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Spare the bear: Sculpture of Spain's rifle-wielding ex-king puzzles onlookers

Spare the bear: Sculpture of Spain's rifle-wielding ex-king puzzles onlookers
A view of a sculpture of rifle-wielding former Spanish King Juan Carlos I pointing at "Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree" representing the coat of arms of Madrid, as an artistic performance, in Madrid, Spain April 25, 2023.
PHOTO: Fiacha O'Donnell (38EDITIONS) via Reuters

MADRID — One of Madrid's main attractions acquired a completely new meaning for a few minutes this week when an artist placed a statue of former King Juan Carlos pointing a rifle at the landmark bronze figure of a bear shaking a tree.

The work of Chilean artist Nicolas Miranda called "Parasitic Strategies for Survival in a Cruel World" alluded to the 85-year-old Juan Carlos' passion for big-game hunting that landed him in scandal in 2012, not long before his abdication in 2014.

Juan Carlos is a controversial figure in Spain after a string of scandals, including his luxury elephant-hunting trip to Botswana in 2012 during a financial crisis at home. Once revered for his role in Spain's transition to democracy, he is now seen as a liability for his son, King Felipe.

After eight minutes standing next to the bronze bear figure, Miranda removed his unauthorised statue — 170cm (67 inches) tall and made of polyurethane and modelling clay covered with metallic paint resembling patina on bronze.

While it puzzled some tourists and passersby, some Spaniards took to Twitter to share their approval. "Is it the best metaphor for our parliamentary monarchy? I say yes," wrote one user.

The Bear and Strawberry Tree — the official symbols of Madrid — are photographed by thousands of tourists daily in the middle of the Puerta del Sol square.

Miranda will have an exhibition in Madrid next month which will include images of the performance in Puerta del Sol.

"My work as a contemporary artist is parasitic. I parasite something that already exists. For example, I connect the Madrid monument with the Spanish monarchy to make a parody of the symbol of the city," Miranda said in a press release.

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