The artwork on display in this museum has a history of controversy. The Museu de l’Art Prohibit – translating to the ‘Museum of Forbidden Art’ – brings together 42 artworks that have, at some point, been ‘attacked, denounced, covered up or withdrawn from circulation’ due to social or religious reasons.
The museum, which opened last week in the heart of Barcelona, is described as the first of its kind, with a statement noting that it ‘plays with the concept of censorship and seeks to connect with the visitor’.
Among the artwork – all of which is said to have ’caused offence’ or been ‘censored’ at one time – is a sculpture of Ronald McDonald hanging from a crucifix, an installation of prayer mats adorned with sequined stilettos and a unclothed portrayal of Donald Trump . Tatxo Benet, a Catalan journalist and businessman, began to collect the art that fills the museum in 2018, acquiring more than 200 controversial pieces over the next five years.
The collection features works by renowned artists like Francisco de Goya, Gustav Klimt, Andy Warhol, and Pablo Picasso, as well as contemporary artists such as Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Amina Benbouchta, and Charo Corrales. It includes a diverse range of artwork – paintings, sculptures, engravings, photographs, installations and audiovisual pieces – that were largely created during the second half of the 20th century and in the 21st century.
There are works by artists from the U.S, Europe, Africa and Asia, many of which provide religious and sociopolitical commentary. Some more notable pieces in the museum, which is housed in a historic building in Barcelona’s Eixample neighbourhood, include Andrés Serrano’s Immersion ([Expletive] Christ), a 1987 photograph depicting a small plastic crucifix plunged into a glass tank of the artist’s urine. The red-tinted photograph has attracted controversy for more than two decades, with many religious critics labelling it blasphemous.
Other works condemned on the grounds of religion include León Ferrari’s 1965 ‘Western and Christian Civilization’ installation, which depicts a near-life-size Christ crucified on an American fighter jet.
Also featured is Fabián Cháirez’s depiction of the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, in which he is painted to appear unclothed, aside from a pink sombrero and black stilettos, on horseback.
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