Simon Fujiwara Welcome to the Hotel Munber

Simon Fujiwara
Welcome to the Hotel Munber (detail) 2008–10
Ardalan Collection, London
Courtesy Neue Alte Brücke, Frankfurt am Main

Simon Fujiwara’s parents lived in Spain during most of the 1970s, running the Hotel Munber in a tourist town on the Costa Brava in Catalonia. There they encountered the charms of the Mediterranean world while witnessing the oppression and violence that was commonplace under the regime of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. Fujiwara grew up around personal accounts, photographs and memorabilia of Francoist Spain, and this period of his family history became a fundamental part of his mind-set.

This room offers a kind of flashback to the period just before Fujiwara’s birth. The information panel on the wall, written by Fujiwara as part of his work, plays with the mixture of fact and fiction that runs throughout the exhibition. It records Fujiwara’s assertion that his early life in the Hotel Munber has strongly influenced his art practice, while at the same time claiming that ‘accurate historical research’ has shown this could not have happened as he was born after his parents left Spain.

Fujiwara attempted to write about his parents’ life in Spain in the form of a novel. He had an exotic setting and peculiar characters, a mixed-race foreign couple; the only thing missing was the plot. Realising that censorship under Franco had prevented the development of gay literature (pornography was banned and homosexuality was illegal), Fujiwara embarked on a mission to salvage this missing chapter of Spanish history. An erotic fiction set in the Hotel Munber, with his parents as the key protagonists, seemed the natural topic.

Fujiwara never completed his book, incapable of resolving the inner conflict that addressing his parents’ sexuality elicited. The work went through different stages and formations, including a performance in which Fujiwara reads excerpts of the novel in which his father is portrayed playing out various homoerotic fantasies. In 2010, Fujiwara developed it into an installation recreating the bar in the Hotel Munber.

The installation presented in this room, Welcome to the Hotel Munber, is an environment mimicking the kitsch styling of a stereotypical Spanish bar, with dark wood panels, barrels and (fake) ham hanging from the ceiling, as well as wall decorations ranging from portraits of Franco to a bull’s head. Objects with phallic qualities, such as sausages and horns, as well as partly obscured homosexual pornographic imagery, complement the display. These fetishistic elements operate as surrogates of the suppressed narrative of gay culture in Francoist Spain.