At the top of the staircase, there is a handful of letters, the colour of steel, fixed to the white wall. They say: "After a long journey in my life as a painter, after producing hundreds of paintings, I am only interested in seeking the essence... nothing else matters or is of interest to me." It is signed by the artist Jorge Rando, who has given his name and the content - and the essence - to the museum in Malaga which reopened this week after being closed for more than half the year.
Like the other museums and galleries in Spain, the Museum Jorge Rando in El Molinillo district of Malaga city closed in mid-March because of the coronavirus but it has opened a little later than the others because the management decided to take advantage of the break to expand the facilities: it is now 400 square metres bigger than before and has six new exhibition rooms. The museum, which is celebrating its sixth anniversary, has reopened with a double premiere and a new exhibition to mark the half-century of Rando's career.
The exhibition is titled 'Presente y vuelta al pasado. Las pinturas sucias de Jorge Rando' and it includes some of Rando's emblematic series of works, from Motherhoods to Nature, Africa, prostitution and Jesus Christ. There are also his most recent works, with titles such as 'Mariposas', 'Finisterris', 'Pinturas sucias' and 'El negro también es un color'. The latter is in the old Sala Magenta, which now contains a series of portraits where the colour black is predominant.
The first room to welcome visitors remains the same as before, a type of aesthetic prelude to what they will find the other side of the patio. Here in the main space are the butterflies upon which Rando has been working since last year, making incursions into the new room on this lower floor. In this display visitors will find the dark scenes of 'Finisterris' and 'Pinturas sucias', the artist's most recent ventures into territories which are closer to abstraction but without abandoning his figurative vocation completely.
The new spaces at the Museum Jorge Rando are particularly noticeable on the upper floor, where the series dedicated to prostitution (1995-2009), maternities (1997-2014), 'Áfrika' (from the 1970s to the present day), Jesus Christ (1980-2010) and natural landscapes await us in the final two rooms.
The whole museum is an intensive tour through Rando's extensive career, but in general he tends to shun public appearances: "My job is to paint, to be in the cave," he said at the official reopening. "But anyway, this house is your house and it will continue to be so."
Refuge and challenge
The director of the museum, Vanesa Díez, described the museum at the opening as "a refuge" and "a challenge". She explained that the central focuses of Rando's work are identity, dignity and the human condition.
"For the past six years we have been inflexible about our function as a museum," she said, referring to the fact that its success is not calculated on the number of visitors - who are not counted - but by its "realities". For a start, it is committed to not charging an entrance fee. But for those who like statistics, we can confirm that there have been 18 exhibitions of Rando's work and another nine by artists such as Ernest Barlach, Henry Moore and Qi Baishi; 724 cultural events, including film screenings, music, theatre and conferences; five social inclusion programmes and 22 agreements with different national and international institutions.
One of these, the Obra Social La Caixa, was represented at the reopening by Caixabank's territorial director for Western Andalucía and Murcia, Juan Ignacio Zafra, who highlighted the role of Rando not only as an artist, but also as a patron and promotor of culture through this museum which bears his name.
The mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre, also remarked on the "key role" the museum plays in the city in general and El Molinillo district in particular, but he also reminded those present of that Rando is an international artist, and next year will be participating like a touchstone in the ambitious exhibition '200 years of history of Spanish art. Goya, Dalí, Miró and Rando', in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, followed by a tour of Beijing, Shanghai and other cities.
Rando seems unaffected by this echo on the other side of the world, as he adds another brushstroke to his manner of understanding creation and life in different phrase, taken from Picasso's famous statement and now turned around and printed in a corner of the museum: "I neither seek nor find, I paint."