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Art & Culture

Barcelona’s Museum of Censored Art Unveiled

Barcelona’s Museu de l’Art Prohibit, a sanctuary for censored art, stands as a bastion for free expression, curating creativity once suppressed. The museum itself manifests the struggle and triumph of artistic freedom, ensuring that the prohibited becomes prominent, and the silenced stories, through art, are loudly heard. To earn a spot within the Museu de l’Art Prohibit walls, each piece must have stirred controversy or been objected to.

At the helm of this groundbreaking initiative is Tatxo Benet, a Catalan entrepreneur and art enthusiast, who established the Barcelona-based institution to showcase pieces that have faced obstruction or outright bans due to their challenging nature against political, social, or religious sensibilities. Launching with an impressive display of 42 significant works, it draws from Benet’s extensive collection which includes art by celebrated figures such as Ai Weiwei, Banksy, and Gustav Klimt.

Carles Guerra, the museum’s appointed artistic director, confidently told the Telegraph’s James Badcock, “The era when censorship could occur without challenge is over; societies are now equipped to push back.” Despite acknowledging numerous “states of exception” where expression is under siege, Guerra maintains a positive outlook on the shifting balance of power towards individuals. “This collection illustrates the undeniable truth that no authority is impervious to opposition,” he asserts.

Benet’s journey as a collector of the contest began in 2018 following the removal of Santiago Sierra’s “Political Prisoners in Contemporary Spain” from the Arco art fair in Madrid. The piece, presenting pixelated images of political figures and jailed Catalan leaders, was banned. “The acquisition was significant for me because it courageously confronts a reality that can divide opinion,” Benet explained to the Art Newspaper’s Gareth Harris. He underscored the dual loss censorship represents: the infringement on the artist’s liberty and the public’s right to engage with the work.

Now, Benet’s compilation boasts over 200 pieces, mainly from the 20th and 21st centuries. Among them are works that incorporate religious motifs and provoke dialogue, like Argentine León Ferrari’s “Western and Christian Civilization,” a provocative piece linking the crucifixion of Christ with military aggression, which he had to withdraw from the Instituto Di Tella Award’s exhibition in the ’60s. Finnish artist Jani Leinonen’s “McJesus” from 2015, depicting a crucified Ronald McDonald, also found a home in the museum after inciting controversy and subsequent removal from the Haifa Museum of Art.

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