Botched Fresco Restoration Turned a Small Spanish Town Into a Tourist Destination

Image: AP

Here’s a nice little update: the botched “Ecce Homo” restoration, which quickly earned the new name “Monkey Christ” after going wildly viral worldwide, has actually brought new tourists and money into its small Spanish town.

The Guardian did a charming little check-in, six years later. At first, locals were angry, mayor Eduardo Arilla told the paper. But then they learned that it was their own Cecilia Giménez who’d done it—as opposed to some expensive outsider art restorer, presumably—and calmed down. (Also, it wasn’t actually her finished project; she was planning to trace the original painting back on top of the image that went viral, but went out of town beforehand.) And then, in a delightful twist, it actually turned out to be a boon for the town:

Between August and December 2012, 45,824 people visited the sanctuary. The numbers may have dropped off since then, but Borja still receives 16,000 visitors a year – more than four times the number who came before Giménez picked up her brushes.

Not only has the picture’s fame provided jobs for the sanctuary-museum’s two caretakers, it also helps fund places at Borja’s care home for the elderly, a haven for those who would not otherwise be able to afford to live there.

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“It was a media phenomenon, but it’s also been a social phenomenon when it comes to helping people,” said Arilla. “If it hadn’t happened, maybe Borja would have become famous for something else, like its wine. But we wouldn’t be as well known as we are now.”

Everyone involved agrees that it’s still definitely a bad idea for anyone but a qualified professional to attempt a restoration project—including Giménez, who advises others against it. But she told the Guardian that, “I used to cry a lot over all this but I don’t cry any more because I can see how much I’m loved.”

Nice when things have a nice ending.

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