A line of sticky tape
The evolution of Spanish society from the end of the military dictatorship that governed it until the death of its caudillo, Francisco Franco, in 1975, is present in all changes to the security systems that have protected Guernica, the painting by Picasso on the Spanish Civil War, since the MoMA in New York returned it to Spain in 1981. Even on the day of this report, a girl with headphones over her ears walks straight up to the painting and a watchman in the room stops her.
The girl looks startled and steps back.
On the floor, 3 m from the Guernica painting, there are five strips of grey adhesive tape stuck to the tiles weakly marking the security perimeter of the work. In fact, what keeps visitors to the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid away from the painting are the two figures silently standing alongside it from 10 in the morning, María del Carmen Míguez and Ángel Blanco.
Their surveillance equipment is a dark suit with a white shirt, a plasticised name card and Ángel carries a walkie-talkie. Over the painting there are two video cameras and two small white artefacts that whistle when anyone crosses the line of sticky tape.
From 1981 to 1992, the Guernica was in the Casón del Buen Retiro, a dependency of the Prado Museum. The work was protected by bullet-proof glass 15 mm thick and two civil guards armed with machine guns. In 1992 it was moved to the Reina Sofía Museum, where for three years it was covered by a glass screen though with no ammunition. The last obstacle was a wooden platform surrounding it. This disappeared in 2008, when the museum moved the painting to its present room.
On the morning of Friday, 25 February 2011, Ángel and María del Carmen, standing on either side of the Guernica, are calmly watching the spectators. From time to time they remind someone that photographs cannot be taken in the room. 3 m from the painting under the room’s white light, an elderly man interprets the figures Picasso painted for some sleepy children.
—Look at this. He points to their eyes out of their orbits, it is exacerbated fear, much more than terror. It is pure panic.