Corruption Accusations Spoil Ambitious Street Art Initiative

The public art project has been postponed indefinitely.

The city of Málaga, located on the southern coast of Spain, has turned to street art to regenerate its shady Heredia portside district. The initiative, called MAUS (Málaga Arte Urbano Soho), has transformed a decaying crime-prone area into a colorful display of urban art from reputed international artists, including Shepard Fairey (OBEY), D*Face, Roa, and Pejac (see Wacky Street Artist Recreates Monet Sunrise).

“The idea originally came from the locals and a few businesses,” Fernando Francés, organizer of the first edition of MAUS in 2013 and director of the neighboring museum CAC (Contemporary Art Centre) Málaga, told the AFP. “We thought street art would contribute to giving the cultural image that we wanted.”

But, despite its good reception, the debut edition of MAUS left a bittersweet taste in many mouths, with accusations of corruption behind the scenes upstaging the quality of the street art works and their positive impact on the urban area.

The total budget for the first edition of MAUS was €121,050. Of that, €44,450 were allocated to fund the street art section, while €51,704 were allocated to bankroll an accompanying music festival that was hosted by CAC Málaga.

The local council handed the management of the public art project to Sandflower Art & Culture Advisors S. L, a company owned by Francés. But some saw the fact that the position wasn’t open to public applications and was handed directly to someone already established within the power structure of the city as lacking transparency. According to El Observador, once he was at the helm of MAUS, Francés appointed his son, Fer Francés, as curator of the street art venture. The move was deemed by many as nepotism.

This prompted the local left-wing party Izquierda Unida to demand Málaga’s mayor, Francisco de la Torre, to give a public explanation for Francés’ appointment and a breakdown of the project’s budget.

A Second Edition of MAUS

As a result of these complaints, an open call to find an artistic director and a company to organize and manage the second edition of MAUS was launched in October 2014. According to La Opinión de Málaga, the only company that presented a project was Gestión Cultural y Comunicación S.L, also owned by Francés and the entity through which he manages CAC Málaga. CAC receives a yearly grant of €3.4 million from the local government.

The proposal was not accepted due to unspecified reasons and the open call was declared void. A new open call to find a management team for MAUS was issued earlier this month. The deadline is tomorrow. In the meantime, 2014 has come and gone and the second edition has had to be postponed until further notice.

Meanwhile, Málaga keeps strengthening its position as an arts and culture destination. In March, both a Centre Pompidou satellite and a State Russian Museum outpost will open their doors in the city (see The Centre Pompidou Pops Up in Málaga and Málaga’s Hotly Anticipated Russian Museum Announces First Shows). Moreover, this summer a new art fair will launch in the neighboring resort town of Marbella (see Marbella Gets an Art Fair, But Are Collectors Game?).

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