x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The shock of the new

Infamy can be as good as fame, or so the artist behind the "monkey Jesus" restoration has proved

Cecilia Giménez entered the ranks of the infamous last year for her botched restoration of a church fresco in Borja, a hitherto sleepy town in northeastern Spain.

Ms Giménez's attempts at restoration - an often arduous and delicate process that usually requires painstaking research and skilled craftsmanship - were universally ridiculed after she managed to reimagine a religious image into something more closely resembling a picture a young child might have drawn. The only positive in what initially looked like an awful piece of cultural vandalism was that experts later assessed the original fresco as being of no great historical significance.

A year later, and in another example of the gravitational power of fame (or in this case, infamy), the church has welcomed more than 40,000 visitors through its doors to view Giménez's "masterwork" and raised €50,000 (Dh244,000) in the process. The artist too, if one could call her that, has begun to exhibit her own work and is on the verge of signing a lucrative merchandising deal with her local council.

Damien Hirst, the one-time enfant terrible of the British art scene who forged his reputation on his ability to shock, famously observed that "art is always a kind of theatre". Ms Giménez proves, as Hirst did too, that it doesn't always have to be a good show to play to packed houses.