The ninots of Las Fallas, 2018

Museum of Science at the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias

The Science Museum, part of the City of Arts and Sciences complex of Valencia

 

By now, all the hundreds of Fallas sculptures have been installed (“planted”) at intersections and streets throughout the city. It would be a herculean task to get out and see them all in place.

Happily, each year the Exposición del Ninot (exposition of the puppet) brings together one representative figure from nearly all the fallas installations, large and small, and houses them on the ground floor of the Museum of Science. It’s sort of a sampler plate, if you will. Here are pictures from our visit last week.

Let me begin with the political. Fallas installations are often satirical, designed to poke fun, and politicians are very often the targets. Since we’re not clued in about the local political scene, we don’t tend to get those jokes, though we come to recognize the faces, caricatured over and over again.

 

Darth Vader with a local politician's face

Clearly, some Spanish politician is being made fun of here–I just don’t know which one.

 

But world figures are often the targets of scorn, and those we can make sense of:

 

You can’t get far enough away on this planet to be unconcerned about a nuclear-armed North Korea.

 

Trump appeared several times, though most of them I hurried past. I chose this next one for two reasons: first, it captures a typical impulse,

 

Trump and Putin

 

and second, it’s a cautionary tale:

 

Putin with a knife for Trump

Here’s what might really be going on.

 

Other satire focuses not on specific, recognizable people, but on more general human types.

 

Think for a minute about the painted detail on her dress and his cuff, the sculpting of that wig, and multiply it by thousands of artistic tasks.

 

On the surface this is a haughty aristocratic lady being courted by a fawning gentleman. But the mirror behind them reflects not the surface person, but what lies underneath:

 

Not the Lady and the Courtier, but the peacock and the wolf. They might deserve each other.

Not the Lady and the Courtier, but the peacock and the wolf. They might deserve each other.

 

One more view to give you more of the artistic detail, and the title of the piece:

 

Alter Ego

Alter Ego

 

Sometimes cultural references seem to be just for fun, not for poking fun:

 

The Beatles and their Yellow Submarine

The Beatles and their Yellow Submarine

 

Others might be read on several levels. People are going to recognize Picasso’s Guernica; it’s possible that in addition to “Here’s a famous work by a Spanish Painter,” we might also be seeing, “We’re now in a time when the Spanish government is acting altogether too much like the Fascist dictatorship of the past.” The folks in Catalonia agitating for independence will have an opinion on that.

 

Detail from Guernica, by Pablo Picasso

Homage to Guernica, by Pablo Picasso

 

In other places the Catalonia question was more directly addressed:

 

Yoda advocating Catalán independence

Yoda advocating Catalán independence

 

In all likelihood, some of the messages the creators were trying to send are lost on me. When I look at something like these next several examples, I just see lots of stylization, and I’m not sure if that’s all I’m supposed to see:

 

artist and scuplture

 

 

 

King and Queen with hearts

 

 

lovers

 

I’d really like to know what the horses in these next two are thinking:

 

knight on a horse

 

 

knight with horse and suffering women?

 

Sometimes I just see cute:

 

 

This one strikes me as a little bit creepy:

 

marionette

 

A Mexican scene:

 

 

Fallas often depict people and things from other cultures:

 

African masks

 

Samurai mask

 

 

 

I often wonder where the line is between stylization and offense. I’m guessing that it will differ depending on the audience.

 

Chinese men

 

Do you recognize the seated man in the next picture? I think he’s the miniature brother of the figure we saw on our trip to the Ciutat Fallera last week. I wonder how these tiny guys (smaller than a breadbox) fit in with the larger-than-life figure we met earlier.

 

seated figure

two seated figures

 

This next figure belongs to the Falla Municipal installation in the city center. No doubt there’s a deep symbolic meaning here. In my current ignorance, it looks completely ominous.

 

greyscale figure with rainbow liquid pouring out

 

After we had seen all of the ninots that belong to the large fallas installations and all of the smaller infantils, we had our entrance tickets scanned and then punched in our picks for our favorite sculpture, large and small. The infantil scene that will be spared from the flames (el ninot indultat, or pardoned doll)  is this one:

 

Fallas tailor and silks

A tribute to Vicente Enguídanos, an expert on Valencian handwoven silk.

 

The pardoned ninots will be installed in the Fallas Museum. If I were of a fanciful disposition, that would be a museum I’d want to have come to life at night, with the ninots from past years talking to each other.

If you’re interested in more pictures (taken with something more sophisticated than a phone camera), you can find them in the publication Las Provincias. The first series of pictures includes explanations (in Spanish). If you want to review our visit to the ninot exhibition from last here, it’s here. (In that post I mention between 700 and 800 sculptures, and this year I’m tossing around the number 350. There are about 350 groups, and each puts together a big falla and an infantil, so they can be counted separately or together.)

The exhibition closed on Tuesday, and the ninots have all been installed with the groupings they belong to. As we cycle around, I’ll have my eye out for the ones we liked the best.

 

[Images: Science Museum was El Guapo; most of the ninots were Yours Truly]

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One thought on “The ninots of Las Fallas, 2018

  1. Pingback: Last Fallas roundup of 2018 | Lori Notes

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