PEP CRUANYES /TONI STRUBELL
“La retirada de l’Ajuntament de Barcelona és incomprensible i injustificable”
This year, the Comissió de la Dignitat (Commission for Dignity) has awarded its 2016 Dignity Award in memoriam to Apel•les Fenosa in honour of his defence of Catalan , and Aragonese, heritage during the first years of the civil war, when revolutionary exaltation yearned for the distruction of all things religious. The award goes to him, and to Josep Gudiol and to Agustí Duran i Sampere, two of the people who, like Fenosa fought to preserve our artistic and documentary heritage from the tsunami of destruction led by the minister of Culture, Ventura Gassol.
Apel•les Fenosa went into exile like so many other Catalan artists and intellectuals and was always opposed to the Franco regime and always fought for peace. He created the monument at Oradour, the French town destroyed by Nazi troups, the Olive Tree sculpture which Unesco awards with their Education for Peace prize, or the Atenea sculpture of the Joan Crexells literary prize.
Fenosa, together with Pau Casals, is one of those internationally acclaimed Catalan intellectuals who stood up against the Franco regime and defended the rights of the Catalan language and culture and Catalan national rights.
The Apel•les Fenosa Foundation was built in El Vendrell with the collaboration of the town councils of El Vendrell, Barcelona, the Provincial authorities of Tarragona and the Generalitat, at the house where he spent his summers, as a home for his artistic legacy, donated by his widow, Nicole, and to keep his memory alive for future generations.
The withdrawal of Barcelona town council from the Foundation is incomprehensible and unjustifiable. What is worse is their wanting to excuse the decision by claiming that the presence of the town council was an “unusual and discriminatory” situation. It is deplorable and evidences an absolute lack of understanding for the person and the work of Fenosa. It is especially deplorable in that it ignores the role that the town council must have regarding the heritage of our artists and our historical legacy.
Fenosa was an international artist, a friend of Picasso, not very well known at home because of his stance against the Franco regime. That is why the regime silenced and ignored him. This continued commitment with Catalan culture is evidenced by his monument to Pau Casals unveiled in 1985.
This withdrawal of Barcelona town council from the Apel•les Fenosa Foundation evidences a contradiction within the institution which is, on the one hand, present in international solidary projects all over the world, as you can see on the Town Council’s website. Barcelona wants to be an international capital, but it forgets that it is also the capital of our country and should support important institutions – such as the Apel•les Fenosa Foundation – which project the image of our country and also of Barcelona. Barcelona should have a policy of supporting our own institutions, as it does on an international level, to give visibility to our most outstanding artists of Catalan culture from all over the Catalan countries. If its involvement with Picasso, Miró or Gaudí is justified, it is also absolutely necessary in the case of Apel•les Fenosa.
What is more, the role of the Town Council and of ICUB (Barcelona Culture Institute) should not simply be a passive one, but one of active promotion and collaboration with the other two museums we have mentioned.
Promoting the life and work of Apel•les Fenosa is also a necessary contribution to our historical memory. The policies of historical memory can’t just be made up of symbolic event of commemoration, but they must also entail restitution from the injustice and damage caused by the repression, in this case, of our culture. Dissemination and knowledge of the life and work of Fenosa is an act of memory and justice, to restore the renown of an artist and his work, silenced by the persecution that victimized so many men and women of our culture, committed to fighting the Franco regime.
A year ago, the Town Council was also reporte by the press as withdrawing from the Universitat Catalana d’Estiu (Catalan Summer University). A rectification was made, claiming that they had not thought it out properly, and a convention was signed. We hope that this time is also a decision without the proper evaluation of what Apel•les Fenosa means for the city, our culture and our country. this is why the Comissió de la Dignitat is publicly requesting that Barcelona Town Council reconsider its decision and maintains its involvement with the Apel•les Fenosa Foundation, an artist who, in recognition of the repression he suffered at the hands of the Franco regime and in commemoration of the value of his work, was awarded the Gold Medal of the City in 1987.
*Pep Cruanyes iandToni Strubell are members of Comissió de la Dignitat
PEP CRUANYES /TONI STRUBELL