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Francoist sculptures displayed in Barcelona as part of controversial exhibition

The pieces are an equestrian sculpture of Franco, the head of which was pulled off in an act of vandalism a couple of years ago, and ‘Victoria’, by sculptor Frederic Marés. After many years of being kept in a Barcelona City Hall warehouse the Francoist sculptures were erected this Monday on the esplanade before the ‘El Born’ Cultural Centre, in Barcelona’s historic centre, amid criticism from citizens and political parties. Indeed, several people booed the workers while they erected the sculptures this morning and threw eggs at them. 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”. 

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17 October 2016 02:30 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (CNA).- After many years of being kept in a Barcelona City Hall warehouse, two Francoist sculptures were erected this Monday at the esplanade before the ‘El Born’ Cultural Centre, in Barcelona’s historic centre, as part of the exhibition ‘Franco-Victory-Republic: impunity and urban space’. Several people booed the workers while they erected the sculptures and threw eggs at the pieces, an equestrian sculpture of Franco, the head of which was pulled off in an act of vandalism a couple of years ago, and ‘Victoria’. 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, many citizens, political parties and associations claim that the exhibition is an “offence to the victims” and feel the wounds that Franco’s dictatorship provoked not yet healed. 


The sculptures ‘Victoria’ by sculptor Frederic Marès and the equestrian figure of Franco, by Joan Viladomat are being displayed on the esplanade before the ‘El Born’ Centre Cultural, a museum built within an Art-Nouveau market from the late 19th century, located in the Born neighbourhood, next to the Gothic quarter. The facility unveils the neighbourhood’s ruins dating from 1714, when residents were obliged to destroy their own homes and leave without any compensation after Barcelona’s military defeat on the 11th September of this year. Indeed ‘Victoria’ will be directly facing ‘El Born’. Those who oppose the exhibition consider it an offence to the victims of Franco’s dictatorship, and also claim that the location is not appropriate, since it is regarded as a symbol of Catalonia’s renaissance after its defeat in 1714.

According to Barcelona’s Deputy Mayor, Gerardo Pisarello, the sculptures symbolise “the dialogue between them” upon finding each other “on the streets again after so many years”. Barcelona’s deputy mayor also pointed out last August, when the details of the exhibition first came 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, will be “presented as a decapitated ruin, far from being an allegory”.  

He also 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.

There is also a third sculpture which represents the shadow of the Republic.

A controversial exhibition

The exhibition has been surrounded by controversy since it was first announced, last August.The initiative came from the governing party in the Catalan capital, the alternative left and green alliance ‘Barcelona En Comú’ led by Ada Colau. Barcelona’s deputy mayor, Gerardo Pisarello, explained that the exhibition aims “to generate debate” and “break the silence and the moral void surrounding Franco’s dictatorship”.

Pisarello admitted in August, when the controversy first arose, 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”.

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”.

Division amongst political parties

The representatives of Liberal Convergència i Unió (CiU) at Barcelona’s City Hall, left wing pro-independence ERC, Spanish Unionist 'Ciutadans' and Conservative People's Party (PP) have already announced that they won’t attend the opening of the exhibition, which is due to be held on Tuesday.

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  • Project of the exhibition 'Franco-Victory-Republic: impunity and urban space’ to be displayed at Barcelona's Born Centre Cultural (by ACN)

  • Project of the exhibition 'Franco-Victory-Republic: impunity and urban space’ to be displayed at Barcelona's Born Centre Cultural (by ACN)