“Banksy: we have reserved a spot for you on one of our streets.” The invitation, signed by the organizers of an annual street art event in the Canido neighborhood of Ferrol, a once-bustling port city in northern Spain, and the birthplace of Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco, has been posted on billboards strategically located in major cities throughout Europe, backed up by advertisements in newspapers such as Le Monde, Le Journal de Paris, Le Figaro, The Daily Telegraph, La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera, and The Times.
I have a feeling Banksy will come, when no one expects it
Ferrol artist Eduardo Hermida
The Meninas de Canido festival, held each year for the last decade on the first weekend of September, is a celebration of Las Meninas, one of the best-known works by 17th century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez and has won the backing of UNESCO. For two days, hundreds of musicians, writers, sculptors, and photographers descend on Canido to continue the decade-old task of reviving this run-down neighborhood, adding to the work of around 1,000 artists from around the world who have already made their own interpretation of Velázquez’s masterpiece.
“I am fascinated by Velázquez: particularly by the halo of mystery that surrounds his work.”
The question is whether Banksy, whose identity remains a mystery, will accept the invitation.
“I have a feeling he will come. I imagine him with a hat, walking around with his girlfriend and taking a look at the madness we’ve created,” says El Ferrol-based artist Eduardo Hermida. “I think he will return later, when no one expects it, to paint his version of Las Meninas, even if it’s not on the date or wall we’ve reserved for him.”
Hermida is the promoter of the Meninas de Canido, begun nine years ago in Ferrol, a former shipbuilding and naval center that has been in decline since the 1980s. A revolution was born out of this painter’s desire to relive his childhood, focused on protecting his grandparent’s house.
Hermida bought the home, complete with a vegetable garden, restored it and turned it into his workshop, where he hosts artistic gatherings. Soon the peeling walls of his workshop were filled with interpretations of Las Meninas. “We started our as four cultural guerillas,” he says of the initiative, which as attracted the support of local brewery, Hijos de Rivera.
There are hundreds of Las Meninas on the walls of Canido
“It’s already an extremely beautiful project, as there’s been a resurgence of patrons of the arts, which is so necessary these days,” says Hermida. With all the publicity, the residents of Canido have received €20,000 from the city council of Ferrol and the provincial government to cover the expenses of the two-day festival. "We'll use the money to pay the musicians and artists," says Hermida.
If Banksy accepts the invitation, it will be Spain’s first piece by the artist: a piece attributed to him in San Sebastian was erased.
Hermida insists Banksy will come. “We have included Bristol, England, the city where Banksy was supposedly born, in our international advertising,” says Hermida. “I’m sure that he’s already seen the ads and knows about this.”
English version by Debora Almeida.