A Magic Store

El Rey de la Magia
The store El Rei de la Màgia (The King of Magic) was opened in 1895 by Joaquim Partagàs. All photos by Pau Rigol.

One of the store’s most illustrious clients was the Catalonian poet Joan Brossa.

Store Interior
The local store maintains its original decoration and offers every kind of magical material.

Top Hat
In the premises of the Calle Princesa, one can acquire tickets for the shows.

Museum Picture of Floating Body Trick
The museum has a collection of photographs of the most impressive tricks.

Josep María Martínez and Rosa Llop
Josep María Martínez y Rosa Llop have managed the store since 1984.

Floating Body Trick
The theater has a capacity of 60 and perfect illumination.

Card Trick
If the magic show has more than 30 visitors, it is moved to the theater.

A Magic Store
El Rei de la Màgia (The King of Magic), the oldest establishment for stage magic goods in Europe, opens a theater museum in Barcelona
El País: Una tienda con mucha magia
Gorka Pérez reporting from Barcelona October 14, 2011

The magician takes a deck of cards out of a bag to begin the show, divides it into two stacks, and shuffles them an arm’s length away from a small group of people. With four aces in his left hand, he tells a story of gangsters in the streets of Chicago. Every ace represents the ringleader of a band of robbers. After they vanish into the streets of the city (different parts of the deck) to avoid capture, he dresses as a policeman and begins to investigate the evildoers’ whereabouts. Without touching the cards and only by saying the names of the fugitives, he makes them appear on the top of the deck. Applause.

The public’s ovation provokes a mocking smile from the cardsharp. Surrounded by a dozen people enjoying the show with a drink in hand, the magician Amilkar executes his act over the course of an hour at the Theater Museum of the King of Magic, a new space in Barcelona dedicated to spectaculars of prestidigitation opened this spring by the shop of the same name, the oldest in Europe dedicated to the sale of products for illusionism.

Since 1881, El Rei de la Màgia has sold all types of magical contraptions on the street Calle de la Princesa in Barcelona, first at #5, then at #11 ever since 1895. Funded by the prestidigitator Joaquim Partagàs, it was for years the only magic store in Spain and became a reference point. Its granite facade invites passers-by to go deeper into this small and dark space, an authentic magical journey which once captivated Joan Brossa, an aficionado of miracle workers who went on to say that “poetry, like sleight of hand, is the metamorphosis of reality, a surprise for every intelligent person.”

Since March, The King of Magic has had a Theater Museum on Jonqueres street in Barcelona in which it offers a select program of close-range magic shows and theatrical productions. In addition, the visitor can look around a small museum which shows a collection of objects used by different magicians during their shows along with photographs and posters of famous illusionists.

“The idea for the expansion came from Joaquim Partagàs and his dream of building a theater which only offered magic,” says Pau Martínez, manager of the new space. Although the offerings for magic shows have increased in the Catalonian capital (sessions are programmed by the lounges La Seca Espai Brossa and Teatreneu) the Theater Museum of the King of Magic is the only space uniquely dedicated to these kinds of shows. “Recently, magic and theater have fallen out a little. These days, dances and musicals draw better,” says Martínez.

His love for the world of illusionism was inherited from his parents, proprietors of the King of Magic since 1984 and forerunners of his new business venture. “What they did with this site deserves all my respect and recognition; it has incalculable value for magic,” says Amilkar in an emotional tone.

The program for the Teatro Museo del Rey de la Magia offers shows every week from Thursday to Sunday and prices that go from 10 to 20 euros depending on the time of the function and the places the guests want to visit. “We’re keeping it small because that’s all we wanted to do. People from New York and London have passed through here and thanked us for starting up a place like this,” says the director.

At the beginning of his session, a man of medium stature holds an old newspaper between his hands. In the first row, a group of American tourists are watching enthusiastically. After making his assistant levitate, transforming all kinds of objects, and divining the numbers of a dozen cards, the show ends as it began, witha wave of applause. “The truth is that the people are welcoming this new place very well, and although we’re just starting and the [effect of the economic] crisis is evident,” we’re optimistic,” says Josep Maria Martínez, magician and proprietor along with his wise, Rosa María Llop, who participates in shows with him.

Although the shows monopolize a great part of the family’s time, the shop on Princess Street continues to be the flagship of the El Rei de la Màgia. “I’m from Pontevedra, and this place is as I imagined it: lots of wood, faint light, and a mysterious air that envelopes you,” comments Pablo Correa, a magic aficionado visiting the locale for the first time. He didn’t know that in addition to having everything he was looking for, he could also see magic shows. “I’m going to come here often,” he confesses with a roar of laughter.

With the theater up and running, the shop has also planned classes for learning how to do tricks. In these, one can perfect the techniques of manipulating cards and small objects, acquire knowledge of the other branches of magic, and even take a complete course of classes which also offers the student a toolbox to use for his own show.

Amilkar, a professor of magic, finishes his show with a trick using cards and two crystal glasses. With a handkerchief and a suave movement, he provokes a shout that ricochets off the walls of the bar. After his number concludes, the theater bar closes its doors. The impression made on the spectators augurs well for the next show. The King of Magic abides on his throne.

The Secret of the Trick

Sometimes people come to the store to complain about all those magicians that teach the trick. Although we don’t like that they do it, it helps them create interest,” says Pau Martínez. Although the cardinal rule of any magician is that he never reveals his secrets, there are magicians dedicated to commercializing their shows.

During magic classes taught at El Rei de la Màgia, the assistants promise to never reveal what they learn to anyone. “Some obey more, some less,” confesses Martínez in an ironic tone.

The thing is the result of a trick has to provoke the curiosity of the aspirant as well as the feeling he could repeat it. “My parents have never explained to me how to do a trick, but I’ve learned by observing them. The keys are always in the books.”

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