Notes from Puzzle Palace

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Day 1 Part 2 Berrocal Foundation visit

After visiting the main floor of the Berrocal Foundation, we were taken down to the lower level.  Here the molds, unfinished pieces, inventory of finished pieces, large artworks and other items were stored.  As we made our way there, the excitement was mounting.  The room was dark and only lit by the glow of our cell phones.  Carlos turned on one small light and we were off.  

George asked permission to film, more lights were turned on and off he ran.  While my beautiful lover filmed, I walked around corners and took photos and listened to Carlos describe what I was looking at.  There were boxes upon boxes of pieces of the cofinetta that were in various stages of completion.  I can’t tell you how many pieces were here.  It is an amazing amount of raw material.  We spent a great deal of time discussing sunk costs and bringing the rest to market.  Wow is all I have to say.

As I turned a corner, I saw the original molds along with the Styrofoam mockups for the statue in Jardines Picasso.  I saw the fountain I wanted to visit in Málaga.  I saw plastic wrapped art that pained me to see closed up and hidden from the world.  It was all I could do to not grab a blade and start ripping off the shipping wrap.   

I began looking at the molds and the first one I came to was for the Paloma Box.  Not only was the mold there, but there were also unfinished pieces.  What a find!  I hunted for years to get my Paloma Box and here they had many unfinished in this basement.  It’s a shame that they are sitting like this, but after talking with the brothers, I can understand why and what they are trying to do.  It makes my pieces all the more special.

After wandering around in the bowels of the building for an hour we went upstairs to the office space.  Here we saw the cabinet that the famous photo is on and the office workroom.  In the middle was a long table with books and papers laid out on it.  To me it looked like a memorial to Berrocal.   I would have loved to pick up some of the papers and read them, but it wasn’t my place.  We learned that at any given time he had three or four projects going on.  The last of which was his memoirs and a collection of the final pieces he produced before he died. An Anthologica part 2 if you will.  We turned around and were confronted by a massive bookcase filled with all genres of material. In the middle of the books was a case filled with many of the multiples.  I was surprised to see that Maria de O was missing. In it’s place was a photograph of the work.  As I scanned the shelves, I stopped and lusted after four pieces in particular.  I’ve always said I wanted these and one day I shall find them.  La Menina II, Hoplita, Sixtiasis, and Maria Manuela. 
I’ve a line on Hoplita and should have it by the end of November all things going right.  I was surprised by the size of it. I expected a much bigger puzzle.  He also showed us a wine bucket and tapas plate version of Benjamin. What I wouldn’t give to get my hands on that piece. 
From here, we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet on Sunday at noon.  George and I went back to our hacienda for a lovely local dinner and to mull over all we had seen today.  

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Day 1, part 1 of Berrocal Foundation visit

We started this trip on 10 October and are ending our main European trip on 30 October when we jump on a cruise ship back home.  It has been a wonderful adventure up to this date and George and I have both concluded that if we had not made it this far it would still have been worthwhile.  BUT!  This is the real reason for extending our stay beyond our trip with Oskar and José.  I was first invited to visit around five years ago. I had contacted the foundation when I purchased a Berrocal on ebay that had a missing piece.  They gave wonderful instructions on how to send it to them and they restored my puzzle.  Since then, I have gotten the collecting bug as I stated in the last post and have gone head on ever since.

We were to meet Carlos on Sunday, but George and I decided to go over and scope out the area when we arrived Saturday.  We were leaving when who should pull up?  Wow!  We pulled over, greeted each other and began our tour of the factory and the workshop.  This was a surprise for all of us.  He didn't expect us and we didn't expect the warm welcome.

What can I say?  This place is amazing!  It has something like 23,000 square feet of space.  It's massive.  Three floors worth of materials, puzzles, sculptures, paintings....It's all in here.  I walked in and my eyes were immediately drawn to a laser cut sculpture.  This was done by a gentleman who was an artist in residence and is on loan to the foundation.  While I asked questions and listened to Carlos speaking, We spent close to four hours with him on the first afternoon.  This first post will only cover a small portion of what we saw and did on this first day.  Forgive me for being long winded this time around.

He began our 'tour' with an explanation of the large photographs at the entrance.  The first is an image of around 700 Mini Davids with the shoulder and neck removed and the next is the photo of David as a hood ornament.  When I asked why the pieces were removed, I was told it was because that is where the serial number goes.  That makes perfect sense.  It would help ensure that none were released without consent.  An easy way to avoid the copies.

The next room we walked into was part museum display area, part workshop, part store.  I zoomed in on the small grey box that I recognized to be a jewelry display and was not disappointed.  I left on Sunday with 3 pieces; just because.  After being given a bit of background on this, we moved on to the main display area of the workshop. Here we saw the Almogávar for the first time.  I’d seen images of these in lots of books and saw the videos that a friend had posted, and was therefore eager to see them in person.  They did not let me down, they are huge!  Each weighs between 300-500 KG! For the uniformed, the Almogaáares were named after Aragonese, Catalan and Balearic warriors.  When these statues are standing tall, it is exactly what they look like.  Strong warriors, that is exactly what these sculptures look like.   When I asked, they can be taken apart, and have many times.  But each one takes two people simply because of the weight and size of these pieces. I am fortunate enough to have found a full set of the smaller anvils and was thrilled to be able to see where they started.  I know my anvils are heavy and they are much smaller versions.  

We saw a large version of Torso de Luces, again, I have a smaller artists proof by my front door.  We saw a copy of Diestro which is Olvedia, Spain.  This was a precursor to Torero and Manolete (both of which we also have at home.)  I saw a mock-up of Manolona as well as a small version of Sainte Agathe II which made me want to purchase yet another piece: La Menina II. I’ve been resisting on this one, but have come to the realization that we need it in our collection.  Now I just need to hunt one down.  

There were just so many pieces to see, I can’t remember them all by name.  The pieces that started as the precursor to Citius Altius Fortius, (we have the much smaller version) was on display, and we were allowed to play with it for a while.  Carlos also explained the mechanism and technical drawings to us.  

I saw a large version of Adriano (yes, we have a smaller one) and immediately realized that it disassembles differently than my version.  After a struggle I was told to use gravity, and with that hint, the piece came apart rather nicely.  Now comes the hunt for Hadrian. We spend quite a bit of time discussing 3D printing and the use of reclaimed plastics before moving on to the work area.  In this section we saw many many machines that were used to create the works almost all of which George has in his workshop.  But then he hit upon a few he doesn’t have and I could see his wheels turning.  Do I really need a heated saw that cuts through Styrofoam?  On the benches I could see a few puzzles that were in the workshop for repair or refurbishing.  Two Torso Sagas and a Richelieu.  Carlos took us over to a rather long work bench and showed us the pieces of Torero both polished and finished, and raw from the moulds.  After an awkward chuckle, he realized that we have seen many of these types of raw works on our many factory visits over the years.  He proceeded to take Torero apart and give a bit of a talk on the way the pieces were made with anecdotes of his childhood as well.  He again realized that we have the puzzle at home so he didn’t offer to let us do it.  He said something along the lines of "I know you’ve done this before."

All in all, we loved this part of the tour.  We next went down to the Bowles of the building where we saw the most amazing sights.  But more on that in the next post. 

For another opinion on this experience, take a look at Allard's post from May of 2018.

Due to very bad internet connection in the Azores, photos will come later.