Everyone loves the cows. Almost everyone.
CowParade came to Madrid on January 16. Until March 21, 105 brightly painted life-size fiberglass cows will decorate on sidewalks and plazas. Christie's will auction the cows on April 16, and the money will go to charity. Each cow usually brings in €1,500 to €2,000.
CowParade started in Zurich in 1998. Since then, CowParade has passed through 50 cities. Each city creates customized cows, resulting in 5,000 different cows so far.
In Madrid, the custom cows include a Don Quixote cow, a bullfighting cow, a cow dedicated to Madrid's 2016 Olympics bid, and a tapas cow. Some were done by professional artists, others by amateurs.
Most people love the cows. I went to take photos near the National Library and Columbus Plaza on a Saturday morning in February, and Madrid residents and tourists were waiting in line to be photographed with the cows — and they waited with smiles for everyone. Children called out, "¡Hola, vaca!" and ran up to greet the cows. Adults studied the information on the base of each cow. Photography students tested special effects.
Although each cow carried the instructions No Tocar (Do Not Touch), people petted and hugged the cows continually.
But some people have done more than touch. I saw occasional broken tails, dents, and graffiti. Café Olé - Vaca Paca, a cow bathing in a cup of coffee, had been retired to the Cow Hospital, located in the patio of the Niño Jesús Children's Hospital. There, a special team of "artistic veterinarians," students from the School of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Goods of Madrid, makes repairs under the gaze of patients and the public.
In Berlin and Brussels, the cows grazed without vandalism. Madrid, planners knew, would be more like Dublin or Prague. Damage was guaranteed.
In fact, in Lavapiés Plaza, some young men loosened the screws that held Alberta Pinturina onto her concrete base and carried the 400-kilo cow up five flights of stairs to their apartment nearby. Witnesses tipped off the police, and their new living room decoration was promptly restored to its proper place.
Cows were "branded" with hot iron on the Paseo del Prado and Cuesta de Moyano.
Spaniards themselves often lament their lack of civic culture: not just vandalism, but littering, graffiti, and theft. All public art gets vandalized. They say the blame might lie in lingering attitudes from the Franco dictatorship. I would add that current Spanish politics, divisive and scandal-ridden, does not encourage respectful civic behavior, either.
José Cardoso, director of the exposition, said the cows are the result of an effort to democratize art. If only politics imitated art....
More cow photos at http://mount-oregano.livejournal.com/52872.html
This article also posted at my professional writing website http://www.sue.burke.name