Basques denied 'Guernica'

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The Independent Online
Madrid's Reina Sofia museum yesterday refused permission for the jewel of its collection, Guernica, Picasso's masterpiece on the horrors of war, to travel to the Basque city of Bilbao, saying it was "too fragile to move either by air or by road".

Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum, which opens on 3 October, had hoped to put the work at the heart of its inaugural exhibition. The request to borrow the painting was political, backed by the Basque regional government, eager to have the work exhibited on Basque soil for the first time. Basque politicians, always ready to accuse Madrid of turning a deaf ear to the region's demands, are bound to be furious.

Guernica commemorates the Nazis' bombing in 1937 of the Basques' spiritual home, when hundreds of civilians died in Europe's first blitz. Picasso, an opponent of Franco's forces in the Civil War, said the painting should not be shown in Spain until democracy was restored. It wandered through Europe and the US for decades before being brought to Spain in 1981.