Automobile Museum reopens with a new exhibition

Joao Magalhaes with the 1952 Chevrolet Impala.
Joao Magalhaes with the 1952 Chevrolet Impala. / Salvador Salas
  • The owner of the collection housed in the old Tabacalera building hopes the Black Divas show will attract people from elsewhere in the province

In 1968, Yves Saint Laurent once again wrote his name in the history of fashion by presenting a spring-summer collection which had been inspired by the African continent. Garments such as the kaftan and Saharan jacket appeared on the catwalk for almost the first time and one of them can now be seen at the Automobile and Fashion Museum in the old Tabacalera building in Malaga.

The new temporary exhibition at the museum is called Black Divas and is in solidarity with the protests in the USA against police violence against African-Americans.

The owner of the museum, collector Joao Magalhaes, says "we are used to having to resist things". The Black Divas exhibition includes ten haute couture models from Paco Rabanne, Dior, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, together with a 1952 Chevrolet Impala and a Givenchy gown modelled by Naomi Campbell in the early days of her career.

An anti-racist message

"With this latest exhibition, we are riding the recent wave of anti-racism," says Magalhaes, who believes that the museum "has a duty to send messages to people". His fascinating collection, which has about 100 vehicles on display and over 250 haute couture garments in its fashion section, has a particular interest in issues such as "protecting nature and, as I said, standing up against racism".

A drop in visitors

The motoring museum has only just reopened, but most of the others did so about six weeks ago after being closed for over two months due to the coronavirus lockdown. They all appear to have suffered a drop in the normal number of visitors and agree that the restrictions on the number of people permitted inside at any one time and the necessary social distancing measures are partly responsible for this. There are also fewer foreign visitors to the city than usual.

Setting up the Black Divas display.

Setting up the Black Divas display. / Salvador Salas

It is, however, hard to compare the exact figures. With the exception of the Contemporary Art Centre of Malaga, none of the principal museums in the city which have been open for the past month and a half have said exactly how many visitors they have received, nor have they offered a comparison withthe same period last year.

The lack of information from the municipal museums in Malaga (the Pompidou, Russian Museum, Heritage Museum, Revello de Toro Museum, and the Thyssen which is privately owned but receives council -funding) seems surprising when you consider that others in Madrid such as the Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen have been providing their visitor numbers since reopening on 6 June and these show a considerable drop.

Joao Magalhaes says that in a normal year the majority of the visitors to the museum are tourists from abroad and that the recommendations on Trip Advisor, which has placed it at the top of the list of things to do in Malaga, have contributed a great deal to its success. At the moment, however, only about 20 people a day are coming to see the collections.

This museum will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in September, and its owner is still disappointed at what he describes as the lack of support from Malaga council in promoting it as a tourist attraction.

He says that at present he is not planning any special event to celebrate the landmark, but of course there is still time to change his mind.