ACCENT Madrid: A Visit to the Museo Sorolla

Today’s post focuses on one of Madrid’s hidden treasures, located mere minutes from the ACCENT Madrid Study Center: the Museo Sorolla. This summer, business students from Purdue University visited the museum and examined how it functions as a state museum, fully funded by the Spanish government.

This summer, our Purdue Krannert School of Management students had the opportunity to attend a lecture about museum management by Consuelo Luca de Tena, the director of Museo Sorolla. The Museo Sorolla features the works of Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923), a Spanish painter primarily known for his portraiture and landscape paintings. The museum also happens to be right across the street from the ACCENT Madrid Study Center!

The Museo Sorolla is a museo estatal, which means that it is run completely on state funding from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. The museum is actually the house where Sorolla lived, and people can see his original furniture and studio to get a better idea of how he and his family lived. His paintings and sculptures can be found around the entire house. All the museum employees are civil servants and have backgrounds in archeology, art history, and museology.

The museum does not function to create profit, instead their goal is to provide a public service. As a museo estatal, all of the museum’s profits go straight into the public treasury. The Museo Sorolla is quite well-known in Madrid, despite the fact that it is small in comparison to other museums in the city. It receives around 200,000 visitors a year, with general entry costing only €3, and many exceptions which allow visitors to enter for free.

Since the Spanish financial crisis of 2008, the museum has had to be careful to not overspend due to a decrease in funding. However, the museum has recently received approval to expand, and will soon be doubling its grounds. Depending completely on state funding, as is the case with Museo Sorolla, does bring a sense of financial security because of the strong commitment from the culture ministry to maintain funding for these kinds of establishments. The financial responsibility lies with the State, not with the museum directors or staff.

As such, the museum is consciously run with little regard for a business-minded or profit-driven approach, which may be difficult to understand because it seems almost impractical. The staff of the museum are passionate about their jobs. Because of the small scale of the museum, they do not earn a very high wage, but it is very rewarding work because any changes that are implemented can be observed right away. The staff feels the impact of their work at the museum keenly.

It may be true that the arts have lost funding as more and more importance is being placed on technical fields rather than the humanities. However, the Spanish government still values culture and art. There is a general consensus in Spain, and most European countries, that art and history are actually very important to their economies because they are directly tied to tourism. During the financial crisis, the museum considered raising ticket prices, but the Ministry decided against this, reasoning that the museum serves the public, and it is precisely in times of need that people need ways to enjoy culture and the arts, to find entertainment in the face of financial strain.

In all, it was a fascinating visit to the Museo Sorolla, and a wonderful opportunity to explore the inner workings of a museo estatal.~Megumi Ratliff, ACCENT Madrid

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