These works could have remained hidden from the general public. The Museum of Forbidden Art, a new cultural establishment in Barcelona, Spain, offers visitors the chance to discover a truly unique collection. The establishment exhibits creations which have all been censored or contested in the past. Some have sparked controversy for political or social reasons, others for religious reasons.
“The Museum of Forbidden Art was born with the desire to be a space of creative freedom and a laboratory to address acts of censorship in art,” reports the cultural institute in its manifesto. The public will find big names in the establishment such as Banksy, Gustav Klimt and Andy Warhol. Nearly 200 works from the 20th and 21st centuries are exhibited there. Among these, Raphael and the Fornarina VII: The Pope Is There Sitting by the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, The Revolution by the Mexican artist Fabián Chairez, or a dissident portrait by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, entitled Filippo Strozzi in Lego .
This portrait was particularly the subject of heated disputes. Made up of Legos, the work represents the Florentine banker Filippo Strozzi. The latter is known to have opposed the Medici during the Italian Renaissance. The Danish toy brand thus refused in 2015 to provide the spare parts - necessary for the creation of the work - to Ai Weiwei. The company notably mentioned the overly “political” nature of the portrait. According to France Info, the Chinese artist finally completed his project thanks to fundraising.
With the help of descriptive labels placed on either side of the museum, curious visitors will understand throughout their visit the reasons which led to the censorship of the various creations on display. “There are works that may not have great artistic value, but their story deserves a place in the museum. It’s a triumph of freedom of expression,” reported Tatxo Benet, founder of the establishment, to the British newspaper The Guardian.
The objective of this collection is to raise public awareness of censorship in art, because the latter sometimes persists (too much) in democratic countries. “Far from accumulating the excesses produced by the abuse of power in the field of artistic creation, this collection reveals an unusual potential in our societies,” the cultural institution specifies on its website. This journey evokes both the scandalous essence of the collection on display and its ironic, contemplative, incisive, liberating, and critical facets.”