A TOP authority on art collections in Britain has been delighted by Palma's brand new Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art after visiting it for the first time yesterday. Jan Debbaut, who is Director of Collections for all four of the Tate Museums and has over 30 years of experience in the industry under his belt, said the “site is fantastic, I very much like the integration of art into existing buildings.” For those who haven't visited Majorca's new attraction that opened at the end of January, the Es Baluard museum lies within the ancient walls of the Es Baluard fortress, and uses 5'000 square metres to display its extensive range of both local and international art. Debbaut was accompanied by Pere A Serra, president of the Grup Serra and the Fundació d'Art Serra, which has provided many of the works. He was struck by the idea of incorporating new art into old architecture. “From the outside you don't see what is happening, I like that. Referring to old buildings is a good idea.” He said that it is important for museums to create their own identities and in this respect Palma's Es Baluard has triumphed. “When people come to this museum in Palma they will remember it because it has been successfully integrated into old buildings.” Art work from both Majorcan and international artists is included in the collection, and some utilise the unique aspects of the ancient building.
As Debbaut explains, “What you have here is artists who create works of art that are designed around the spaces.” One such piece by Rebecca Horn, called Light Imprisoned in the Belly of the Whale, appears in the large oval-shaped well of the old fort, and uses the vast empty space to great effect. Debbaut also praised the museum's ability to be more subjective in the collection it forms. “Whereas in the Tate we have to ensure we represent all the different stakeholders and periods of work, this museum in Palma has the advantage that it can be more subjective and represent a more selective body of work.” “I believe in a geography of imagination, wherever you are you think differently. This is what this museum does, it makes you think differently.” Debbaut, who has worked as a director at museums in Brussels, Eindhoven and now London, said that he only started coming to Palma two years ago to visit his friend, artist Rebecca Horn, as their birthdays fall in the same week. He had not related art to Palma, but now, he said, “I am definitely interested in the new museum here.” Debbaut is in charge of the collections for all four of the Tate art galleries: Tate Britain, Modern, Liverpool and St Ives, which, in total, exhibit over 70'000 art pieces. One advantage, he says, that Palma's Es Baluard museum has over the Tate Britain is its size. “The Tate is too big, with so many different periods being displayed. Here is not too big and not too small.” He also said that whereas in Britain, art collections are centralised and therefore if it does not appear in the Tate then it does not appear, in Spain there is a “successful decentralising of contemporary culture. There isn't just one art gallery with all the works. “Only last year in Spain there were 40 new centres to display art.” This, he said, is why this new museum in Palma will be successful.”