The Madrid-based artist Santiago Sierra‘ artworks have been removed from the walls of the Helga de Alvear gallery stand at ARCOmadrid for explicit political references. The request came from Eduardo López-Puertas, the president of IFEMA—the organization that manages the fair, while ARCOmadrid director, Carlos Urroz told the press that he did not share the exhibition’s decision.
The work, titled “Presos políticos españoles contemporanéos” and already sold before the opening of the fair at the price of 96 thousand euros, is a series of 24 medium-format black and white photographs depicting the pixelated faces of a series of public figures incarcerated and indicated by the artist, in a brief biographical text placed under the image but without names and surnames, as political prisoners. The allusion is not only to some well-known former ETA militants, but also refers to the most recent Catalan politicians and women currently in prison for the Proces of Independence.
After the news, the artist declared in a statement on his Facebook profile:
“We have just learned of the censorship of our political prisoners in the contemporary Spain of Helga De Alvear’s booth, where she was going to show up at ARCOmadrid 2018. We assume that the submission of the same scheduled for next Saturday 24 is cancelled. According to the news we have, they would be responsible for Ifema who would have demanded the removal of the piece. Beyond the relative surprise and disappointment with which we have received the news, we believe that this decision seriously damages the image of this international fair and the Spanish state itself. In addition, it constitutes a lack of respect for a gallerist like Helga De Alvear, who participated in the launch of the fair, as well as to the maturity and intelligence of the public. Finally, we believe that acts of this kind make sense and reason to a piece like this, which precisely denounced the climate of persecution that the cultural workers are suffering in recent times”.
- Santiago Sierra, "Political Prisoners in Contemporary Spain", 2018