Spanish cathedral to host Ai Weiwei incarceration exhibit

An installation by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei portraying his experience in solitary detention in China will go on display at a cathedral in Spain later this month, organisers said Thursday.

Spanish cathedral to host Ai Weiwei incarceration exhibit

The exhibit, which consists of six hulking, iron boxes containing sculptures depicting scenes from his 81- day incarceration in 2011, will be on show in the nave of cathedral of the central city of Cuenca from July 26th.

The work, entitled S.A.C.R.E.D., show him sleeping on a white cot, being interrogated by officers and watched as he used the bathroom.    

The installation was first displayed in 2013 at the Venice Biennale. It will remain on diplay in Cuenca until November 6th.

This is the first time that the Gothic cathedral will host a modern art exhibition, said a spokeswoman for the regional government of Castilla La Mancha which is organising the display.

The exhibit is part of commemorations held across Spain to mark the fourth centenary of the death of its most famous author, Miguel de Cervantes who spent five years in captivity in Algiers and stints in prison.

“There are important parallels between Cervantes and Ai Weiwei,” Carmen Olivie, the general director of cultural management firm Eulen Art which is staging the exhibition, told AFP.

“Both suffered captivity, both suffered deprivation of liberty, and that profoundly marked their lives and their vision of art,” she added.    

China's most prominent contemporary artist, Ai helped design the Bird's Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics and has been exhibited around the globe, but his works have often fallen foul of China's authorities.

He was detained in 2011 over his advocacy of democracy and human rights as well as other criticisms of the government in Beijing

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Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.


In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.