As It Happens

You get what you pay for, restoration artist says of mysterious botched statue

Botched restorations are happening all over the world because institutions don't want to fork over the money to experienced professionals, says Julia Betancor.

Restored sculpture in Palencia has been compared to Donald Trump and Star Wars Tusken Raiders

A sculpture on the exterior of an ornate office building in the city of Palencia as been badly restored. (Alberto Calleja/The Associated Press)

Transcript

Botched restorations are happening all over the world because institutions don't want to fork over the money to experienced professionals, says Julia Betancor.

Betancor, a professional restoration artist in Madrid, was reacting to the latest viral news out of her country of a restoration gone wrong — a statue whose new face has been compared to U.S. President Donald Trump or a Tusken Raider from Star Wars. 

It's not clear who did the restoration, or even when, but Betancor says she's sure it's not the work of trained professional. 

"I think maybe their handyman who was working in the top of the ceiling has a problem, and he rebuilt as he knows or whatever," she told As It Happens host Carol Off. "Or I don't know, maybe he was drunk? Who knows?"

The sculpture after it was restored, left, and in its original form, right. (Alberto Calleja, Agencia ICAL/The Associated Press)

The sculpture in question is on the exterior of an ornate office building in the city of Palencia. Once a smiling woman, the figure now has three simple holes for a mouth and eyes, and a little lump of a nose in the middle of her face. 

It was brought to light by local artist Antonio Capel, who lives near the office building and was tipped off by a florist on his street.

Capel posted an image of the statue on Facebook with the caption: "Looks like a cartoon character."

Julia Betancor is a restoration artist in Madrid. (Scott Haskins/FineArtConservationLab.com)

Betancor says locals she spoke to told her the sculpture has been that way for a long time — possibly as long as a decade — before the world took notice. 

"I was surprised. How could they have done this?" Capel told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "This must be at least 10-years-old, and we're only finding out now." 

A Palencia City Hall spokesman was unable to say when the work was carried out or by whom, but said the restoration would most likely be investigated by regional authorities.

The story is reminiscent of amateur artist Cecilia Gimenez's 2012 restoration of a Jesus Christ fresco on the wall of the Sanctuary of Mercy in Borja. That work, which drew international headlines and memes, has been dubbed "Potato Jesus" or "Jesus Monkey."

"You have what you pay you. You know, if you pay with peanuts, you have monkeys," Betancor said.

The famous botched restoration of a painting of Christ by well-intentioned Cecelia Gimenez of Borja in 2012. (Centro de estudios Borjanos/Associated Press)

But Potato Jesus ended up becoming a media sensation that brought thousands of tourists to Borja, and the church even sold Potato Jesus merchandise.

"So everybody wanted to do the same. Not only in Spain. This happens all over the world,"  Betancor said. "It's not the first time and it's not going to be the last one."


Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Julia Betancor produced by Jeanne Armstrong.

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