Thursday 28 May 2009

Madrid: Ripo comes to the Retiro

By Richard Morley
I took a wrong turn the other day and ended up by being entranced.

It was a pleasant, warm, sunny day and I wandered down to the Parque Del Buen Retiro. No one I know ever gives the place its full name. It’s the “Retiro Park” or simply, “The Retiro”. It’s a wonderful place: One hundred and eighteen hectares (more than two hundred acres for readers in countries yet to enter the 21st Century) and full of green vistas of lawns, spinneys, gardens, lakes and ponds and long, quiet lanes free of traffic. (Unless one counts skateboarders, roller-bladers, and cyclists.)

But all of that is for a later post. The Retiro has been there for over two hundred years and it’s not going anywhere. But what I want to show you in this post is going away in just a couple of weeks – but may be coming to a place near you.
I live on the opposite side of the Retiro from central Madrid and so I do not take the same entrance that most visitors would. But a glimpse of blue through the verdant views of lawn and tree caught my eye and drew me towards it. And I discovered some of the weirdest, playful, funny and enchanting statuary I have ever seen. Like three-dimensional characters from a child’s animated cartoon, these statues are downright quirky, emotive and I challenge to look at them and not smile.

The sculpture is Juan García Ripollés, who one reviewer praises as one of Spain’s “best known artists”. Supposing, of course you had never heard of Dali, Picasso, Goya, Velázquez, et al. I had never heard of him, which might say more about me than his fame, and finding any facts to pass on to you was not as simple as I could have wished.

However, Juan García Ripollés (aka Ripo or Beato Ripo) was born in Castellon de la Plana, eighty kilometres north of Valencia, in 1932. At the tender age of twelve he was apprenticed as an industrial painter, but had more artistic ambitions for his work and studied at night classes in design and art at the school of art and management (which seems a weird combination) in Ribalta de Castellón. Subsequently his work, as an artist, has taken him to live all over Spain, France and The Netherlands. He claims to be inspired by nature, animals, solitude, light and colours. That is very evident from this exhibition in the Paseo de Méjico, the road that leads up from the Puerta de Alcala entrance, in the Retiro Park. I could make some learned artistic comment, but I am not qualified. I just found the sculptures fun. You will too, I am sure, but you only have another two weeks.
But this exhibition has been displayed in several towns already, both here and internationally, and is still on the move. There are eighteen sculptures altogether and my pictures are just a taster. So if you can’t come to Madrid, poor things, then watch out for it where you live.
If you smiled, laughed or were perplexed by these pictures from an exhibition, please feel free to leave your own mark for posterity in the comment boxes below.


  1. I didn't take the time to go to this park while in Madrid...jnow I'm sorry I didn't.

  2. I saw some of these wonderful statues in Sevile this March 20th, 2009. I am captivated!

  3. I guess I'm one of the "poor things" - sigh