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Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza is one of the world’s most important art collectors active today and a well-known and esteemed personality in Spain and abroad. Carmen Cervera, Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza, was born in Barcelona into a family that encouraged her interest in art. Her father, who was an industrial engineer and businessman, enjoyed painting at an amateur level and also collected works by Catalan painters. Carmen Cervera was educated internationally at the French Lycée, the Colegio Lestonnac and Marty Mount International High School in Barcelona, as well as at the Sagrados Corazones in El Escorial (Madrid). She completed her studies in Switzerland and England.

In 1965 Carmen Cervera married the American actor Lex Barker with whom she lived in California, Italy and Switzerland until his death in 1973. Together they built a home on the Costa Brava which is now one of her favourite retreats. While on holiday in Sardinia in the late 1970s Carmen Cervera met Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a businessman and art collector. They married in England in 1985 and were inseparable until the Baron’s death in April 2002.

Carmen Thyssen always shared the Baron’s desire to make the collection as accessible to the public as possible. In addition, and with his support and advice, she embarked on forming her own art collection, thus continuing the Thyssen family tradition.

The Baroness’s important role in the formulation of the agreement between the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and the Kingdom of Spain for the initial loan followed by the permanent acquisition of the original Thyssen Collection by the Spanish State has been fully recognised. Its acquisition by Spain was a historic moment for that country while it also ensured that the Collection remained together and that it would be housed and displayed in optimum conditions. As a result, in 1988 the Baroness was awarded the Grand Cross of Isabel la Católica and in March 1999 the Gold Medal for Fine Arts, which she received from His Majesty King Juan Carlos in a ceremony held in Santiago de Compostela. In addition, in 2002 the Baroness was elected a Member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de Cádiz, was awarded the Melvin Jones Prize by the Fundación Lions Club of Gijón in 2009, and the Golden Pin Prize by the 21st Century Woman Association of Bilbao in 2010.

In 1999 the Baroness indicated her intention to place her own collection on free loan for a period of eleven years, to be displayed in the new galleries of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, once again manifesting her determination and commitment to making the Collection as accessible as possible. The signing of an agreement between the Baroness and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport launched the Museum’s extension project, which terminated with its opening to the public in the spring of 2004.

In the present day the Baroness supervises the running of the Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, which houses an important collection of Andalusian painting from her private Collection and which opened to the public on 24 March 2011.