Venezuela sees reimagined high Spanish art in new street exhibit

Reuters_ A series of contemporary statues modeled off the young Spanish princess featured in the 17th century masterpiece "Las Meninas" sprung up around the Venezuelan capital on Wednesday, in a push to bring fine art closer to the public.

Installed on sidewalks and plazas in Caracas, the series of 19 faceless fiberglass statues from artist Antonio Azzato all depict a stylized version of the Infanta Margaret Theresa from the celebrated painting by Baroque master Diego Velazquez.

In the original painting, the young princess is being attended by two ladies-in-waiting, or meninas in Spanish.

In an interview, Azzato stressed that his colorful sculptures aim to provide younger would-be fans with a counterpoint to today's hyper-digital culture.

"We've got to make a really strong effort with kids and young people because many are losing more and more interest in art due to technology," he said.

Unlike the original by Velazquez, the chief court painter to Spain's King Philip IV, Azzato's larger-than-life princesses scattered around Caracas depict her in modern clothes, even in a New York Yankees jersey, as well as others with distinctively Venezuelan touches, like orchids and tropical birds.

"Lots of people don't know Velazquez and don't know Las Meninas," said Azzato.

"This will generate curiosity, inquisitiveness, and they're going to look closer at the stature."

Since 2000, Azzato, 50, has lived and worked in Madrid, home to the Museo Nacional del Prado, where the original painting is displayed.

Installations of the artist's six series of Menina sculptures, totaling around 300 to date, have in the past featured creative collaborations with famous figures, like tennis great Rafael Nadal and fashion designer Agatha Ruiza de la Prada.

The latest iteration in Venezuela, set to be on display through February, feature design input from national celebrities including salsa singer Oscar D'Leon and baseball star Gleyber Torres.