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Santa Fe celebrates its Spanish heritage with a unique art show

SANTA FE, N.M. — A stroll through Cathedral Park in Santa Fe this summer or fall to view reproductions of 93 masterpieces in the collection of Museo del Prado in Spain should be on your “to do” list.

And on your “do again” list, too.

Beginning this week, the park near the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis becomes the exhibit’s first North American showplace. Free and open to the public, the all-outdoor show promises to be an egalitarian experience until it closes Oct. 29.

“We’re hoping for a real turnout of people from all walks of life – from near and far,” said David Setford, executive director of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society of Santa Fe, the exhibit’s lead sponsor.

“I think it will be a wonderful thing,” he said.

Outside the box of a museum building, at the hour of your choosing – within the parameters of park hours and available daylight, of course – you’ll be able to walk among 4-foot-by-6-foot frames displaying copies of work by the 14th- to 19th-century masters of European art.

The work presented includes iconic paintings like Diego Velázquez’s 1656 “Las Meninas” (“The Ladies in Waiting”) and Francisco de Goya’s work “The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid.”

Expect a broad selection of art that represents much of what the Spanish conquistadors and Catholic priests may have had in their imaginations while they made their way up the Camino Real, Setford said. Also included are reproductions of Fra Angelico’s “The Annunciation,” 1425-28, and Rogier van de Weyden’s “Descent from the Cross,” 1435.

The show’s depth represents an exciting element of the Museo del Prado – the intense interest Spanish kings had for collecting art and supporting artists, Stetford said.

“It has, pound for pound, more masterpieces” than other world’s-best museums, such as the Louvre, he said.

Organized by the Museo Nacional del Prado and American Friends of the Prado Museum, other sponsors include the New Mexico Multi-Cultural Foundation, New Mexico True, city government’s Tourism Santa Fe, and Heritage Hotels and Resorts, Inc.

Similar outdoor exhibits of masterpiece reproductions were held in Central America in 2011 and 2015.

The frames and pedestals for the reproductions were designed and manufactured in New Mexico. Designer Chris O’Donnell and metal manufacturer Taycar Enterprises in Albuquerque created frames that could withstand the kind of “hell or high water” New Mexico weather can deliver, Setford said.

The art is reproduced in a one-to-one scale, said Christina Simmons, of the American Friends of the Prado Museum. Not all the artwork fits within the 4-foot-by-6-foot frames so, in some cases, the reproduction crops the work a bit.

The reception for the educational component of the show in Santa Fe, with its many roots in Spain and Latin America, has been warm, Simmons said.

“In Santa Fe and New Mexico, there is a very strong interest in Spain and a strong appreciation for their Spanish heritage,” said Simmons, an American who has lived in Spain for 20 years.

Santa Fe as a crossroads for a continent – and many cultures – is heavily in evidence this summer. Santa Fe’s Celebration of Global Art and Culture 2017 features several events, including the ongoing show of photos of Frida Kahlo on exhibit at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art at 750 Camino Lejo. Setford, who will offer ticketed guided tours of the Prado in Santa Fe show for small groups, noted that original drawings from several master artists – Picasso, Cézanne, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo – are featured as part the Global Art events at the New Mexico Museum of Art downtown.