October 2, 2012

What’s Spanish for “Chuztpah”?

As the story goes, the best definition of “chutzpah” is when a son who murders his father and mother then seeks mercy from a court because he’s an orphan. That is a good one, but this one might not be far behind.

You probably don’t know the name Cecilia Giménez, but you no doubt are familiar with her work. Giménez is the elderly Spanish woman who decided to do something about the deteriorating fresco of Jesus at her church and turned it from this . . .

. . . into this:

Images via Wikipedia.

Giménez and her handiwork have been roundly mocked,* but the increased attention has made the small Spanish church a tourist destination. And Giménez wants in on the action:
According to El Correo, Gimenez has apparently lawyered up, and is now asking for royalties from her church’s newfound money stream.
She also complains that the notoriety of her work has led to her becoming a virtual shut in due to media attention and tourists flocking to the church. It’s not clear to me how getting a piece of the church’s revenue from the painting would solve that problem (if anything, it seems likely to make it worse), but I’ll admit I’m unfamiliar with the Spanish legal system.

I have been curious, since the story broke, as to just what the legal landscape of this situation was. As I understand it, Giménez took this project up on her own volition and without authorization from the church leaders. If so, it sounds like vandalism, doesn’t it? If somebody came into my house and started “renovating” the stuff on my walls, I’d be kind of pissed. If that’s the case, getting royalties would seem to be a stretch. On the other hand, if Giménez had some vague permission to do what she did and it’s become a cash cow, I think she’s got a legitimate claim for some compensation.

Even if she never sees a Euro, Giménez nonetheless wound up with a level of fame (or infamy) that most artists only dream of. That’s got to count for something.

* I kind of like it. Who needs another “realistic” vision of a pasty white Jesus, anyway?

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