In some places in Spain which are open to the public the temperature is not controlled by the government but by the likes of Joaquín Sorolla, Pablo Picasso, Julio Romero de Torres or even Andy Warhol.
Works of art have to be kept under very specific conditions in order to protect them: at a temperature of around 20C to 24C, and between 50-55 degrees of humidity in the air. Any sudden change could cause permanent damage and the 27C stipulated by the authorities is not viable in these institutions, nor can the heating or air conditioning be turned off at the end of the day. As a result of rising energy prices, some are now paying 200% more for their electricity than they were a year ago.
The figures are revealing. The Carmen Thyssen Museum paid 268% more for its electricity in August: from 16,000 euros for the same month in 2021 to 59,000 euros this year.
For the CAC contemporary arts centre, the September electricity bill was 204% higher this year than in 2021. In some months it has had to pay over 30,000 euros, three times as much as usual.
At the Malaga Museum in the Palacio de la Aduana, new air conditioning installed in 2019 has helped because it means that the interior can be climatised in sections, but even so the electricity bill in February was 25,953 euros, an increase of 61% compared with the same month in 2021.
However, the museums run by the municipal culture agency are the exception. The house where Picasso was born, the Pompidou Centre and Russian Museum have not been affected so far because the council has a fixed-price contract with the energy supplier. That comes to an end in January, and it will then be extended or renegotiated.
Energy prices are starting to fall now, but no museum had expected them to rise so high and the extra expense has had a major effect on their finances.
“We were keeping to our budget, generating more private financing and maintaining the contribution from the council, and we have been doing well in terms of ticket sales, sponsorships and events but despite all that we are not able to cover the increase,” said Javier Ferrer, the manager of the Thyssen Museum.
Meanwhile, at the CAC they are waiting until the end of the year to see how badly the energy crisis has hit their finances and will then consider what can be done to alleviate the problem.