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MADRID (Reuters) - Madrid's Prado Museum has started opening seven days a week and will lengthen its highly visited special exhibitions to offset the pain of government cutbacks.
Despite enjoying record attendance, the home of masterpieces by Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez is feeling the blow of a 6 million euro ($7.75 million) subsidy cut as Spain tries to rein in its swollen deficit.
The Prado currently has a 42 million euro annual budget, about half of which had come from public subsidies. That figure will now fall to 30 percent of the total budget until 2013, forcing the museum to make up for the shortfall.
"Museums are affected by the crisis without being in crisis themselves," Prado director Miguel Zugaza said, referring to the record 2.9 million visitors the museum received in 2011, the bulk of which were foreigners.
On weekends tourists can be seen waiting in long lines outside the museum to see a collection which also includes Rembrandt, Rubens and El Greco as well as special exhibits such as "The Hermitage," until March 25.
An exhibition organized in conjunction with the Louvre on the last years of 15th century Italian master Raphael is scheduled for June through September, followed by one on the young 17th century Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck.
With its new hours, the Prado joins a select group of international museums, including London's National Gallery and the Netherlands' Rijksmuseum, that are open every day.
The new hours are expected to generate an extra 1.5 million euros, Zugaza said. Corporate sponsors contribute some 6 million euros a year.
The Prado's neighbors -- the Reina Sofia, home to Pablo Picasso's 20th century Guernica, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza -- which together form Madrid's "Golden Triangle" of art, are also studying steps to compensate for lower subsidies.
The two also drew a record number of visitors in 2011, with the Reina Sofia receiving 2.7 million and the Thyseen 1.7 million.
($1 = 0.7740 euros)
Writing by Tracy Rucinski