The Memed Ecce Homo Restoration Gets its Own Art Space in Spain


In the small (population: 4,931) town of Borja, Spain, an art space has opened surrounding a somewhat old news story. Back in 2012, the town exploded with tourists with either a sense of humor or a religious devotion to internet-adored besmirched religious art. But since that initial swell of enthusiasm over nun Cecilia Giménez’s somewhat gummy looking restoration of Elías García Martínez’s Ecce Homo fresco — which reached such heights as to get an SNL sketch and inspire an opera — tourism in the town has declined.

Though the Internet fervor surrounding the image may have escalated to a level of cruelty, the New York Times had reported that ultimately Giménez had been congratulated as something of a local hero in her town, for suddenly attracting so much tourist attention. According to Doreen Carvajal’s Times piece, “Nearby vineyards [were even] squabbling over rights to splash the image on their wine labels. Her smudgy rendering [was] now held up as a profound pop art icon.”

Andrew Flack, the librettist who’d been writing the opera about the restoration-as-media sensation had told the Times, “Why are people coming to see it if it is such a terrible work of art?…It’s a pilgrimage of sorts, driven by the media into a phenomenon.”

Now, reports Artnet News, the town is looking for ways to restore that fervor (from the looks of it, people should go to the town not just because an Internet-famous botched Jesus painting resides there, but because, with or without botched Jesus, it’s very pretty). And so they’ve opened the Centro de Interpretación, a space entirely devoted to the restoration and the frenzy that followed, complete with 15 posters that tell the story in English, French and Japanese:

Merchandise is being sold onsite and on Amazon — and Giménez is reportedly receiving a cut. She was also in attendance of the opening, and told Spanish newspaper El Pais (in a translation written on Art Net by Cristina Cruz) “sometimes, after seeing it for so long, I think to myself, son of mine, you are not as ugly as I thought you were in the beginning.”