MACBA Barcelona Show Canceled Over Pornographic Artwork Ridiculing Spanish King Juan Carlos
MACBA director Bartomeu Marí claims he had not seen the work until Monday.
An artwork depicting the former Spanish king Juan Carlos and Bolivian Labor leader Domitila Chúngara involved in a sexual act with a dog on a bed of SS helmets has led the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) to cancel the exhibition “La Bestia y el soberano” (The Beast and the Sovereign) on the day it was meant to open (see After 20 Years, Portrait of Spain’s Royal Family Is (Nearly) Finished). The offending artwork, Not Dressed for Conquering, is a sculpture by Austrian artist Ines Doujak.
“It’s a work of art inscribed in the great tradition of works about art and power,” Valentín Roma, one of the curators of the exhibition told El País. “Art has been caricaturing the archetypes of power for centuries, which is what Doujak’s work is doing” (see Why Self-Censorship of Controversial Artwork is Wrong).
The exhibition was to include more than two dozen artists and artist duos or teams, including Juan Downey, León Ferrari, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Mary Reid Kelley, and Wu Tsang. In an open letter, the curators assert that the museum management was fully informed of the show’s theme and contents:
The curators never hid any information about the exhibition to the director of the museum: he was informed by Paul B. Preciado and Valentín Roma of the concept and the full list of works of the exhibition. The director had validated the project and not only its text and description but also the list of artists were already published in the MACBA’s internet page months ago.
MACBA director Bartomeu Marí claims he had not seen the artwork until Monday.
“I don’t want to spend time describing the piece, which I consider inappropriate and contradictory to the museum’s line,” Marí told El País. “I have always fought to defend contemporary art and its role in the reality that surrounds us, but in this case, I completely disagree with the inclusion of this work in an exhibition that reflects on the concept of sovereignty in all its aspects.”
The show was curated by Hans D. Christ and Iris Dressler, co-directors of Stuttgart’s Württemberg Kunstverein, along with writer Paul B. Preciado and Valentin Rome. According to the curators, the works “call into question different uses of sovereignty:
In the case of Ines Doujak, first and foremost white male sovereignty in regard to colonial and sexual exploitation; in the case of the artists from Kazakhstan, Viktor & Yelena Vorobyeva, the exercise of totalitarian power; in the case of Sergio Zevallos, the use of sacred and military iconography as well as normative sexuality, to name just a few.
Marí proposed that the sculpture be removed. When the artist and the curators declined, he canceled the exhibition. The organizers promise in the open letter that they will open the show in Stuttgart as soon as possible.
Another Provocative Artwork at a Spanish Museum
It’s the second time in several months that a provocative artwork has resulted in turmoil at a Spanish museum. Last year, the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid included in its exhibition “Un saber más útil” (Really Useful Knowledge) an artwork by the Argentinian art collective Mujeres Públicas (Public Women) that featured a matchbox with the sentence “the only Church that illuminates is the one that burns” written on it. See Angry Christians Demand Resignation of Museo Reina Sofía Director and Enraged Christians Sue Museo Reina Sofía Director.
Doujak’s Not Dressed for Conquering was exhibited as part of a past São Paolo Bienal. It is part of Loomshuttles/Warpaths, a project launched in 2010 that, according to her website, explores the relationship between Europe and Latin America.
Staff at MACBA have described the incident as “unheard of,” and have requested a meeting with the museum’s management to “understand the implications of the disagreement between the curators and the director, and the precedents that are being set” by the decision to cancel the exhibition.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect title for the artwork in question.
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