Since Cecilia Giménez Zueco transformed Elías García Martínez’s “Ecce Homo” into the viral sensation “Monkey Jesus,” the Santuario de Misericordia has been turned into an interactive tribute to the two artists’ improbable collaboration.
A few weeks ago my husband and I visited the Santuario de Misericordia in Borja, Spain, home to the infamous “Monkey Jesus.” I can’t really claim that it was our love of art that took us there, though painting was involved.
In the summer of 2012, without oversight, the 79-year-old hobby painter Cecilia Giménez Zueco transformed Elías García Martínez’s deteriorating “Ecce Homo” fresco into “Monkey Jesus,” aka “Beast Jesus.” Virtually overnight, Giménez’s botched restoration became a worldwide internet sensation.
Instead of trying to restore the restoration, the people behind the Santuario de Misericordia decided to make Giménez’s bizarre creation work in their favor — something they may have learned from the wise people of Pisa, who never tried to straighten their famous tower. They even went one better: For 15 minutes, we could all be Borja’s famous “Monkey Jesus”!
Today the Santuario houses a permanent exhibition on the artwork’s provenance and several do-it-yourself opportunities. And for those who aren’t much into painting and photography, the gift shop offers plenty of buy-it-yourself options.
“People yell at me ‘go back to China’ or ‘hey, coronavirus.’ I face these attacks at least twice a week on my way to work,” says Korean-American artist Kate Bae, who was physically assaulted near Bryant Park.