Madrid plans halt to public art projects

20th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

The city council of Madrid calls for suspension on public art in the capital’s historic centre following negative shift in public perception.

20 August 2008

MADRID - Madrid's city council is proposing a moratorium on public art in the capital's historic centre, citing, among other reasons, "the negative shift in the perception of monuments" and "their inability to become part of the city's memory".

The banalisation of public art, a process that has been underway for decades, says the city arts department, is responsible for this new outlook on things.

A document that this department has sent to the Urban Quality Commission, in charge of the final decision, states that public monuments as a representation of the social collective have lost their strength, and that people no longer appreciate them as they did in the past.

In recent years, several neighbourhood associations have protested new initiatives such as La violetera, a lifelike sculpture of an anonymous violet seller that symbolises 19th-century Madrid.

There was also a well-publicised row in the 1990s over the installation across the city of large lamp post-like structures for publicity purposes, which have always been referred to in a negative fashion as chirimbolos (roughly translated as "thingamajigs").

On the other hand, a new sculpture that was recently installed at the renovated Anton Martin square, titled El abrazo (The Hug) and symbolising amnesty, was well accepted by locals.

Figurative versus abstract
Part of the problem, says the city, is the ongoing battle between figurative and abstract art, with the former gradually losing ground.

But ultimately, there is simply a lot of public art out there already.

Madrid has more than 1,000 elements of historical and artistic value, including countless sculptures, 520 fountains, and buildings galore that date as far back as the Middle Ages, such as the churches of San Pedro or San Nicolas de los Servitas, in old Madrid.

The city council is therefore proposing a moratorium on the installation of new monuments in the central area of Madrid known as "the almond," because of its shape.

There is one exception to this guideline, and that is cases in which the Urban Quality Commission feels that a new monument would respond to real social demand and reflect the importance of truly exceptional events.

The paradigm of such a monument, of course, is the tribute to the victims of the 11 March 2004 train bombings at Atocha train station, an 11-metre-high circular structure made of glass that plays with the changing light and was inaugurated in March 2007.

[El Pais / R Fraguas / Expatica]

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