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Amateur Restorer Gives 500-Year-Old Jesus and Mary Figurines a Neon Paint Job

In other art world madness: art school lessons from Kanye; gallery solves parking dispute with ‘gay conversion therapy’ banner

Compare and contrast – the figurines before and after their restoration, 2018. Courtesy: Twitter

Compare and contrast – the holy figurines before and after their restoration, 2018. Courtesy: Twitter

Compare and contrast – the holy figurines before and after their restoration, 2018. Courtesy: Twitter

It’s actually happened again. A set of 500-year-old Jesus and Mary figurines have received a neon paint-job from an enthusiastic parishioner, in Spain’s latest botched amateur artwork restoration. El Ranadoiro local Maria Luisa Menendez was given permission by a local priest to paint the sculptures, housed in a village chapel in Asturias, northern Spain. She proceeded to give the baby Jesus a luminous green romper, and applied eyeliner and lipstick to the Virgin Mary. ‘I’m not a professional, but I always liked to do it, and the figures really needed to be painted,’ Menendez explained to reporters. ‘So I painted them as I could, with the colours that looked good to me, and the neighbours liked it.’ Local authorities might beg to differ: Asturias’s education advisor Genaro Alonso called it ‘vengeance rather than a restoration.’ Luis Suárez Saro, who was tasked with professionally restoring the figurines more than a decade ago, told The Guardian: ‘The result is just staggering. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry.’ And the Spanish conservation association ACRE fumed: ‘What kind of society stands by as its ancestor’s legacy is destroyed before its eyes?’ That may be so, but the day-glo holy couple appear to fit into what is fast becoming a national artistic tradition, following the transformation of a 16th-century wooden sculpture of St George into a Tintin character by a local handicrafts teacher in Estella earlier this year, and the 2012 viral sensation in Borja, in which a hobby painter turned Elías García Martínez’s Ecce Homo fresco into the infamous ‘Monkey Jesus’.

Kanye West’s art world takeover continues – now the rapper has announced (on Twitter, of course): ‘I will teach a course at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Art’. Who knows what Doctor West (the Art Institute granted him an honorary degree in 2015) will be teaching, but perhaps he’s offered us a taster already – from his Twitter shoutouts to Joseph Beuys, to his new socially-engaged architecture practice Yeezy Home (the rapper has remained coy on how he’ll actually solve the housing crisis, apart from boasting about becoming ‘one of the biggest real estate developers of all time’). Smart.

And to Houston, where a parking dispute between a church and art gallery has resulted in a satirical ‘gay conversion therapy’ banner. For years now, Hiram Butler Gallery have been furious about members of River Pointe Church – situated just across the street – taking up the gallery’s parking spaces. And so they’ve decided to respond in a very adult way, commissioning artist Robert Rosenberg to design a massive banner reading ‘Parking Only For Gay Conversion Therapy’ to hang over the parking spots (accompanied by bumper stickers promising: ‘Follow me to the Blossom Gay Conversion Therapy Center, where we pray the straight away’). Perhaps the puerile tactics have worked – the church has promised to be more ‘diligent’ in the future.

In the Name of Art is our semi-regular compendium of (almost) unbelievable art world stories. Send your worst to digitaleditors@frieze.com

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