Art has always been one of the main ways of questioning reality, especially the norms and invisible ties that bind the human race in multiple ways. This disruptive desire has given rise, for many years now, to controversies and scandals of all kinds in the artistic world, sometimes purely aesthetic, others with a political or religious background. In recent times, this chain of censorship and cancellations has continued for certain works, which took the provocative nature of plastic creation to levels considered excessive by the authorities, the public or both. Now, in Barcelona, a museum initiative has proposed bringing together many of these controversial works in a single space: the Museum of Forbidden Art. One of the most curious Spanish museums where almost 200 works have been gathered that have in common a history of prohibition and scandal.
Outlawed art in a modernist building
The Museum of Forbidden Art is an initiative of the businessman and collector Tatxo Benet, who has brought together all these pieces with the intention, as expressed in the museum’s manifesto, of being an “ironic and reflective, scathing and liberating, critical and empowering” collection. ». The building chosen to bring it closer to the public is the Casa Garriga Nogués, a magnificent construction in an eclectic modernist style work of one of the most prolific and outstanding architects of Catalan modernism, Enric Sagnier. Sagnier created this building for the banker Rupert Garriga Nogués, in the golden square of Barcelona’s Eixample (known for the number of modernist buildings it contains). The local public can get to know this elegant building for having been home to another museum collection, that of the Francisco Godia Foundation, between 2007 and 2015. Of the Sagnier building, a balcony supported by four columns, the work of the sculptor Eusebi Arnau, stands out, which represents the four stages of life. Inside, the stars are the majestic marble staircase and the wonderful stained glass windows.
Some of the impressive works of the Museum of Forbidden Art
In the 2018 edition of the ARCO fair, the founder of this museum won one of the most controversial works of recent yearsinstallation Political prisoners in contemporary Spain, by Santiago Serra. Just a few hours after the sale, the gallery responsible removed it from its site, due to the awkwardness of its message. That episode was the genesis of this museum, which displays before the visitor works as questioned as the ones we are going to see now.
Ai Weiwei, Filippo Strozzi in Lego2016
The Chinese artist is known for his quality as a political dissident in his country, a condition that has deeply marked his work. In this piece, we see a portrait of a historical figure made with Lego pieces, which corresponds to a Florentine character with whom he identifies because he has also suffered persecution because of his ideas. Here, therefore, the persecuted person is the artist himself and the character portrayed, rather than the work itself.
Francisco de Goya, Whims1797-1799
Even an immortal figure like Goya had problems because of some of his works, such as this series of engravings in which many customs of his time were criticized and satirized. The fact that the clergy and nobility were targets of his satires It gave rise to a complaint to the Inquisition, and Goya, fearful of the consequences, hastily withdrew these works from the market. Some of the famous series of engravings are shown here, such as They are already plucked, Bad night, Little Elves, The shameful and many others, up to a total of sixteen.
Abel Azcona, Amen either pederasty2015
If there is a name in Spain linked to controversies with the Church, it is that of Abel Azcona, accused of blasphemy and censured systematically. A good example of his work, implacable with the ecclesiastical institution, is Amenbetter known as pederasty, a conceptual installation that Azcona created after visiting churches and parishes linked to his childhood for several months. During these visits he gathered the 252 hosts that make up the work, a work that motivated countless protests and lawsuits.
Ines Doujak, Not dressed for conquering – HC04 Transport2010
Another sculpture that caused a lot of stir is this one by the Austrian artist Ines Doujak, which shows no less than to the king emeritus sodomized by a union member and a dog. The grotesque sculpture at the time led to the suspension of a group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, the MACBA, and the request made by the center’s own director that it be withdrawn, considering it inappropriate.
Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Raphaël et la Fornarina and Suite 347
Another Spanish genius present in the collection is Picasso, who towards the end of his life made two series of drawings with a sexual character more or less obvious. Rafael and Fornarina They are variations on a painting by Ingres from 1814, while series 347 are sketches made throughout 1968. The man from Malaga, despite his advanced age, was still an adept of eroticism and sensuality, as shown these small format works.
Eugenio Merino, Always Franco2012
A hyperrealistic figure of Franco, dressed to the nines and stuffed inside a soda fridge, was the sculpture that led its creator, Eugenio Merino, to face a lawsuit for “attack on the honor” of the dictator and the foundation that bears his name. Exhibited for the first time at ARCO in 2012, justice would finally recognize that it was simply art and did not involve any crime. In the words of its creator, the intention was not to harm the character, but to show an icon of our society.
The sample of problematic works goes far beyond these examples that we have just seen, and includes names as famous as Andy Warhol, Gustav Klimt, Antoni Tàpies or Miquel Barceló, as well as other prestigious international artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring or Banksy. All of them have at some point had a run-in with the limits of what is acceptable, and this collection comes to vindicate precisely that, in addition to becoming one of the most unique museums in Barcelona.