24 Nov, 2023 @ 13:33
2 mins read

World’s first museum of ‘forbidden’ art opens in Spain – and it’s not for the faint-hearted

A PAINTING of the Virgin Mary masturbating and a model of Spanish dictator General Franco in a fridge are just a couple of the bizarre pieces on display at the Barcelona Museum of Forbidden Art. 

Opened by Catalan art collector Tatxo Benet, the museum is a resounding success with 13,000 visitors since it opened last month. 

Photo: Simeonvass/Instagram

The controversial collection holds over 200 pieces of art which have been ‘censored, attacked, denounced or removed from exhibition’. 

Some 42 pieces are currently on display from modern artists as well as famous figures like Pablo Picasso, Gustav Klimt and Francisco de Goya. 

The collection intends to challenge visitors by only showing works that faced often successful requests for their removal on political, moral, religious, sexual or commercial grounds. 

Punters may recognise some of the works which sparked global controversy, including ‘Piss Christ’ by Andres Serrano, which shows a picture of a crucifix submerged in a vat of the artist’s urine. 

Controversial artwork ‘Piss Christ’ by Andres Serrano. Photo: just.ggi/Instagram

Meanwhile, American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s ‘X Portfolio’ features sadomasochistic images and has previously been removed from public view for its ‘obscenity’. 

The latest museum to open in the Catalan capital, the collection invites visitors to consider censorship as a form of social oppression. 

One of the museum’s most striking pieces is a punching bag shaped like a woman’s torso designed to capture the physical abuse of women.

Photo: Evelynelasso/Instagram

By Kazakh artist Zoya Falkova, the artwork was removed from an feminist exhibition in Kyrgyzstan after officials claimed it went against traditional values. 

Benet’s collection began when he purchased ‘Political Prisoners in Modern Spain’ by Santiago Sierra. 

The work, showing 24 pixelated portraits of Spanish activists and politicians, was removed from a private exhibition in 2018 for including the phrase ‘political prisoners’. 

At the time, the art collector told The Art Newspaper: “When there is an act of censorship, two things happen: an artist’s freedom is curtailed but also the people’s freedom to interact with the piece of art is restricted.”

The art collection still pushes modern Spain to consider its past, with Eugenio Merino’s work, ‘Forever Franco’ showing a sculpture of former dictator Francisco Franco standing in a Coca-Cola fridge. 

‘Forever Franco’ by Eugenio Merino Photo: vanesavajilla/Instagram

The museum is found in Casa Carriga Nogues and opens Monday-Sunday from 10am to 8pm. 

On their website, the Museu de L’art Prohibit states: “Within its 2,000 square metres, the museum offers a journey evoking both the scandalous essence of the exhibited collection and its IRONIC, CONTEMPLATIVE, INCISIVE, LIBERATING, CRITICAL and EMPOWERING facets.”


Yzabelle Bostyn

After spending much of her childhood in Andalucia and adulthood between Barcelona and Latin America, Yzabelle has settled in the Costa del Sol to put her NCTJ & Journalism Masters to good use. She is particularly interested in travel, vegan food and has been leading the Olive Press Nolotil campaign. Have a story? email yzabelle@theolivepress.es

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