The Next Greece? a Sketch of Spain
BARCELONAâ€‰â€‰â€”â€‰â€‰Joan MirĂłâ€™s farmhouse in Mont Roig, about fifty miles from here, is well known from the Catalonian artistâ€™s own depictions of it. The best of them, a work he called La Ferme (the farm), was owned by his friend Ernest Hemingway, whose widow later gave it to the National Gallery in Washington. The house itself still stands today, but it is empty, rundown, and neglected. Its walls are peeling and what furniture remains is in bad condition; the cobbles in the front courtyard where MirĂł and his family often dined alfresco are hardly visible among the weeds.
The Spaniards tend to enshrine the homes of famous artistsâ€”Picassoâ€™s in MĂˇlaga and DalĂâ€™s near CadaquĂ©s. So whatâ€™s behind this obvious disregard for the house of Spainâ€™s third great artist of the last century? The answer provides a case history in miniature of Cataloniaâ€™s economic woes. And Spainâ€™s, for that matter.
MirĂłâ€™s heirs, who own the property, have had it on the market for three years, but they canâ€™t sell it. The village of Mont Roig would like to buy it, but canâ€™t afford it. Like many Spanish villages, Mont Roig (population sixteen thousand) has high unemployment and a huge deficit. The region of Catalonia says it already faces the challenge of maintaining one hundred and thirty museums during what Juan Pluma Vilanova, head of Cataloniaâ€™s Directorate General for Cultural Heritage, called â€śa moment of limitations,â€ť and canâ€™t find the money to add one more. The MirĂł Foundation, the artistâ€™s museum overlooking Barcelona, says the two million euros needed to restore the place was doable, but not the ongoing financial burden of keeping the house open.
Following the underwhelming Will-and-Kate nuptials, a monarchy-free future looks more possible.
Catalonian pride may eventually overcome the fiscal difficulties of saving an artistic landmark. But as of now, MirĂłâ€™s house is an inadvertent symbol of good financial times gone sour. In Spainâ€™s previous affluent decade, funding the conversion of this landmark into a tourist-drawing museum would have met with little difficulty. Today, itâ€™s a different story.