From Beggar To Artist Genius? The Myth Behind One Of Spain's Most Profitable Artists
April 18, 2018|María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
Lila Cabellut's paintings are fascinating, and the story of her life even more so.
“I am more than a painter, I am a storyteller.” -Lita Cabellut-
Most contemporary art has less to do with art and talent, than with the ability to create and invent stories around a piece. There are tons of really lousy artworks that, in my opinion, are not artistic at all, but they're sold for thousands of dollars just because the so-called artist created a convincing and appealing discourse about it. However, this doesn’t apply only to specific art pieces. There are many cases in which artists create fascinating stories to make themselves look more interesting than what they really are. I get that their image and way with words is the only thing they have. I even get that they have to do some publicity efforts to get their work in the spotlight, but why create an entire fiction when your work has what it takes to speak for itself?
After the Show
The artist we’re going to talk about was recently exposed on the internet when her family publicly disowned the story of her life that she had told to a media outlet. Lita Cabellut is considered one of the most profitable artists in the world. Her portraits sell for at least 100,000 USD a piece. However, even though her fame grew internationally, in her native Spain, no one really knew who she was or that she even existed. So, which version of the story was true: hers or her family's? Cabellut’s case is absolutely interesting. On one hand, the family denied the life story she had presented to the world and even gave photographic evidence of her childhood, but on the other hand, their version only appeared in a couple of media outlets, while many others still praise this artist with a tragic past who turned her difficult childhood into impressive works of art.
The Siege of Corinth
According to her story, Cabellut was abandoned by her prostitute mother when she was only three months old. She lived a part of her childhood on the streets, begging for money to survive until she was taken by child services and sent to an orphanage when she was ten years old. Only three years later, a wealthy family adopted her and gave her not only the love she had lacked, but also a good education (she’s even talked about how hard it was for her to attend school when she basically had to learn everything, starting with writing and reading). But perhaps what she’s always been the most grateful for is the fact that they provided her with culture, by taking her on regular visits to the Prado Museum.
Trilogy of Doubt
Now, in most of her interviews, you’ll see this story change but with very little differences. She's always claiming it was this terrible past which inspired her soul and creativity and pushed her to overcome her fate. But beyond inspiring her on an emotional level, this story gave her the tools she needed to portray her favorite subject: society's outcasts. According to her, she wanted spectators to notice those they tend to ignore and discover the inner beauty in what they've been taught there's only ugliness. This vision is laudable, and, to be honest, her work is really good technically and visually. Even under the lens of that life story, it can be really touching and moving. However, reading that all this might not be anything but a mere fictional story makes me see her works of art tainted by lies.
Madness and Reason
Let’s take a look at her sister's version of the truth. First, she says that their mother was neither a prostitute nor Romani. She was a victim of abuse who decided to take her children and move to Barcelona to live with her mother. There, she met a married man with whom she started a romantic relationship. Later, she acquired a bar that offered the service of young women as escorts, but Cabellut’s mother only ran the place. Seeing that this wasn’t the best environment for her young children, Francisca decided to sell it and buy a restaurant. According to Lita’s sisters, their mother always provided them with what they needed to live, and did offer them an education.
What happened was that her mother had two little boys with her new partner and Lita had to take care of them. Her sisters believe she was bored of doing that, so one day she decided to take her brothers, took their clothes and shoes off, and went to a church claiming that they lived in miserable conditions. She then explained that her mother was in a relationship with a married man, and that she'd never gotten divorced from their father. We’re talking about the early 1970s, when Franco’s conservative policies were still active, so, naturally, they were taken to an orphanage. It was then that her older sister, after more than a year fighting to get them back, was able to adopt them. However, Lita wasn’t happy about going back to her previous life. According to her sister, Ana María, she was afraid that Lita would do the same she did with her mother and sue her, and it was then that our young artist met a wealthy, elderly woman who agreed to adopt her. This was the loving family she always mentions and the one who gave her the means to pursue her dreams. Lita went on to study in Amsterdam, where she became the renowned artist she is today.
Army of Poets
Now, the story her sisters share definitely sounds more realistic and logical, although there’s no way to know who’s telling the truth. Nothing really changed for her after her sisters' declarations, and she’s never responded to their claims, so the question remains hanging in the air. However, what is true is that she certainly is a very talented artist with her own style and a sensitivity to capture people’s souls through their faces and expressions. However, if the sisters' allegations are true, why lie? Aren’t you confident that your work can really speak for itself, so you need to make up a tragic story? Perhaps she thinks that her art will be more valuable because of her "life story." But why do we insist on buying an artist’s story or valuing them because of these stories rather than just appreciating their talent and art?
If you want to know more about this artist you can visit her official website.
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