Massa Solís reclaims donated paintings in Caceres

BARCELONA. José Massa Solís has reclaimed 40 paintings that he donated to the Spanish city of Caceres in 1995. The official reasons given are “failure to fulfil conditions of conservation and exhibition”. Since December 2007 the paintings, valued in 1995 at €1.8m, had been “piled up on the floor in plastic bags” in the city’s Palacio de la Isla.

Massa Solís is an internationally acclaimed painter who is well regarded in Extremadura, the region in the west of Spain where Caceres is located. The town of Miajadas, where he was born in 1935, opened the Museo Massa Solís in November 2008 and four of his portraits of Spain’s royal family and five of his landscapes are in the royal family’s personal collection.

The controversy in Caceres began when the Council of Culture removed the two series, “Extremadura” and “Caceres”, in order to make room for another exhibition. Massa Solís told The Art Newspaper: “They asked my permission to use the hall for one month only. I reminded them that the conditions of the contract stipulated that the work would be on permanent display, but in the end I agreed. The month passed and they put up another exhibition, then another, then another.”

In April 2008, the painter resigned in protest as curator and promoter of the work, a post he had held for nearly 11 years. Then in July, he announced that if he didn’t receive a satisfactory offer to resolve the situation, he would reclaim his bequest. The mayor of Caceres announced that an agreement had been reached, which Massa Solís denied.

“They offered to distribute the work in La Casa de Cultura and other places, but that didn’t interest me,” Massa Solís said. “From the very beginning my proposal for the donation stipulated that the collection had to be all hung together. It couldn’t be separated. Their new proposal wasn’t acceptable. It wasn’t good for me, nor for Caceres, nor for the work.” The paintings were returned to the artist in December 2008.

The mayor of Caceres, Carmen Heras, told The Art Newspaper that the work was removed due to space limitations and that “there’s no controversy. We’re trying to work it out”. Ms Heras added: “From a legal point of view, his relationship with City Hall wasn’t exactly correct. He was receiving a monthly paycheck, in a way, for work that he had donated to the city.”

The future of the collection is unclear. Massa Solís said that he might meet the government of Extremadura and Prince Felipe in order to find a home for the work.

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