Barcelona’s often angsty debates over how to sell to tourists took a different turn, after the city council rejected a plan to open a branch of the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg in its port area.
The port authority, which owns the proposed museum site, has given the green light, but council has objected to the site’s motive and fears the project will provide little value to local residents.
The council, whose consent is required for the project to proceed, had previously said it would not consider the project unless its scope was broadened to incorporate a wider range of cultural institutions.
A last-minute offer to involve the city’s Liceu opera house was rejected by Deputy Mayor Janet Sanz on Friday, when she told a press conference that authorities would restart the approval process since the beginning, after receiving what amounted to a “new proposal”.
The Hermitage project was proposed in 2016 by the Varia investment fund, which has an 80% stake, and Cultural Development Barcelona, ââa company run by Russian businessman Valery Yarolaski and Catalan architect Ujo Pallares. Investors hired Pritzker Prize-winning architect Toyo Ito to design the museum.
The city’s opposition to the project seems at odds with its stated goal of renaming Barcelona as a cultural destination. He launched his post-pandemic campaign earlier this month with the slogan ‘Barcelona like never before’.
At the launch, Marian Muro, head of the city’s tourist office, said: âMaybe Barcelona doesn’t want everyone to come, but rather those who appreciate our values ââand our particularitiesâ.
The campaign is aimed at visitors from Spain and Europe and seeks to attract what it calls âquality tourismâ, seen as a code for older, quieter tourists rather than crowds of bachelorette parties. young girl / boy.
The council commissioned four reports on the viability of the Hermitage project and concluded that it would place too much demand on public transport and increase traffic in the already bustling Barceloneta neighborhood. The city has proposed alternative locations but the developers continue to insist on the port site.
âProjects have to fit the city and not the other way around,â said Sanz, who has long argued that the project is incompatible with the port district.
There was also a question mark over the financial viability of the â¬ 53million (Â£ 45million) museum. Earlier this year, Sanz cast doubt on the project’s funders’ predictions that it would attract 850,000 visitors in the first year and 1.5 million a year thereafter.
Josep Ramoneda, the former director of the Center de Cultura ContemporÃ nia de Barcelona, ââdismissed the project as “a typical franchise based on a series of exhibitions of works in the Hermitage but without a singular purpose as a museum”.
Barcelona is home to more than 80 museums ranging from the Museu Picasso and FundaciÃ³ Joan MirÃ³ to establishments dedicated to chocolate, cannabis, perfume and dentistry.