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Behind the Exhibit: Las Meninas de Canido

A small Spanish city’s annual arts ceremony is going after Banksy

For years, the Canido neighborhood in the town of Ferrol, Spain, hindered by a slow economy and crumbling infrastructure, was hardly an artistic destination. But on September 2, it will be taken over by a guerilla-style outdoor painting festival called Las Meninas de Canido in which artists are invited to paint the streets their interpretations of Velázquez’s seminal 1656 painting “Las Meninas.” Founded in 2008 by local artist Eduardo Hermida, the project was a response to Spain’s economic downturn. To date, 1,200 artists have added their unique spins on “Las Meninas,” which translates to “the ladies-in-waiting,” and the event has become a visual representation of the city’s pride and excitement for what’s to come.

In 2017, the city, in partnership with Spanish beer brand 1906, launched a campaign to have anonymous London-based graffiti artist Banksy participate in the festival and contribute his first work to Spain. To get the mysterious artist’s attention, they plastered billboards across the United Kingdom requesting Banksy’s presence.

Local artist Eduardo Hermida

The billboards, pictured below, read, “Dear Banksy, We have reserved space for you on one of our streets so that you can freely express your most personal interpretation of ‘Las Meninas’ and help us to make our neighborhood a more beautiful place to live. We are waiting for you.”

For Hermida, Banksy’s attendance would both validate local pride and solidify the region as an artistic community. “To have Banksy accept our invitation and create one of his masterpieces here would be an honor, further elevating Canido placement on the global art and travel landscape,” he says.

That’s not to say Banksy would be the first major artist to contribute to the Canido neighborhood: London-based Damien Hirst collaborator Ting Tong Chang, Oxford-trained painter Katja Heene and Spain-based Syrian artist Ali have all made their marks there. With or without Banksy, this once-forgotten town has already proven that art really does make a difference.

Las Meninas de Canido