Víctor Ochoa, Ayuso's favorite sculptor repeats after his failed tribute to the COVID heroes

Víctor Ochoa has returned to the Community of Madrid. The artist, an old acquaintance of the Madrid PP, gave the regional government a statue in 2020 in tribute to the Heroes of COVID that turned out to be a recycling. The work was the subject of ridicule and criticism since its inauguration in the midst of the first wave of the pandemic at the Royal Post Office and in the company of Isabel Díaz Ayuso. Two years after the scandal that forced the president to remove the sculpture and to hide it for months in a stairwellOchoa has received a new assignment.

It is a two-meter-high bust weighing 100 kilos of King Felipe VI that has just been presented at the Government headquarters. The difference with Héroes del COVID is that this has been a finger award for 110,000 euros. Víctor Ochoa, 68, has been graced with a commission that he received in February and whose contract was made public through a tender in April.

From the Ministry of the Presidency, Justice and Interior of Madrid they point out that they repeat with him because they wanted a "certain type of sculpture and style" and that for this reason it was a procedure without publicity and by hand. "It's like if you want a portrait of Antonio López, because only Antonio López can paint it for you," they compare. They add that in this way "a cycle is closed" by the artist, who has also made the sculptures of Felipe VI's grandfather and father.

But Ochoa is an old friend of public administrations and in his day admitted that he does not need to go through official channels to offer to decorate their headquarters. "I have a good professional relationship through my works with presidents, secretaries and entities", revealed to this newspaper in 2020. "My contacts are direct." This is how he ceded to the Community of Madrid two years ago a statue designed in 1995 and finished in 2017 to honor "the thousands and thousands of people who risked their lives" in the health crisis, although it was not carved with that intention.

The white enamel mask that rests on a bronze leg was a cursed mythological faun that Víctor Ochoa found meaningless. Among other scenarios, the piece had served as props in a Hugo Boss watch presentation or in an exhibition by Ochoa himself at the Boadilla del Monte palace.

After that, he was keeping it without any purpose in his house until one day he looked at it and saw in it "a symbol, an emblem". "When I became aware that it was the perfect work to define that, I made some adjustments, called the Community of Madrid to donate it and they accepted", explained the artist. To justify himself, he defended that the Statue of Liberty was not created for New York either , but for the Suez Canal, nor Michelangelo's David for the Piazza della Signoria in Florence.

Although for Ochoa that did not invalidate the metaphorical charge of his creation, because "it is the artist who decides when the circumstances arise to exhibit his work", the Community of Madrid did not think so. Two days after presenting it in the courtyard of the Casa de Correos, the sculpture appeared in the stairwell, covered by a blanket and "pending location". She spent a year hidden in the government headquarters until Ayuso sent her to the "pandemic hospital" Isabel Zendal, controversial symbol of the health policies of the PP of Madrid. "The monument that remains in warehouses is as if it didn't exist," said Ochoa, agreeing with the transfer of his work to Zendal.

Before meeting that destination, Víctor Ochoa said he had made sure that he would receive a preferential spot: "When you make a donation of this cost, you have to be very convinced that it is a magnificent work, that it will be well exhibited and that it will have the image and diffusion that you consider fair for your work". According to his calculations, Heroes del COVID has a value of 273,000 euros, although he decided not to charge them to the Community of Madrid. "I do not offer my work to a political party, but to the people of Madrid," he assured then.

The following institutional tribute to the victims of COVID started from the City Hall and It was a Forest of Lost Embraces, where citizens could baptize a tree in a field of Campo de las Naciones with the name of a deceased family member or loved one. This itself was carried out by an artist chosen by public contest.

Víctor Ochoa has become one of Isabel Díaz Ayuso's favorite artists with the musician Nacho Cano and the painter Rafael Cidoncha, who has portrayed numerous politicians from the Popular Party and whom the Madrid president commissioned a painting by Esperanza Aguirre. Even so, the sculptor denies that the Community of Madrid favors him more hand in hand with the PP, despite having closed contracts with them throughout his career.

Víctor Ochoa's idyll with art, and more specifically with sculpture, dates back to 1982, after having studied architecture and having traveled through Latin America and the United States to nuance his techniques. It was then that he graduated in Fine Arts in Barcelona and, after three months, got his first commission as a sculptor. Despite belonging to a good family and being the great-nephew of Nobel laureate Severo Ochoa, he does not believe that his last name would open doors for him.

In 1994, Víctor Ochoa became one of the most famous names in the sector in Spain by winning a contest sponsored by Luis María Anson's ABC to make a seven meter bronze bust of the father of the king emeritus, Juan de Borbón. The statue that still stands in the Campo de las Naciones did not cost a peseta to the Community of Madrid, since the monarchist newspaper started a crowdfunding to pay for the project for which some bosses of the staff gave part of their salary as a of donation They raised 40 million pesetas.

"Since I have sculpted many kings, from Alfonso XIII to the current one, they say of me that I am a monarchist sculptor. It is a stigma that I still have," admitted Ochoa. He also signed the bust of the king emeritus, which is in the institutional facilities of the Royal Post Office and which will now accompany that of Felipe VI. "Labels weigh me down, like when they say that such and such a PP government or another gives me orders. But I say no, huh. I try to stay out of it," he justified in 2020.

The artist refers to pieces such as El Jonás de Castellón, for which the council paid him 114,000 euros in 2012, or his various collaborations with the Boadilla del Monte City Council, a traditional Genoese bastion and where he currently resides. He also to El zulo, which he sold to the Cartagena City Council in 2009 for 740,000 euros and which was not without controversy. Before awarding it to Murcia in 2009, the tribute to the victims of terrorism in the form of a two-and-a-half-ton giant was paraded throughout Spain without any PP council buying it.

"Having the freedom to do a work sponsored by a certain political party doesn't worry me. If they finance it, great. I worry that what I do is true, and I never cheat," said Ochoa. "Political labels are inevitable, but they carry many complications and I don't think they are real at all. A sculptor needs the financial support of the entities that are in power, but his work must always be true. Governments change and politicians as well, but my job is only that of a sculptor. None else," he concluded.

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