Located in one of the most emblematic palaces of Valencia -Marqués of Dos Aguas-, the National Museum of Pottery González Martí is already 60 years old, and it’s got new challenges in the horizon as its expansion. Its director, Jaume Coll, talks about it in this interview.
In 2014 the museum has celebrated its 60th anniversary. Do you think that the expansion project, as it appears in the State Budgets, will be carried out in its entirety despite the crisis?
I trust that the Public Administrations are aware that the museum is an important institution for Spain, both in a local and national level. It is the museum of speciality most visited in Europe, doubling the second in the list. In this group we can find, to cite some, the Museu Nacional do Azulejo of Lisboa, the Cité de la Céramique of Sèvres or the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza. At the end of 2014 we had already reached more than 130.000 visitors. This has to be an incentive and the economic impact of the museum values five million euros a year, which from the economic point of view manifests that an adjusted investment as the expected in the budgets, recoverable in the short term, must not pose a problem. The historic importance of the Valencian and Spanish pottery deserve it.
From this expansion project, what would you most stress? What will it mean for the museum?
We could exhibit unique collections that nowadays are sitting in warehouses or that can only be seen when they are in itinerant exhibitions outside Valencia, as for example our Valencian tiling, which are the most important collection of the world in its genre. We only exhibit around a 10 per cent of our pottery. It would also allow us to expand the informative contents through new technologies. Without a doubt, we could become an exceptional museum in a European level.
How do you see the future of the traditional Valencian pottery? Craftsmanship will always exist, but there is an aspect that always worries me and that is the survival of the traditional knowledge. Because of that we have driven the investigation project about the Immaterial Heritage focused in two cases of the Valencian craftsmanship pottery: lusterware and the fire pottery of Vall d’Uixó. Authorities consider the craftsman to be another element of the productive gears as pyme. I think that protection lacks for this sector, which is entailed a productive capability that will allow to stay afloat its business and manage the matters with the Administration with the same solvency of a big company, when in lots of cases they are single-owner companies that have to hire agents for this complimentary processing.
Maybe, a more flexible framework must be found.
Yes, a serious problem is that of the generational shift. There is no formation in the profession beyond aspects in innovation and design. The integration of apprentices in this kind of businesses is hard because the labour costs are unacceptable for many of them. I also believe that promotion of the artisan product and information to the public lacks. It is done either in a luxurious way, with very high prices, or the product has to compete with a market of objects of daily use of really low cost. Lastly, I refer to those that still produce living heritage with their hands: for example, the Valencian lusterware, which is heir of singular techniques and processes that are a thousand years old. I think that we lack politics decided to discriminate which agents can be considered living heritage and encourage its public protection, as happens in Japan with the figure of the craftsmen declared National Monument. There are a few cases, so I think it could be plausible.
Could you explain how the expositive programme will be in the next months?
We have plans of introducing as many unpublished backgrounds as exhibitions that will introduce the result of the investigation carried out in the last few years. In relation to the first we will present an exhibition about Manuela Ballester, a Valencian artist exiled after the Civil War, wife of Josep Renau, whom we received an interesting donation of. Also about our backgrounds, we can emphasise another exhibition that we dedicate to Francisco Aguar, pottery painter and great collector that donated a huge collection of Valencian tile to the museum. In the investigation section the exhibition that we prepared about the mosaic factory Nolla stands out, an industrial product of advanced pottery for paving driven by Miguel Nolla y Bruixet in 1860 in Meliana, of high quality. Joking, despite being true, we always say that the Nolla mosaic is the great-grandfather of the ceramic tile that is so extended today in our homes, heart of the actual production of Castellon.