Touching the Prado

Museo del Prado in Madrid have created an innovative exhibition for the blind featuring artistic masterpieces recreated in 3D form, allowing the blind to feel their way into the paintings.

The exhibition titled Hoy Toca el Prado or Touching the Prado, is the museum’s first ever exhibition targeted at the visually impaired community and includes a selection of world famous art pieces including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa transformed into relief.

fluoro spoke to the Museum’s curator, Fernando Perez, about the inspiration behind this special exhibition, the process of its creation and the responses received from the visually impaired.

fluoro. What inspired you to create an exhibition for the blind?
Qué te inspiró para hacer una exposición para los ciegos?

Fernando Perez. It’s the first time the museum has had an exhibition or activity designed specifically for the visually impaired. We’ve had a program called El Prado for Everyone for a number of years for the hearing impaired, where certain activities have a Spanish sign language interpreter, and for those with autism spectrum disorder or neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but we’ve never done anything specifically for the blind or visually impaired. And we wanted to do something in that regard.

The idea of the exhibition is to enable visitors with some degree of visual impairment to experience the world of painting, specifically a selection of Museo El Prado works, by providing a tactile experience of these works. It is an accessible exhibition, one that is open to all, where visitors can have an interesting sensory experience combining sight – the reproductions have the same colours as the originals, touch – they can and should touch the paintings, and sound – there is an audio description with precise instructions for a tactile discovery of each piece.

Es la primera vez que el Museo hace una exposición o actividad dirigida a visitantes con discapacidad visual. Desde hace años el Museo tiene un programa llamado El Prado para todos”, dirigido a público con discapacidad auditiva (algunas actividades tiene intérprete de lengua de signos española), trastorno de espectro autista, enfermedades neurodegenerativas tipo Alzheimer… pero nunca se había hecho nada relacionado con la vista o la discapacidad visual. Y queríamos hacer algo en ese sentido.

El objetivo de la exposición es acercar la pintura -una selección de obras del Prado- a personas con algún tipo de discapacidad visual, ofreciéndoles la posibilidad de hacer un recorrido táctil por las mismas. Es, por tanto, una exposición accesible, pero abierta a todo tipo de públicos, que pueden vivir una interesante experiencia sensorial a través de la vista (las reproducciones tienen el color de las pinturas originales), el tacto (se pueden y se deben tocar) y el oído (hay una audiodescripción con indicaciones muy precisas para hacer el recorrido táctil de cada pieza).

f. Once you had the concept, how did you put it into effect? How did you create the 3D paintings?
Una vez terminaste el concepto, cómo fue la ejecución? Cómo creaste las pinturas 3D?

FP. It’s a very novel technique and a process that continues to be improved and refined. It was developed by a company in Bilbao that works in the photo and poster-printing field as a way to add volume and texture to images, up to a depth of 6 mm.  It’s not an automatic digital image-editing process. It involves an earlier examination of each work and assessment of which elements or aspects of each you want to put into relief.

Es una técnica muy novedosa  y en proceso de constante mejora y perfeccionamiento. Desarrollada por una empresa de Bilbao, surgió en el campo de la impresión de fotografías y carteles y permite dar volumen y textura a las imágenes, llegando hasta 6 mm de altura. No es un proceso automático de edición digital de imágenes, sino que previamente hay un trabajo de estudio de las obras y valoración de qué elementos o aspectos se quieren destacar en cada una de ellas.

f. How many works are there in the exhibition? And what was the basis for selecting them?
Cuántas pinturas tienes en la exhibicion? Y, sobre qué te basaste deva la selección de las obras de arte?

FP. There are six reproductions in the exhibition. The idea was to select internationally famous artists representative of the Museum’s collections and also very well known works frequently appearing in the literature. At the same time we wanted the selection to reflect the various genres or themes appearing in paintings in El Prado. So there are two portraits (a male and a female), a religious painting, a mythological work, a still life, and a Costumbrista piece.

Hay seis obras reproducidas en la exposición. La idea era escoger a pintores representativos de las colecciones del Museo, de fama internacional, y también obras muy conocidas de ello, que aparecen frecuentemente en los libros. Al mismo tiempo se buscaba que la selección reflejase los diferentes géneros o temas que aparecen en las pinturas del Prado. Por eso hay dos retratos (uno masculino y otro femenino), una pintura religiosa, otra mitológica, un bodegón o naturaleza muerta y una escena “de género”, costumbrista. 

f. What has been the reaction from the general public and particularly from the blind community?
Cuál ha sido la reacción del público en general, y especialmente la comunidad de ciegos?

FP. The response from the visually impaired, both the completely blind and those with partial sight, has been very positive. For them it’s a genuine novelty to be able to touch a painting and they’ve said they’ve been able to recognise many of the things depicted in the paintings. And they’d like the experience to be extended in the future to include more works.

Many visitors without visual impairment have also come to the exhibition simply for the pleasure of touching the works, something generally not permitted in museums. We have also provided dark glasses so they can experience the feeling of being unable to see anything and to have to use only their sense of touch, plus their hearing with the audio guide. And they’ve had a very interesting experience.

La respuesta por parte de personas con discapacidad visual (invidentes totales o personas con resto de visión) ha sido muy positiva. Para ellos es una auténtica novedad poder tocar pinturas y  afirman que pueden reconocer muchas de las cosas representadas en los cuadros. Y que la experiencia debe ampliarse en un futuro a más obras.

A la exposición también se acercan muchos visitantes sin problemas de visión, por el simple placer de tocar (algo generalmente prohibido en los museos) Además se han hecho gafas opacas para que experimenten la sensación de no ver nada y tener que usar únicamente el sentido del tacto (y también el oído, con la audioguía) Y lo viven como una experiencia muy interesante.

f. Will you incorporate the concept in other exhibitions?
Llevarás el concepto a otras exposiciones?

FP. Some sort of tactile panel or reproduction could be incorporated in various types of exhibitions, but we think it makes more sense to continue in the same direction. Tactile exhibitions comprising solely of reproductions in relief. We’d like to continue doing the same thing with other works in the El Prado collection.

Se podría incorporar algún panel o reproducción táctil en diversas exposiciones, pero creemos que tiene más sentido seguir trabajando en esta línea: exposiciones táctiles integradas únicamente por reproducciones en relieve. Nos gustaría seguir haciendo lo mismo con otras obras de la colección del Prado.

The museum is now considering the possibility of turning Touching the Prado into a travelling exhibition touring various cities in Spain. The current exhibition at Museo del Prado will be on display until Sunday 28 June 2015.

www.museodelprado.es

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