OKUDA Sculpture Engulfed in Flames for Falles Festival in València

Yes, Street Art is ephemeral, but OKUDA San Miguel just set it on fire!

Okuda applies finish touches to his Falla. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

During the annual Falles de València celebration, it’s normal for artworks to be destroyed publicly in about 500 locations throughout the city and in surrounding towns. Part of a spring tradition for València, Spain monuments (falles) are burned in a celebration that includes parades, brass bands, costumes, dinners, and the traditional paella dish.

This year the first Street Artist to make a sculpture in the traditional commemoration of Saint Joseph is the un-traditional OKUDA, creating his multi-color multi-planed optic centerpiece.

Okuda. A man seen preparing the sculpture for the festival. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

“It had the most prestigious location in front of city hall,” says famed street photographer Martha Cooper, who was a special guest of OKUDA and who captured many of the events involved in preparation and the crescendo of destruction that followed days of intermittent firecrackers, marching bands, and incredible traditional costumes.

The winner of the València City Council competition for the prime location, the pop surrealist from Santander and his studio team created his ninots (puppets or dolls) in the weeks leading up to their grand display for the public before incineration.

Okuda posing in front of his sculpture. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

It is normal in the few weeks before the pyrotechnics take over this part of the city that crews of artisans and artists like OKUDA work along with sculptors, painters, and craftspeople to construct elaborate ninots with wood, paper, wax, and polystyrene, sometimes as tall as five stories.

Skillfully blending years of traditions with modern fashion, trends, and politics, the riotous 5 days of successively more bombastic displays and marching bands of the dolçaina and tabalet have garnered València and the festival the honor of being a recognized UNESCO site for being an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Okuda. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

There are many visual feasts for visitors to appreciate, says Ms. Cooper. “For Fallas, the entire city of Valencia turns into a massive street art installation. Thousands of people are out parading in gorgeous historic costumes and every neighborhood has not only their main sculpture but also a children’s sculpture,” she tells us.

She captured the building of the Virgin with flower bouquets and a number of politically charged sculptures depicting Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and even Kim Jong-un. She also talks with great admiration about the Fallas Queens with their full Courts of Honor followed by standard bearers and marching bands in a ceremony of beauty – the offerings to Our Lady of the Forsaken. With costumes and flower bouquets as the prime attraction, these marchers are keeping your attention in an entirely different manner than a roaring fire, but your heart may still burn.

Meanwhile the apex of the 5 nights of fireworks from March 14 to 19 is televised countrywide and this year in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento thousands of spectators stood back to watch OKUDA’s largest sculpture go up in ravaging flames.

Okuda. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda in the middle talks about his concept for the sculpture he created with José Luis Pérez Pont, to the left, Director of  the Centre del Carme and Pere Fuset, to the right, Fallas Councillor. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda. A young boy wears an Okuda mask. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Children with wooden boxes filled with firecrackers. They are not selling them. They will light them for fun times. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda. Retrospective. Centre del Carmen. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda. Retrospective. Centre del Carmen. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Okuda with his mother posing in front of an embroidery piece she made based on one of her son’s works. Retrospective. Centre del Carmen. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

The Three Musketeers. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

The Three Musketeers. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

The Three Musketeers. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Girls with flowers offerings to Our Lady of the Forsaken. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

A Falla Commission in a procession to offer flowers to Our Lady of the Forsaken. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

A Falla Commission approaching Our Lady of the Forsaken. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

The offered flowers by the Commissions are in turn artfully arranged to cover Our Lady of the Forsaken. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)

The offered flowers by the Commissions are in turn artfully arranged to cover Our Lady of the Forsaken. Fallas 2018. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Martha Cooper)


It’s always an immense pleasure to welcome Martha Cooper to the BSA pages. We are deeply grateful with her for sharing her observations and these photos in exclusive for publication on BSA.

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