The legendary Caves of Altamira, one of the world’s biggest art-tourism draws, will be open again to the public next year — against the recommendation of scientists seeking to protect the so-called “Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic Art.”
The caves were closed after scientists discovered green mold on the surface of the bison paintings. “The people who go in the cave have the bad habit of moving, breathing and perspiring,” wrote Spanish Council for Scientific Research’s Mariona Hernandez-Marine earlier this year.
So what’s prompted the Spanish Cultural Ministry to ignore scientists’ advice and re-grant public access to the over 14,000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site? A profound feeling of duty to the Spanish population? A post-modern conviction that decomposition is an integral part of the artistic process?
Nope. A careful reading of AP’s scoop indicates that what really troubled local authorities, like Cantabria Region President Miguel Angel Revilla, about the cave’s closure was having to say no to famous people. The AP writes:
“He said he had had the misfortune of saying no to Jacques Chirac when the former French president once asked to see the caves, and more recently to the visiting president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon.”
Now that they’ll be open, Mr. Revilla even suggests inviting Obama.
A committee will investigate how many people can visit the site each day to ensure minimum damage to the paintings. Hopefully, not every celebrity visitor will be able to skip the line.