Legendary ‘Beast Jesus’ Restoration Gets Its Own Dedicated Arts Center
The ruined fresco has become a tourist attraction.
The ridiculously bad restoration job known as Beast Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving for the Spanish town of Borja. The small village is doing its best to extend the Ecce Homo craze that saw thousands of tourists descend upon it to see the perplexing amateur restoration of a church fresco. The disastrous efforts of local resident Cecilia Giménez are now immortalized at the newly-opened Centro de Interpretación.
Mayor Eduardo Arilla hopes the new art center will help sustain tourism related to the painting, which has waned since Beast Jesus first became a sensation in 2012, bringing thousands to the sleepy town.
In the first year after the story broke, “one couldn’t even be here, there was a line to see el paquirrín” Arilla told El Pais, using a local nickname for the now-infamous artwork. Giménez, now 85, had attempted to restore Elías García Martínez’s damaged 1930 fresco, only to be ridiculed for the cartoonish, primate-like appearance of the altered work, which came to be known as Beast Jesus.
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The new arts center contains 15 posters explaining the story of Ecce Homo and its unusual claim to fame, written in English, French, and Japanese.
Two students who helped with the Japanese translation told El Pais that Japanese people were drawn to Beast Jesus because “it’s on TV and it’s funny,” and “the actor who plays the red Power Ranger was here filming a documentary on the painting.”
Giménez, who will received a cut of the profits of any Beast Jesus merchandise sold at the new center and on Amazon, appeared at this week’s opening in a wheelchair, having recently broken her hip. Also on hand were several of Garcia’s grandchildren.
“This is too much, my God, I don’t deserve all this,” said an emotional Gimenez at the opening ceremony. In addition to providing a new revenue stream for the town, the Beast Jesus meme has led from everything from a music video and an opera to a documentary film.
As for Giménez, she’s come to terms with the much-maligned appearance of her inadvertent creation, telling El Pais “sometimes, after seeing it for so long, I think to myself, son of mine, you are not as ugly as I thought you were in the beginning.”
*Spanish translation by Cristina Cruz.
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