SOME 17 state museum collections will be investigated in Spain for their ‘links to colonialism’ in a move branded ‘woke’ by conservatives. 

Led by the Ministry of Culture, the project is currently being debated in the Spanish parliament. 

The museum collections will be revised in an attempt to remove ‘gender and ethnocentric bias’ as well as ‘links’ to the country’s colonial past. 

It is hoped the project will ‘establish a dialogue and exchange which will help us to overcome our colonial history.’

However, the proposal has provoked criticism from opposition leaders. 

Borja Semper, vice secretary of culture for the conservative Partido Popular, said: “It’s a debate imported from other countries. Either they’re ignoring the history of Spain or they’re blinded by woke activism.”

The revision has been under consideration for some time now, even before current culture minister, Ernest Urtasun, took up his post. 

The Spanish Minister of Culture, Ernest Urtasun has put forward a motion to ‘decolonise’ museums Photo: Cordon Press

Some Spanish museums, such as the Museum of the Americas and the National Anthropology Museum, have already implemented similar measures. 

According to Urtasan, the move follows recommendations from the International Council of Museums. 

He said: “Museums respond to the debates of their time.” 

Andres Gutierrez Usillos, director of the Museum of the Americas, backed the proposal, while former culture minister, Miquel Iceta, asked: “How can we decolonise a museum?”

It is a question that one of Spain’s most famous museums, Museo del Prado, has ‘already been considering’, according to Benito Navarrete. 

Madrid’s Museo del Prado is making moves to ‘decolonise’ its collection. Photo: diegojspano/instagram

The History of Art professor, who has curated an exhibition currently on display in the museum, said: “The Prado is already very advanced. They’ve refined the collection in various ways and considered how other people may see it. 

“They’ve also been considering how to use inclusive wording and tackle gendered language.”

To Navarrete, a good example of this ‘eurocentric and ethnocentric vision’, was the ‘Tornaviaje. Arte iberoamericana en España’ (Turning tables: Iberoamerican art in Spain) exhibition. 

The exhibition showed Latin American art ‘made commonplace’ in Spain in an attempt to remember the origin ‘ignored until now’. 

The Universidad Complutense de Madrid professor also called for a ‘national network’ of museums, establishing ‘common’ exhibitions across Spain’s autonomous communities and providing a united front to ‘decolonise’ museums. 

It comes after France conducted a similar revision of their collections in 2018. 

Carried out an Senegalese economist and a French history of art expert, the study recommended that France return works of art acquired ‘in an unorthodox way or as a direct result of colonialism.’ 

But according to opposition culture secretary, Borja Semper, Urtasan’s proposal is ‘an attempt to generate controversy over a topic which has previously been peaceful.’

He said: “Since he arrived, he has been using cultural policy as a weapon of war.

“There is not a single piece of art that supports what the minister says he intends to eradicate. That Spain and those museums only exist in his imagination.”

The Basque politician railed against Semper’s measures, calling them a ‘ridiculous caricature’ of the ‘equality and fraternity’ he claims is characteristic of Latin American culture. 

“Our history and ties have always been handled in terms of respect,” he said. 

Semper also put distance between Spain and countries like Belgium, saying the country was ‘a colonising power that crushed countries and has little to do with the Spanish experience overseas.’ 

It comes after Belgium’s current king, Philippe, apologised for the country’s colonial history in the Congo. 

Despite pressure from previously colonised countries like Mexico and Venezuela, Spain has yet to make any kind of public apology or admission for their colonisation of the Americas.


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