The main museum of contemporary art in Valladolid, the Patio Herreriano, has become the center of an artistic and political controversy on account of the alleged interference of the government team of the socialist Óscar Puente. According to several associations of critics, museum directors and artists, the City Council has decided to schedule an exhibition of the Murcian artist Cristobal Gabarrón against the criteria of the director of the museum space, Javier Hontoria. “Gabarrón will have his exhibition in our Patio, but that does not make him an artist. For me, being an artist is something else,” Hontoria denounced this Tuesday a harsh tribune published in the North of Castile.
Hontoria has the almost unanimous support of the main museum and artistic associations in the country. The Association of Directors of Contemporary Art of Spain, the Spanish Association of Art Critics and the Union of Contemporary Artists have issued independent statements that question the performance of the municipal government team. “It has unleashed an almost unanimous unanimity. This is what gives the certainty that this is one of the most scandalous episodes we have witnessed in the art world in Spain,” the art historian from the University told elDiario.es from Valladolid and cultural manager, Alfonso León. “The programming of a museum cannot be imposed by political power in this way. This would be as if Ana Redondo [la concejela de Cultura] I would like to decide who wins the golden ear of the Seminci “, Leon sums up.
From the group of art critics they point out that the discredit caused by this controversy will have an impact on the prestige achieved over so many years by the Valladolid museum. The union of contemporary Spanish artists (UNIÓN_AC) coincides with them, who point out that the municipal decision goes against the Code of Good Practices in Museums and Art Centers, and against the own statutes of the Municipal Foundation of Culture of the City Council of Valladolid. For them, the decision “seriously endangers the image of one of the most relevant institutions in our country and that of the important contemporary Spanish art collections it houses.”
The Association of Directors of Contemporary Art (ADACE), of which the main heads of museums of modern art in the country are part, goes further and considers that the attitude of the municipal government is “a gesture of unprecedented gravity in the recent history of cultural policies “. They indicate that they attend with “perplexity” that the Cristóbal Gabarrón exhibition will also occupy the space that the museum dedicates to the artist Eva Lootz, National Prize for Plastic Arts. “Lootz could initiate a judicial process if he considered it and he would be absolutely right. Taking an artist out of an exhibition is shameful,” explains Fernando Castro Flórez to elDiario.es, critic and Doctor in Aesthetics from the Autonomous University of Madrid.
The alleged imposition of the government team has also raised blisters within the municipal coalition. Manuel Saravia, deputy mayor and council member of the confluence of Izquierda Unida, Valladolid Toma La Palabra, assures that he does not coincide with his colleagues in the Government. “It seems to us that what is planned to be done is an excess. It does not make sense of the sufficient measure and in the action of the Government there must be proportionality,” summarizes the mayor to elDiario.es. On whether he considers whether it is an interference in the Herreriano’s programming, Saravia points out that one must be “more constant” in the fulfillment of museum programs. “We have stated that it did not seem very appropriate to us. It is a disagreement with the other part of the government team,” he says, although he believes that the difference in criteria between two parties is normal in a coalition.
Who is Cristobal Gabarrón?
Cristóbal Gabarrón was born in 1945, in Mula (Murcia). “Perhaps his childhood marked by his transfer to Valladolid, where he acquired his first training, his trips to France and Italy, or his current jobs that he carried out between Spain and the United States, have generated in him an open and dialoguing mentality”, recalls the artist website. His most representative works include the mural for the Barcelona 92 Olympic Games and the mural “Encuentro 92”, for the Universal Exhibition of Seville. His professional career is, according to his official profile, “marked by collaboration with international organizations such as the United Nations”.
This pretext is what the City Council uses to launch the exhibition: Gabarrón turns 75 and also the United Nations Charter of Human Rights, a connection that is questioned by the Valladolid Government team itself. “The excuse of linking his birthday to the anniversary of the Human Rights Charter is excessively anecdotal and ends up diminishing the importance of the celebration. Not applicable,” explains Saravia by phone. At a press conference this Tuesday, the mayor of Valladolid, Óscar Puente, said he was “a little surprised” by the statements of his deputy mayor, because he did not listen to them at the museum’s board of trustees.
In his gallery, the director of the Patio Herreriano explains that the artist Cristobal Gabarrón does not appear in his program, “just as he has not appeared in any institutional program in our country in the last fifteen years.” The UAM professor, Fernando Castro, further questions the relevance of Gabarrón. She is an absolutely inflated artist, mounted in the space of political ignorance, she criticizes. “With which prestigious gallery do you have a relationship? In which museums have you exhibited?” “His work is mediocre, and it is not a bad thing, but he is also an overrated artist who handles himself spectacularly and who has always been close to the political powers.” This newspaper has tried to contact Cristobal Gabarrón through different means, without success.
The mayor of Valladolid has assured never to have interfered in the projects of the Patio Herreriano and rejects that it is an interference. For Puente it is nothing more than the arrival of an exhibition on the UN “from the hand of an international artist.” Before the media, the Valladolid councilor has assured that if the art world had dedicated 10% of the energy with which they criticize the exhibition to disseminate art “we would not have the museums as empty as we have them.” Specifically, he pointed out to the Patio Herreriano museum that “it would not have dropped from 130,000 visits to 90,000 before the pandemic.” This Thursday a group of citizens, including art critics and artists from Valladolid such as Concha Gay or Gloria Reguero, have called a protest against the decision of the City Council with the slogan “El Herreriano is not touched.”