200.000 euros for the “pleasure” to burn a giant statue of king Felipe VI. This is what offer two contemporary artists, the Spanish regulars of the controversy, the international fair of contemporary art ARCO in Madrid, which opened its doors on Wednesday.

The statue of 4.44 meters high depicts the monarch dressed in a blue suit, a white shirt and a green tie. This is the work of Santiago Sierra and Eugenio Merino, called it “a provocation” by the Spanish press to the right, is called Ninot , a term denoting the large figures are intended to be burned each year in Valencia, in the south-east of Spain, during the traditional celebration of the Fallas. The irony of history, Felipe VI must inaugurate on Thursday the fair ARCO, which honors Peru this year.

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The Ninot is for sale for 200,000 euros, but a clause in the contract of sale provides that the buyer “undertakes to ensure that the work is burned”, explained to AFP Luis Navarro, an employee of Santiago Sierra. “The specificity of this structure is that it has not been designed to survive in the time, to be collectionnée but for the pleasure of being destroyed,” he added.

Crime of insult to the Crown punished by the penal code

The two authors of this work have grown accustomed to controversy. Last year, a series of photographs pixelisées of “political prisoners catalans” of Santiago Sierra had been removed at the salon ARCO. On the pictures, one caught sight of the photograph pixel of the former vice-president of pro-independence catalan Oriol Junqueras, who was jailed for more than three months, near Madrid. The organiser of the fair, Ifema, had to apologize after being accused of “censorship”. Eugenio Merino is made, for its part, famous for a work depicting a realistic head Franco serving as a punching-ball and a statue of the former dictator in a refrigerator.

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The Spanish criminal code provides for the offence of insult to the Crown, which has resulted in recent years several trials and convictions in the country, on the background of the controversy. In October, the chamber of deputies has agreed to consider a proposal of law filed by the radical left and to mitigate or eliminate some crimes that could affect freedom of expression as an apologist for terrorism, insults to the Crown, or the insults to Spain and its symbols.

In march 2018, Spain had been overruled by the european Court of Human rights (ECHR), which held that a conviction of two pro-independence catalans for having burned in 2007 a photograph of king Juan Carlos and queen Sofia, the parents of Felipe VI, violated the right to freedom of expression.

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