Spanish Artist Defends “Punching Franco”


The Madrid-based artist Eugenio Merino has received a complaint from the Fundación Nacional Francisco Franco over his sculpture of the ruthless Spanish dictator, “Punching Franco,” the Agence France-Press reports. The sculpture, which features a hyperrealist sculpture of Franco’s head made from silicone and outfitted with human hair mounted on a springy stand, is activated when viewers punch it.

“It seemed to me that it would be good for those who were persecuted and received no justice, to have this to beat up, like a kind of catharsis,” Merino told AFP while repairing the sculpture — the parrot of the photographer who owns the work apparently had some anti-Franco aggression to take out on it as well. “You can do that, get your anger out, because you won’t be able to get much else in Spain.”

This isn’t Merino’s first tangle with the Franco Foundation. In the summer of 2013 he prevailed in a trial with the foundation over another of his works, “Always Franco,” in which a full-body sculpture of the Generalísimo appears inside a soft drink refrigerator. That piece came to the foundation’s attention when Merino exhibited it at Madrid’s Arco art fair in February 2012. Then, in early November of this year, the foundation charged with preserving the murderous ruler’s heritage lodged a new complaint over “Punching Franco.”

“Outrage and insults are not protected as rights in any country,” Jaime Alonso, vice-president of the Franco Foundation, told AFP. “Besides, it’s in bad taste, because that could be his father or mine, placed in the same manner with an invitation to break his nose, punch his head… It’s of a mediocrity and a coarseness unfit for civilization.”

The Franco Foundation’s complaint over this new work of Merino’s seems unlikely to find any more favor in court than the sculpture in the previous case, in which a judge concluded that “Always Franco” “doesn’t alter the reputation or the memory of the historical person, but constitutes a critical work that calls for reflection.”

— Benjamin Sutton (@bhsutton)

(Image: Eugenio Merino, “Punching Franco,” 2012. Courtesy the artist.)