LUGANO, SWITZERLAND — One of Lugano's major attractions has always been the Villa Favorita, among the largest of private picture galleries in the world, so that when it became known in 1988 that Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza had decided to move 780 of his paintings to a palace in Madrid it was a major blow to the Swiss-Italian town. Although the decision to move the collection was in part due to Swiss intransigence - Lugano hadn't cooperated with plans for an additional gallery space to be built - the main reason for the transfer was the Spanish Villahermosa palace, spacious enough so that a large part of the baron's paintings could be hung together; a wish that had become of primary importance to him.
Consequently, Old Masters will no longer be at Villa Favorita when it reopens in April 1993, but visitors will find that the museum, which has been closed for almost two years in order to rearrange the art works, has jumped ahead a few centuries and will exhibit on a permanent basis a rich collection of 19th- and 20th-century American and European art. Thirteen rooms will house 130-150 paintings including works by Giorgio de Chirico, Charles Demuth, Edward Hopper, August Macke, Edvard Munch, Jackson Poll ock, Andrew Wyeth, and many others. Another seven rooms will be left free for temporary exhibitions. Irene Martin, Villa Favorita's director, is mum about upcoming shows but mentions a Tibetan art exhibit organized by the baron's daughter, Francesca, which may be ready for the April opening.
Madrid has gained a splendid collection - Villahermosa palace opened in October - while Lugano will get a new exhibition of the baron's more recent European and American art, an impressive group of masterworks never before shown to the public at Villa Favorita.