A blank wall is the masterpiece at Arco 2018. The opening day of the International Fair of Contemporary Art in Madrid, the board of IFEMA decided to censor the pictorial installation Political Prisoners in Contemporary Spain by artist Santiago Sierra Madrid comprising twenty-four pixelated portraits of people imprisoned in Spain, among which are Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart. While the Spanish police had already visited Arco on Monday to examine the work, it was the turn yesterday of the president of IFEMA, Clemente González Soler, to force the gallery owner Helga de Alvear to remove the work, valued at €80,000. In its 37 years of artistic controversy and transgression, no other work has ever been banned. While the PSOE supported the decision as a means to reduce tension, publically it was ignored by the PP. Arco director Carlos Urroz, the Mayoress of Madrid Manuela Carmena and most political parties condemned the decision.
Sierra and Arco are no strangers to controversy and have made political protest on earlier occasions but this year, with the independence movement and the political prisoners the PP led IFEMA cartel who control Madrid’s trade fair organisation have reacted.
Sierra posted on Facebook: “We just found out about the censorship. We believe the decision seriously damages the image of this international trade fair itself and Spain,” adding, “If Spain is not a dictatorship, it looks pretty much like one”. Arco director Carlos Urroz sidestepped the issue in part saying “The galleries are private and it is the decision of Helgar de Alvera to remove the work.”