Spanish town looks to revive botched restored fresco success

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2016 5:00 PM

MADRID (AP) — More than three years after a botched fresco restoration by an octogenarian painter became a major tourist attraction for a northern Spanish town, local officials looking to inject new life into the phenomenon opened a center Wednesday that celebrates the fresco.

Borja Mayor Eduardo Arilla said 160,000 people had come to see the fresco since the story of Cecilia Gimenez's restoration of a Christ fresco in a town sanctuary went viral in 2012. He said with the new center, the town hopes to keep attracting up to 30,000 visitors annually.

Gimenez, 85, smiled as she entered the new center in a wheelchair for the inauguration ceremony. She became a sensation when pictures spread on the Internet of an "Ecce Homo" ("Behold the Man") mural she disfigured while trying to restore it. Twitter users redubbed it "Ecce Mono" ("Behold the Monkey").

The decision to open the center was aimed at giving "the painting a new impetus," Arilla said. Also attending the ceremony Wednesday was the granddaughter of the little-known Spanish painter of the near 100-year-old original, Elias Garcia Martinez.

The new center brings together stories, photographs and videos documenting the impact of the restoration. Visitors can see the fresco in the adjoining chapel — and for those feeling inspired, there are canvases to try to paint your own version.

It also displays the fresco's new official merchandise — ranging from T-shirts to teacups — which also will be available on Amazon. Proceeds are to be split between Gimenez and the sanctuary's home for retirees.