León Ferrari: A Retrospective 1 Favorite 


Nov 30 2004


Buenos Aires, Argentina





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  • The León Ferrari Issue (El caso León Ferrari)
  •  In the
    Argentinean cultural sphere Leon Ferarri embodied resistance to repression and
    repudiation of violence, intolerance and abuses of power. A vehement advocate
    of freedom, Ferrari was a symbol of denouncement since early in his career and
    had been involved in one of the most representative works of the Argentinean
    democratic transition in 1983: the Nunca
    Más (Never Again). Nunca Más was one of the most emblematic
    documents of the return of democracy after the military regime in Argentina
    (1976-83) and stated a testimony of repudiation of the violence, repression and
    abuses the Junta Militar regime
    committed during its years in power.
  •  The Ferrari
    issue involves the debate that an exhibition of Ferrari´s work caused in the
    Argentinean society in 2004. León
    Ferarri: Retrospectiva (León Ferrari: a retrospective), which exposed 50 years
    of the artist´s work was programmed to open on the last day of November 2004 in
    the Centro Cultural Recoleta
    (Recoleta Cultural Center), but even before the opening the more conservative
    sectors of the Argentinean society started to raise their voices.
  •  The Centro Cultural Recoleta is situated in
    one of the most classic and beautiful parts of the city of Buenos Aires in
    Argentina. First used as a drawing school, then as an asylum the Recoleta
    Cultural Center is now, since the reestablishment of democracy in Argentina,
    one of the most representative Argentinean cultural references.
  •  When the
    exposition was first announced there were some reactions, but nothing
    unexpected given the controversial and provocative nature of Ferrari´s work.
    However, the reaction triggered by the exposition was more hostile than any of
    the organizers had imagined. The most important representatives of the Catholic
    Church in Argentina sent messages to the press, society and governments asking
    for the closure of the exposition referring to it as blasphemous and an offense
    to catholic values and living. Conservative politicians asked for the same
    thing, along with the destitution of those in charge of organizing the exposition
    and private investors and sponsors of the exhibition withdrew their support. Radical
    conservatives irrupted the exhibition breaking some of the works of art and even
    assaulting exposition spectators.
  •  Two days
    after the inauguration an ultra conservative catholic group called for a
    meeting outside the Church that was closest to the Cultural Center (La Iglesia del Pilar) and on the other
    hand, more tan 2000 intellectuals, politicians, human rights advocates and
    liberal citizens congregated to defend the artist and freedom of expression.  
  •  Protest was
    not the only reaction; conservative groups opted for more radical measures and
    went to court. The rejection of the exposition culminated with legal charges
    pressed by a catholic organization called Asociación
    Cristo Sacerdote. The whole argument was based on the exposition violating
    religious freedom stipulated in the Argentinean Constitution. The judges in
    charge of the case, after evaluating the charges pressed, decided to cancel the
    exposition claiming that most of Argentineans were catholic and thus were being
    deeply offended by Ferrari’s art.
  •  When the
    decision was made public, more than 5,000 freedom of expression advocates
    concentrated outside the Cultural Center and painted murals, sang, played
    instruments and together repudiated the court decision of closing the
  •  The court´s
    decision was appealed and after a few weeks the court revoked the order of
    shutting down the exhibition and permission to re open was granted. On the
    first days of 2005 the exhibition was re inaugurated and before two months of it’s
    reopening it had been visited by more than 70,000 people.
  •  The Ferarri
    issue is not only a symbol of civil resistance to censorship but it became a
    legal precedent for future liberty of expression cases in Argentina.  It also raised an important debate around the
    role of the Church in public affairs, the complex relationship between art,
    State and private industries and the place Church and art have or should have
    in the Argentinean society. The León Ferrari issue has become a central reference
    on freedom of expression and tolerance of diversity for Argentinean politics
    and citizens.
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