Barcelona to display Francoist sculptures on the street as part of a controversial exhibition
The possibility that two Francoist sculptures may be displayed in Barcelona’s city centre as part of a temporary exhibition has unleashed controversy in the Catalan capital. ‘Franco-Victory-Republic: impunity and urban space’ aims to “force society to think about what Franco’s dictatorship represented” and the “impunity” this period has had “during Spain’s democracy”, explained Barcelona’s deputy mayor, Gerardo Pisarello. However, taking the exhibition to the streets by displaying the Francoist sculpture ‘Victoria’, and an equestrian sculpture of Franco himself, hasn’t gone down well with some political forces and associations in Catalonia. “In this country the executioners were not judged and the victims were not properly buried” stated ERC’s President in Barcelona’s City Hall, Alfred Bosch, adding that he considers the wounds that Franco’s dictatorship provoked not yet healed.
Barcelona (CNA).- Barcelona City Hall plans to organise an exhibition this October which includes displaying two Francoist sculptures on the street. In particular, the pieces are ‘Victoria’, by sculptor Frederic Marés and an equestrian sculpture of the dictator, the head of which was pulled off in an act of vandalism a couple of years ago. According to Barcelona’s deputy mayor, Gerardo Pisarello, the exhibition ‘Franco-Victory-Republic: impunity and urban space’ aims to “force society to think about what Franco’s dictatorship represented” and the “impunity” this period has had “during Spain’s democracy”. However, pro-independence left wing ERC and many associations regard this exhibition as an “offence to the victims” and consider the wounds that Franco’s dictatorship provoked not healed yet. “In this country the executioners were not judged and the victims were not properly buried” stated ERC’s President in Barcelona’s City Hall, Alfred Bosch, and emphasised that such an exhibition “gives a sense of normality which doesn’t exist” in Spain.
Although the official presentation of the exhibition ‘Franco-Victory-Republic: impunity and urban space’ will be in September, some details have already been made public. The initiative came from the governing party in the Catalan capital, the alternative left and green alliance ‘Barcelona En Comú’ led by Ada Colau.
The aim of the exhibition is, according to Barcelona’s deputy mayor, Gerardo Pisarello, “to generate debate” and “break the silence and the moral void surrounding Franco’s dictatorship” as well as “the reasons behind the impunity it has had throughout the democratic period in Spain, and to face it as a society”.
The sculptures ‘Victoria’ and the equestrian figure of Franco will symbolise “the dialogue between them” finding each other “on the streets again after so many years”. Moreover, Pisarello pointed out that the sculpture of Franco, the head of which was pulled off in an act of vandalism a couple of years ago, while on display at Barcelona’s Montjuic’s Castle, “is presented as a decapitated ruin, far from being an allegory”.
A “pedagogic exhibition”
Pisarello admitted that the project “may be awkward” because for many years impunity towards Francoism “has been tolerated” but insisted that it “can’t be hidden anymore”. “This debate may be uncomfortable because our country has managed the dictatorship’s legacy very poorly and there is still so much to be repaired” he stated and added that “this is, therefore, the pedagogic aim of the exhibition”. He agreed that some wounds provoked by Franco’s dictatorship are not yet healed and suggested that it is precisely for this reason that “the exhibition is necessary”, since this “open wound requires truth, justice and repair”.
Finally, Pisarello argued that the exhibition puts Barcelona “at the same level of other European cities”, such as Berlin, which have organised similar exhibitions in the past.
“An offence to the victims”
However, those who oppose the exhibition claim that other exhibitions, like a specific one on Hitler in Berlin, were kept inside the museums rather than being displayed on the streets. Political forces such as pro-independence left wing ERC and 'Amical de Mauthausen', the association which brings together Spanish Republican ex-deportees from Nazi concentration camps as well as relatives and friends of survivors and those murdered in the camps, also point out that Spain and Germany dealt differently with the consequences of their fascist regimes.
“In a country where the executioners were judged and the victims were properly buried such an exhibition may be difficult to understand but it could be considered a cultural element” stated ERC’s President in Barcelona’s City Hall, Alfred Bosch, but pointed out that putting on display such an exhibition in Spain “is an offence to the victims” and “gives a sense of normality which doesn’t exist”. According to Bosch, the exhibition “is not the best way to heal the victims” and may “lead to misunderstandings”.
Thus, Bosch urged those who have commissioned the exhibition to “give all the necessary explanations and corresponding corrections” before its opening. “Considering that in the Spanish state there are still Francoist symbols which haven’t been removed yet, the fact that a City Hall such as Barcelona’s would exhibit Francoist sculptures is frivolous and unnecessary” stated Bosch.