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Museo del Arte Prohibido- Barcelona/ Foto: Roxana Ibañez

The new cultural space in the Catalan capital, irreverent and transgressive, shows 42 of the 200 pieces banned or denounced for political, social or religious reasons.

Fifteen famous works from the first series of engravings from the collection Los Caprichos, by the renowned Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, or the work Smiling Copper by the urban artist Banksy, which forms part of a series of portraits of heavily armed policemen with the ‘smiley’ symbol on their faces, are some of the 42 pieces, both old and recent, on display at the Museum of Forbidden Art which has opened its doors in the Casa Garriga Nogués, located in the heart of Barcelona’s Eixample district.

In a modernist-inspired building, a monumental, zenithally lit staircase invites you to access the two floors of this museum where you can find irreverent works by Picasso, Gustav Klimt, Goya, Andy Warhol and Banksy, among others. It was in 2018 that the businessman and journalist Tatxo Benet, one of the founders of Mediapro, started a collection that in just five years has managed to bring together 200 works that have been censored, banned or denounced for political, social, commercial, gender or religious reasons in different parts of the world. There are paintings, sculptures, engravings, photographs, installations and audiovisual works.

Museum of Forbidden Art-Barcelona/ Photo: Roxana Ibañez

Not suitable for all audiences

The Museum of Forbidden Art opened in October 2023 and has already caught the public’s attention for its transgressive power. During the tour, visitors can be seen surprised by the different pieces on display and the story that emerges from each one of them. It is a permanent exhibition, disrespectful and shameless, biting and critical, which may hurt sensibilities but which aspires to become a new great cultural attraction in Barcelona… But it is not recommended for minors.

A manifesto that summarises the different types of censorship that can be found throughout the museum marks the beginning of the tour and from there one can see pieces that have not only been vilified, but have even been attacked, such as the work ‘Con flores a María!’ by Charo Corrales, a painting that a visitor slashed from top to bottom during a 2019 exhibition in Córdoba. In another room you can see a woman sitting on a chair with bare feet and a small bird on her shoulder: this is the sculpture ‘The statue of a girl of peace’ by artists and activists Kim Seo-Kyung and Kim Eun-sung, which still continues to provoke international incidents. The statue represents the Korean sex slaves who were offered to Japanese soldiers during the Second World War, and all its elements have a meaning, such as the shadow of an old woman symbolising the hardships they have had to endure in the years since the war.

A punching bag, matchbox or prayer mats

Also worth a stop is Zoya Falkova’s ‘Evermust’, a work that was withdrawn from an exhibition in Kyrgyzstan by order of the Ministry of Culture for being incompatible with national traditions. The piece, consisting of a punching bag, which looks like a woman’s torso, is a portrait of female gender socialisation and a social climate in which violence is considered not only the norm, but also a sign of love.

The installation ‘Silence rouge et bleu’, by the French-Algerian artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah, covers a room with thirty Islamic prayer rugs on which are placed pairs of white stilettos, a metaphor for the situation of Arab women. The work was exhibited in Clichy (France) in 2015, but had to be removed after the city council informed Bouabdellah of possible violent reactions to the installation following the attack on the satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’.

During the tour one can also find the smallest piece made by the Argentinean collective Mujeres Públicas with matchboxes with the image of a burning church, which has caused a lot of controversy. Thus, in this space of 2,000 square metres, current pieces coexist with older ones such as Pablo Picasso’s Suite 347, Andy Warhol’s Mao, Eugenio Merino’s ‘Always Franco’, Jani Leinonen’s McJesus or even drawings made by Guantánamo prisoners, all of them accompanied by a QR code that visitors can download to obtain all the information behind each one of them.

  • More data: The entrance fee is between 9-12 €.. 
  • More info: about timetables here

Conclusion: 

The Museum of Forbidden Art is a stimulating and original visit that will leave no one indifferent. It presents sensitive works that were censored or criticised for political, religious or ideological reasons and which now make up a catalogue. It is a new cultural offer in Barcelona for open minds who want to reflect on the contradictions of today’s world.