The battle of Guernica stops in Madrid. Spain refuses to lend the Picasso painting at the Center Pompidou.

Paying Guernica? An idea of barbarians, almost to the height of what Picasso painting evokes. This is at least what one seems to think in Madrid. In the spring, the Center Pompidou made the formal request to his Madrid counterpart, CARS, the Reina Sofia Art Center, where the work is the center of the permanent collection; because the Guernica would be a centerpiece of the exhibition “Facing History” to be held in late 1996 Beaubourg.

The CARS has not yet given his answer. It is likely to be negative, but not for the reasons which it rumor. The decision would be in the hands of Felipe Gonzalez, are we able to read especially in El Pais. The Spanish daily citing “Chirac’s France, nuclear tests do not seem the most suitable country to host this working lighthouse antiwar message.” The controversy started is only a storm in an atoll. Felipe Gonzalez will not have a say in the loan.

The decision rests with the Real Patronato of the CARS Board of Directors, in a way, the Madrid museum where the Center Pompidou loan application is not in the agenda of future meetings. Key members of the Patronato are appointed by the Minister of Culture, Carmen Alborch today, which voted against the loan instead, but in theory, they can decide as they see fit. Jose Guirao, director of Reina Sofia, is dia diplomat: “We have very good relations with the Center Pompidou and the exhibition is important …” But … because there is a but, and even more. That have nothing to do with Mururoa.

“Ready are we the Mona Lisa?”, They say in Madrid. Yet it would be more portable than Guernica, with its 7.76 meters long and 3.49 meters high. Ordered in the civil war to Pablo Picasso by the Spanish Republic, the table would take up an entire wall of the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition in 1937.

The painter chose his theme when he heard the news of the bombing by German aircraft on 26 April 1937, Guernica (or Guernica); the small Basque town was razed, there were 2,000 deaths.

After the table was no longer his. Neither literally, since he sold for a symbolic amount to the Republic. Or figuratively, since, according to historian Javier Tusell, Guernica became arguably the table “the most important of the twentieth century.”

“A painting of these dimensions then do not carry, it is common sense, just ask any restaurateur Louvre or the Pompidou,” said Francisco Calvo Serraller, former director of the Prado Museum, in 1993-1994, one of the fiercest opponents of the loan. “Simply because of its size, it is a table very difficult to maintain,” says Jose Guirao. Especially since he has already suffered some indignities in his childhood, when he played globetrotting to raise money for the Republican side.

Between 1937 and 1939 he passes by Norway, Denmark, Sweden, London, Manchester, Paris again, before ending with a tour of the United States and stay at MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York .

In 1981, after much controversy and legal battles, he traveled to Spain returned to democracy according to the wishes of the artist.

Since then, “if it belongs to humanity is to Spain to watch,” said Francisco Calvo Serraller. And it does it jealously. “Because of its sheer size, its eventful history, the risky winding operation he underwent for his transfer to our country, continues the former director of the Prado, it’s missing a single shot inch for the Guernica happens in this growing category masterpieces damaged-restored-disguised where we do not know what put the artist and what the surgeon added. “Despite a letter at the time, President François Mitterrand to King Juan Carlos, the request of the Center Pompidou apparently little chance of success. “We have now received no response, officials say Beaubourg, who refuse to listen to rumors. Our request was made in the normal time, we wait. ”

In fact, since its installation at MoMA, then Madrid, Guernica was never lent “by Picasso’s wishes in person,” said Francisco Calvo Serraller. The last to break them teeth were the Japanese, who had applied for an exhibition on the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima.

Already, the transfer of the table from the Prado to the Reina Sofia, there are three, triggered real quarrels in Spain. Now, the two museums are only distant a few hundred meters.

Imagine the impact of a trip to Hiroshima or Paris, by air or by road, wrapped or packaged. The technical arguments are obviously tenfold, hundredfold by the importance of the work. Jose Guirao nightmares to the simple idea that a plane ferrying Guernica could crash. “It is not easy carrying a key work in the history of art. The conservation status, risks of a journey weigh in the decision, especially as the work is important. “If the answer is ultimately negative, like everyone to believe, it will hardly be the blame the political considerations. Guernica is not suitable, simply.