On 11 September 2017, multinational cable company Telefónica’s foundation censored a work by Cuban artist Antuán Rodríguez of a punching bag with the face of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The artwork was part of a wider project, “Izquierda y Derecha” (Left and Right), which featured a set of punching bags portraying different controversial world leaders, and took place as part of an exhibition in capital Santiago, reported La Tercera.
When Rodríguez first proposed his project to the foundation he had included former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in the list of names to feature. The foundation asked not to include him, but approved the use of Maduro, along with the other names. His works were exhibited on 7 September 2017 before the Maduro punching bag was removed four days later. The artist chose to leave the chains in place from which it hung in protest.
In a statement sourced by La Tercera, the foundation argued that the artwork sparked violent public reactions and they decided they could not foresee the reactions and sensitivity that would arise amid the growing Venezuelan community in Chile.
However, the artist speculated that the reasoning behind the censorship was out of business interests, explaining that a member of the Venezuelan government influenced the company’s headquarters in Spain and its Chilean branch to remove the work, reported El Mostrador.
The artist’s ‘Izquierda y Derecha’ project was created in 2004 and has been exhibited in many international museums and conventions, as explained by the artist in a video interview with BioBio Chile TV. The project is “updated” with new politicians’ faces as times change. The artist explained that it has happened before that his submitted names are called into question before he creates the pieces, but this is the first time a punching bag has been removed while on public display.