Judge sets December 11 as deadline for Catalonia to hand over disputed artworks
Spanish government and justice system attempt to resolve long-standing conflict when Catalan self-rule is temporarily suspended
A local court in the Spanish Aragon region set December 11 as the deadline for Catalonia to hand over the disputed artworks now located in the Lleida museum, in western Catalonia. A judge’s decree made public on Monday authorizes Aragon government workers and Spanish police to enter the museum in order to prepare the removal of the works. The judge also demands the collaboration of the Catalan police (Mossos d’Esquadra) and the local Lleida police.
This is a long-lasting dispute in which the Catalan administration has always rejected returning the pieces of art to Sixena, their original location, on the grounds that they were bought legally in the 1980s and 1990s. Catalonia also argues that the works are too fragile to be moved back to Aragon.
Yet now the country is under the temporary direct rule of Madrid, so the Spanish justice system is attempting to resolve this long-standing conflict when the position of Catalonia is weakened by the lack of executive government. The Spanish government has also made a push to remove the artworks from the country with the Catalan executive suspended. Indeed, Spain's Minister of Culture, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, ordered the works to be returned to Aragon last week.
The artworks are part of a larger collection of more than a thousand items removed from the Sixena monastery during the Civil War and taken to Catalonia. They were taken during the early days of the conflict, when monasteries and other Catholic buildings where being destroyed, in order for them to be preserved and protected.