The story of a legacy
The Foundation’s origins
Julio Muñoz Ramonet died in Chur, Switzerland, on 9 May 1991. In his last will and testament, dated April 1988, Muñoz Ramonet left his property at number 282 Carrer de Muntaner, including the garden and its full contents (which included an extensive, valuable art collection) to a foundation that was to be named after him. This organisation was to preserve and maintain the premises and ensure they could be used by the public, under the patronage of the city of Barcelona.
On 8 July 1991, the acceptance of the inheritance was formalised, but the executors did not notify anyone of the bequest to the city. When Barcelona City Council became aware of it in 1994, it created the Fundació Julio Muñoz Ramonet.
This marked the beginning of a long legal process to demand that the heirs comply with the contents of the will. On 14 March 2012, the Spanish Supreme Court confirmed the ruling issued by the Court of First Instance Number 1 in Barcelona in 2007, ratified by the Barcelona Provincial Court 2 years later, which declared the Fundació Julio Muñoz Ramonet the legitimate owner of the property at number 282 Carrer de Muntaner, including the garden and the Torre de l’Avenir building, along with their full contents.
The fight for the collection
The ‘full contents’ mentioned in Muñoz Ramonet’s will refers to the collection that decorated the walls of the two homes in the Carrer de Muntaner property. It was a largely unknown collection that had barely been displayed in public exhibitions and was only shown to guests.
When the Fundació Julio Muñoz Ramonet received the keys to the property in July 2013 and went inside for the first time, 539 paintings, sketches, engravings and sculptures were found, most of which were from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Only 28 oil paintings and 14 sculptures were from prior to the nineteenth century. The bequeathed collection was known to be much vaster, so the Foundation brought a criminal lawsuit against Muñoz’s heirs and the companies in the family group for alleged misappropriation and forgery of documents.
In 2018, the Foundation recovered 18 artworks from the family’s property in Sant Andreu de Llavaneres, followed several years later by Goya’s The Apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar and El Greco’s The Annunciation.
In March 2020, as part of the inquiry phase of the legal process, four warehouses and five homes belonging to Muñoz’s family were searched and a total of 475 artworks were confiscated, including 376 paintings and drawings, 87 miniatures, four sculptures, four ivory pieces and three tapestries. Many of these pieces have been identified as part of the bequest to the city. The Foundation is still working to get them back and to recover the other bequeathed works that have not yet been located.
«The Annunciation by El Greco, and The Apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar by Goya
In July 2022, the Foundation was confirmed to be the rightful owner of two of the most significant pieces in Muñoz Ramonet’s will: Goya’s The Apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar and El Greco’s The Annunciation. This marked the end of a lawsuit filed by the businessman’s grandson. After appearing at different courts claiming ownership of the artworks, he withdrew his appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court before it could be declared permanently inadmissible.
The two works then became the object of a dispute between family members in a separate case from the main proceedings, which led to them being located and the Foundation claiming ownership of them, given that they were part of the bequest. At first, the pieces were left in a storeroom in the home of one of Muñoz’s daughters, but subsequently, the Foundation requested the intervention of a judicial committee, which could look after the paintings until the lawsuit was over. The two paintings were therefore moved to Barcelona in June 2017 and stored at the MNAC (Catalan National Art Museum), in the court’s custody.
When full ownership of the works was confirmed in late 2022, the court’s custody ended and the Foundation took possession of them. Currently, the paintings are on display at the MNAC, where they will remain on loan while the property is being renovated.