The director of the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Miguel Zugaza, is to leave next year to return to his previous role in charge of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. In a resignation letter addressed to Spain’s minister of education, culture and sport, Zugaza said that after 15 years he “considers the goals established during [his] term of office to have been fulfilled”.
The Prado is “now embarking on a new and exciting phase” in anticipation of its 2019 bicentenary, Zugaza says. Last week the museum announced plans for a new wing designed by the British architect Norman Foster and the Spanish architect Carlos Rubio
—its second major building project after the 22,000 sq. m extension by Rafael Moneo in 2007. The Prado has enjoyed an exceptional year in 2016 thanks to its landmark Hieronymus Bosch exhibition, which attracted a record attendance of almost 590,000 visitors.
The Spanish newspaper El País describes Zugaza as “one of the most longstanding, diplomatic and effective managers in the recent history of Spanish culture” and as the mastermind behind the 200-year-old institution’s dramatic modernisation. Besides the Moneo-designed extension, Zugaza oversaw a transformation in the museum’s legal status in 2003, increasing its independence from the Spanish government and introducing a series of modernising initiatives. In the face of a deep recession, the Prado opened a new research and conservation centre in 2009 and extended its opening hours to seven days a week in 2011.
Zugaza now plans to resume his former position at a much smaller institution, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. A proud Basque, he was the director there between 1995 and 2001. His successor at the Bilbao museum, Javier Viar Olloqui, is due to retire next year.