BARCELONA – The world’s first museum entirely dedicated to ‘forbidden art’ opened in Barcelona on Thursday. Businessman and journalist Taxto Benet offers his collection of 200 controversial pieces.
Threatened, humiliated, persecuted, abused, attacked, and banned: the history of art is full of works that challenged the social norms of their time and paid for it with silence. In 2018, Benet started his collection because of his fascination with the forbidden art. All pieces herein have at some point been accused of blasphemy, obscenity, or political incorrectness. Now they find their home in the Museu de l’Art Prohibit, which opened its doors last Thursday in the Casa Garriga Nogués in Barcelona.
The first controversial piece
Benet’s first purchase was “Presos políticos en la España contemporánea,” a work of art by Santiago Sierra that features portraits of imprisoned Catalan politicians. The work, purchased for €80,000, was removed from an art gallery ahead of an exhibition and caused a major controversy.
Not only history but also current events
One of the striking pieces is an old, battered Fiat Uno car decorated with Franco symbolism. The vehicle was banned by the municipality of Figueres in 2015. Benet emphasises that censorship is not just something from the past and not only of right-wing signature. The work ‘Always Franco’ by artist Eurginio Merino is also on display. This became the most talked about work of art at the Madrid Art Fair in 2012. It is a very realistic-looking statue of the former dictator in military uniform and placed in a soft drinks refrigerator. The artist was sued by the Francisco Franco Foundation, which labelled the image offensive.
From Picasso to Ai Weiwei
The museum contains works by Picasso, Ai Weiwei, Mapplethorpe, Goya, Warhol and many others. “Art is a reflection of the culture in which it is produced and can be as dark and disturbing as the society it represents,” says Benet.
A space for debate and reflection
The Museu de l’Art Prohibit aims to be not only an exhibition space but also a forum for discussion and reflection on censorship, wherever it comes from. The visitor can download detailed documentation about the works of art via a QR code.
More than just visual art
The collection ranges from paintings and sculptures to multimedia installations. The museum also offers a wide range of material that explores the diverse and sometimes terrifying ways in which censorship affects the art world.
At a time when freedom of expression seems to be increasingly under pressure, the Museu de l’Art Prohibit reminds us that art sometimes has to be provocative to stimulate discussion. “Who gives themselves the right to decide what others can see?” asks Taxto Benet. In this new museum in Barcelona, that question is not only asked, but also receives a multitude of answers.
The museum is located in a beautiful modernist building at Carrer de la Diputació 250. A regular ticket costs €12, over-65s and students pay €9, and children up to 13 years old can enter for free.