Gallery of the Villanueva building, which is open to the public free of charge.

For the exhibition, Elena chose to paint the Venus of the Dolphin on a gold leaf background. “I have a weakness for Klimt“I tend to be figurative, but I’m a chameleon: I do everything.” She previously worked at the Thyssen and also at the Reina Sofía, where she was in charge of organizing employee exhibitions. “They gave us a gallery for about 20 workers, but I have also done solo exhibitions,” she explains.

In 2002 she graduated in Art History from the Complutense University of Madrid, reaching the pinnacle of a life of creativity. “I remember that, from a very young age, everything that had to do with painting, drawing or sculpture caught my attention. At school I did everything well.“When I rejected a piece of work because it wasn’t perfect or the way I liked it, my colleagues would pick it up to present it,” he says.

“I was about to study Fine Arts, but a friend dissuaded me because they spend a lot of money on materials, because she said my back was terrible and because they only smoked joints. At least, that’s what she told me,” she recalls, laughing. After finishing university, she chose to take exams. “Before, exams were held every 10 years,” she says. In 2003 she started working at the Prado Museum with a temporary contract: “Now I still get excited every time I enter the museum“, says Elena.

When he leaves work, he devotes his free time to painting. “I love it and it runs through my blood. I don’t have any trouble finding time for my art.“, she says. Her greatest source of inspiration is women: “I couldn’t explain why,” she laughs. Inspiration responds to motives that reason doesn’t understand. Elena illustrated the cover of This immense forest(Imaginal Collection, 2021), the poetic anthology by Noemí Trujillo, wife of the famous novelist Lorenzo Silva. “Within abstraction, Rothko inspires me a lot“You can feel his influence on that cover,” he explains.

“Exhibiting at the Prado Museum is a huge satisfaction, an unparalleled opportunity that has been given to us and for which we all We are very gratefulespecially with the director who opened the doors for us,” says Elena enthusiastically.

Elena Fernández poses next to her ‘Dolphin Venus’.

The doors of the future are not always built with certainties. Such was the experience of Pablo Sanchez who had to leave his native Cadiz, “like so many people in Andalusia: because of unemployment,” he explains. Pablo is another of the employees of the artist bar exhibiting in this exhibition and, together with Elena, he created the Prado Collective: the group of museum workers.

It entered the Prado Museum in 2018, the year that the art gallery celebrated its bicentennial. To commemorate the museum’s long history, in 2020 the employees organized in the Wilko Art Gallery an exhibition. “When I got the job, Elena told me about her idea: an exhibition,” he says. But, at that time, Pablo had not painted for nearly five years.

When he lived in Seville, he combined morning classes in Art History at the University of Seville with evening classes at the School of Art in the same city. Pablo’s quest is like anyone else’s: Finding a style to express yourself genuinely“I stopped painting because I couldn’t find myself,” he says.

I painted mixtures crazy. “My tastes are very diverse. Everything I have in my head gets tangled up like clothes in a washing machine and that’s what I paint,” he explains. On a pictorial level, the painting that remains from the ruins of Pompeii is his greatest influence: “When I was little and discovered the history of Vesuvius, I was fascinated,” he says. This guard is also a Passionate about Andalusian cultureto which he has dedicated an X account that has more than 20,000 followers: “Thanks to this account I achieved my most secret dream: to appear on TV in El Condensador de Fluzo.”

“When the museum closed and I was left there alone with all the works at my disposal…it was very emotionally shocking”

Pablo Sanchez

For this sample, Pablo chose, like Elena, the Venus of the Dolphin and also Pandora’s boxtwo sculptures illustrated with a style that mixes manga, anime…and BratzThe truth is that the combination of the classical and the contemporary caught his attention when he was a child: “I picked up a magazine from home in which the Mona Lisa appeared and I started to draw her. Who said fear?” he laughs. In this way, he paints mythological scenes with characters taken from manga using the more or less academic technique he learned at university and places everything in settings from the Spanish High Middle Ages that fascinates him so much.

The fear and excitement were overwhelming when he first set foot in the Prado as part of its staff. “After so much time in precarious conditions, that opportunity to have a future and economic stability through art was wonderful.” The official is unable to find the words to describe his first day: “When the museum closed and I was left there alone with all the works at my disposal…It was overwhelming, impressive, very emotionally impactful.“Indescribable, seriously.”

Equally indescribable was the illusion of Rocio Vazquez When he told his teacher, Antonio Agudo, that he was going to exhibit a work at the Prado Museum: “He told me: ‘My friend El Roto exhibited there! What a great honor.“, recalls the artist, originally from Puerto de Santa María. “I am very grateful to my teachers for teaching me the dedication that art requires. Exhibiting here is an honor, The last public official to do so was Goya.“, account.

Rocío Vázquez, next to her veiled Isabel II in watercolor.

His primary school tutor encouraged him to approach art: “He told my mother that I was not like the others.“, he says. “Over the years I met her in Seville and I went to visit her to show her some of my university work.” Rocío studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Santa Isabel de Hungría, in Seville, although before that she learned that “Art is a craft, not a Hobbie“. “At home they didn’t want me to be an artist, there was no tradition; in fact, they would make the typical comments that try to dissuade young people because ‘you can’t make a living from art’. No way.”

On Saturdays and Sundays she travelled to Jerez to paint with a high school teacher. “I would go straight from the drinking party to painting, but always with respect. He made it clear from the start: ‘As soon as you cross the threshold of the door, you’ll be sober,'” she says. In Seville she met Antonio Agudo, the teacher of the portrait painter Hernán Cortés, and of whom Rocío is the last disciple, “as he himself declared,” she says.

The work exhibited at the Prado is a watercolor of Elizabeth II veileda sculpture of the queen made by Camilo Torreggiani. “The face is the mirror of the soul,” says Rocío to justify her fixation with portraits. “For my commissions, I only I am moved by the person I have to paint.“The Veiled Isabel reflects my passion for contemporary art, but also for academicism. That’s what fulfills me, I don’t want frivolity.”

Rocío also did restoration work. “I thought that once inside the Prado Museum, you could easily climb up to that discipline, but that’s not the case: there are also competitions for that.” The Università Sour Orsola Benincasa, in Naples, granted her a scholarship and through this she became a Construction manager in restoration projects in places such as the Palazzo Reale, the Neapolitan Cathedral and Pompeii. In Spain, he also devoted himself to restoring altarpieces in the municipality of Molina de Aragón. “I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow, I only know that I have to keep learning and working“, says this artist.

All the art that the institution has accumulated has inspired the best artists on the national scene since time immemorial. It also inspires multi-faceted employees like these three, who are the protectors of the jewels of this country.We are very lucky to have a large part of the history of the art world. They are all here: Titian, Murillo, Rubens…”, says Rocío. We are also lucky enough to know those who take great care of all of this.

 
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