Bravo, amateur statue restorer in Spain. Originals are so overrated
Art Opinion Bravo, amateur statue restorer in Spain. Originals are so overrated Simon Jenkins It is fitting that fading works of art such as the effigy of St George in Estella are maintained by local people
All hail the primitivist s of Pamplona and their vivid and controversial restoration of a statue of St George: colourful, poignant, simplistic. The 16th-century effigy in a church in Estella has incurred the fury of the mayor for its unauthorised execution by âa local handicrafts teacherâ.
The incident recalls the scandal six years ago when a 20th-century fresco of Christ in the Spanish town of Borja was repainted in a style best described as Picasso-esque by an 81-year-old local artist, Cecilia GimÃ©nez. Both restorations have reportedly become tourist attractions, for the wrong reasons.
But neither of the originals in question was of any peculiar quality. They were decayed pious works, and badly in need of restoration. It would clearly be best if such work were done by experts, recorded and âreversibleâ, but that is beyond the means of most local churches. Nothing should be more appropriate than that a local artist restore life and meaning to an object of local veneration. It is prec isely how such works were created in the first place.
The cult of the ruin is out of hand. The idea that an object, even if defaced to the point of indecipherability, is more âauthenticâ than the message conveyed by the original is absurd. Works of art are intended to have meaning. If damaged or destroyed, it makes sense to restore them as close to the image and style of the original as is feasible. There will be exceptions, but art historians cannot claim ownership of anything old anywhere, or demand that they remain âstabilised ruinsâ in perpetuity.
The middle ages restored, the Georgians restored, the Victorians restored, sometimes well, sometimes badly. Half the âmedievalâ cathedrals and castles in Europe are 19th-century recreations. Of course it is best to call in expertise and skill where a work is significant. But a simple sculpture brought back to life by a local person, however naively, is surely closer to history than any scholarly visitation. We need more Estellas, not fewer.
â¢ Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnistTopics
- Share on Facebook
- Share on Twitter
- Share via Email
- Share on LinkedIn
- Share on Pinterest
- Share on Google+
- Share on WhatsApp
- Share on Messenger
- Reuse this content