The Osborne Bull: Advertising As Art

El Mundo / el Dominical, Madrid, and The European  London, 1994 (2,300 words)
Versión en español  


Turn that idea around, apply the argument to older public art and it is easier to grasp. Teófilo Marcos, noted Spanish graphic designer, explains it this way. "What would we think of the French if they decided to destroy the Eiffel Tower simply because it originated as advertising for an Expo of the times?"

Events may run ahead of any decision from the top. España Abierta has been working for some months to put up a statue bearing Manuel Prieto's signature in his birthplace, El Puerto de Santa María, in Cádiz province.

El Puerto's mayor, Hernán Díaz Cortés, is delighted. "Here we are all used to having the bull close to us, seeing it, living alongside it. They're certainly not taking it away from this town."

Ask Agapito Pageo of España Abierta for a response to Cortés's comment and he responds with a smile. "Reality always runs ahead of the law."


In 1996 the Junta de Andalucía (Andalusian Regional Government) took the first move to protect the bulls by adding them to their protected heritage list. In 1997 all 93 bulls were saved after the Supreme Court announced its decision that it "had risen above its initial meaning as advertising to become integrated in the landscape." Since then Catalan activists have repeatedly destroyed those in Catalonia, seeing them symbolic of centralist Spanish power, while the region of Murcia requested the gift of a bull, bringing the total to 94. Osborne has struggled against unlicensed merchandise, like car stickers and key ringers, which emphasise its macho associations. In 2006 Osborne it won a major legal case and today the bull more often decorates coffee cups and the like – although still with the same enigmatic silence.

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