Exhibit featuring Catalan ‘political prisoners’ removed from Madrid’s art festival
International Contemporary Art Festival ARCO withdraws works by artist Santiago Serra amid controversy
Madrid’s International Contemporary Art Festival (ARCO) has removed an exhibit by artist Santiago Serra named “Political prisoners in contemporary Spain,” which included the portraits of four Catalan leaders held behind bars for pursuing independence.
The exhibit was to be opened to the public on Wednesday, but organizers decided to withdraw it before visitors could see it. As Catalan media reports, organizers wanted to “avoid the polemic” and stressed “a profound respect for the freedom of expression,” but said that the exhibit and the controversy surrounding it undermined the image of the festival.
Serra’s exhibit is comprised of 24 portraits, including the blurry pictures of jailed Catalan leaders. In total, 12 people have been held behind bars at some point during the investigation into Catalonia’s push for independence, and four remain in prison pending trial.
Catalonia’s vice president Oriol Junqueras and Home Affairs minister Joaquim Forn entered jail on November 2. Together for Catalonia leader Jordi Sànchez and Òmnium Cultural grassroots organization president Jordi Cuixart were incarcerated on October 16. They all face criminal charges that carry prison sentences of up to 30 years.