Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept

When the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía opened its doors in 1990, it stood as a modern, contemporary Spanish museum on an international scale. Nevertheless, its building has gone through many challenges in order to achieve this goal.

King Felipe II first founded San Carlos Hospital – current headquarters for the museum– in the sixteenth century. It was here that all of the hospitals dispersed throughout the Court were centralized. In the eighteenth century, Carlos III decided to found another hospital, as these facilities did not meet the city’s needs. The present building is the work of architects José de Hermosilla and Francisco Sabatini, who was responsible for a large part of its construction.

In 1788, the death of Carlos III brought the building’s construction to a halt. Although a mere third of Sabatini’s project had been completed, the hospital was set up and began operations as originally planned.

From that time on, several modifications and additions were made until the hospital was shut down in 1965. Its functions were transferred to the Madrid Province Health Service. In spite of many rumors of demolition, the building’s survival was guaranteed in 1977 when it was declared a national monument by royal decree, due to its historic and artistic value.