The Sa Bassa Blanca Museum, which is the headquarters for the Fundación Yannick y Ben Jakober run by artists and sculptors Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu, has found a new purpose during the pandemic and is proving to be an oasis of peace, inspiration and fun for local residents.
Ben, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, has just returned to his winter base in Marrakech. “It’s my back. The humidity here in Morocco is 35% compared to 85% in Mallorca,” he told the Bulletin last week the day after he touched down in north Africa. That said, he and Yannick are deeply involved with numerous art foundations and museums in the city and are in contact with local artists, some of whom have work on show at the museum near Alcudia.
“It’s a great melting pot for artists from the Western world and Africa, and there are some really interesting and innovative artists working here, in particular Moroccans. We have a Moroccan piece at the museum which involves some 9.8 kilometres of recovered plastic as part of a statement against plastic waste, a movement as a foundation that we support. While we are in no way political, we do have our beliefs, and caring for the environment is one of them.”
Needless to say, they are both in contact with the foundation and museum on a daily basis, because since July 1 it has been open. “We decided that we should open to provide a service to the local community. Normally, 80% per cent of our visitors are foreign and 90% of those are from Germany. This year, however, things are totally different and it’s very encouraging to have seen. Our visitor numbers have fallen to around 30%. To be honest we’re operating at a loss, but that’s fine because, for once, all of our visitors are local residents and young families who have never come before.
“What is great about the museum is that the interior exhibitions are very spacious, so there’s plenty of space for social distancing, plus we have the kitchen garden, the Sculptor park and the rose garden, which has over a hundred varieties of fragrant old English roses that bloom in mid-May, something which we always return to Mallorca to see.
“It has proven to be, and is proving to be, an oasis in these difficult times. The museum offers a ray of sunshine, a feeling of hope and inspiration and I’ve enjoyed watching the kids running around while I’ve spoken to many of the parents; they’ve all spoken about how calming they found their visit. Plus, apart from the curious exhibits on show, we have a great mixture of dialogue with objects of art from Tibet, Nepal, South and Central America - all over the world and all juxtaposed together in such a wonderful location,” Ben explained.
The self-taught artist was born in Vienna to Hungarian parents and found himself at school in London, only to be evacuated to Cumberland before completing his military service with the British Army - first based in Nissen huts in soaking wet Yorkshire before being shipped out to Tripoli. But that was not the end of his travels; in fact it was the beginning.
“I had a falling-out with the family and began travelling the world; from Tahiti to Costa Rica, you name it. But despite having explored much of the planet, it was Mallorca I fell in love with in 1968, and then Yannick. I love Mallorca and the people, everyone is so friendly. I immediately felt a great sense of empathy when I arrived from France and there was so much going on in the creative world in Deya. I decided almost straightaway that this was where I wanted to be; I wanted to be a part of it. I knew it was going to take me to another stage in my life. The climate, the community, the mountains, the Mediterranean full of fish, the beaches and secret coves and all so close to the rest of Europe; Mallorca is the most wonderful place in the world and I’ve stayed here ever since.
“Especially right now, it’s very easy to be pessimistic with everything that’s going on in the States, Turkey, Africa and with the virus. It can all be very depressing but we’ve got to look forward and make sure that we don’t slip back once this pandemic is over. We need to use this period to better ourselves, we have to get through it and make sure we’ve created a better world when we come out the other side. I think it’s sparked a greater sense of creativity with better art and more people taking their time to seriously address and look at important issues such as the climate and the ecology. Like I said, one of the museum’s messages is to stop using plastic and throwing it away, for example. More and more artists are experimenting with recyclable products, which is heartwarming to see, especially when people come and see what’s being done at the museum.
“There are so many other great art museums and cultural centres on the island, but for years, and for the most part, we’ve looked elsewhere for inspiration. Why?
“Why have we all been looking so far away when we’ve got it all here on our doorstep. The pandemic and the travel restrictions have encouraged more people than ever to explore their own surroundings and what Mallorca has to offer - and this has been extremely encouraging.”
For more information visit: www.msbb.org.