The Rodin Museum in Paris has scrapped its controversial €16 million (roughly $17 million) project to build an outpost in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a port city in Spain’s Canary Islands, following scathing criticism from prominent Spanish politicians, educators, and art world figures. According to the Times of London, the news was announced in a letter signed by the director of the Rodin Museum in Paris, Amélie Simier, and was addressed to José Manuel Bermúdez, mayor of the capital of Tenerife and a vocal defender of the project.
“We must conclude that the conditions currently do not exist for the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife to host an international museum project,” reads the letter, which lauds “the cultural and heritage values” of the location, but notes that “the recent events in your city and the unfortunate statements of a part of the cultural, academic or political sector.”
The Tenerife authorities formalized the agreement with Paris one year ago, with the hopes that an outpost dedicated to the French sculptor Auguste Rodin would transform the city into a cultural destination on par with Bilbao, the northern Spanish city home to a branch of the Guggenheim Museum. The Rodin branch was set to open in a restored neo-Gothic building in the Viera y Clavijo Culture Park.
However, the costly project was berated by personalities from the culture and political sector in the Canary Islands as a waste of taxpayer money, given that the museum would mostly exhibit reproductions of Rodin’s sculptures. Critics also scrutinized the logic of building the museum in the archipelago, which has no artistic or biographical link the French artist. More than 3,000 art workers recently signed a petition calling for an end to the project.
According to a report in Tenerife Weekly, the Santa Cruz de Tenerife City Council had invested €16 million of public funds for the acquisition of 83 works attributed to Rodin, 68 of which were replicas produced in recent years by the Parisian institution or pending commission.
The Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo, an association which promotes art produced by Canarian citizens, has stated that the copies do not have “the same economic value or the same artistic relevance as the unique works; and, therefore, they lack the speculated attraction of exclusivity that the Tenerife council emphasizes”
The Rodin Museum emphasized in its statement that the outpost would have housed galleries devoted to art from the Canary Islands, as well as a space dedicated to Tenerife’s history as an international showcase for sculpture. This was not a convincing consolation for protestors, with the IAC concluding that public institutions must “defend a model with zero risk that is committed to economic sustainability and that also gives priority to the cultural values existing on the island and not foreign ones.”
The Rodin Museum did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ARTnews.