Collecting Churches

It would be a nice endeavor to list all the full-size architectures kept in museums anywhere in the world. And of course also knowing how and, above all, why the full-scale buildings ended up in an exhibition hall. If the number of such objects is possibly unmanageable, the number of reasons for the respective huge effort should be finite. Right?

Here’s a quick sketch: 

Colonial larceny and ethnological competition: the Palau clubhouse in Berlin, Humboldtforum

Archeological competition and longing for antiquity: the city gate of Miletus and others, Berlin, Pergamon Museum

Conservation of monuments and national canon: Musée des Monuments Français in Paris, Cité de l’architecture

Education: the recreated segment of Le Corbusier’s L’unité d’habitation, ibid

Collection of templates for educational purposes: the collection of the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris

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The frescoes from Romanesque churches, which are permanently on display in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona, belong to the category “monument preservation and national canon.” The murals, created between the 11th and 13th centuries in remote churches in the Pyrenees, were removed from their sites in the 1920s and taken to Barcelona. The occasion was the feared sell-out of the frescoes on the international art market after some had reached the United States in 1919, where they can now be seen in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The installation of the painted apses from several dozen churches at the present site took place after the exhibition building on the central axis of the 1929 World’s Fair was rededicated as a museum. The special technique of dismantling large plaster surfaces requires a wooden substructure to which the thin panels are attached. This construction is not clad in the current exhibition architecture. So you walk between the concave forms of the painted church fragments and the convex backs, which are at least as exciting.



Romanesque Frescoes
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona 


permanent exhibition