Marrie Bot’s best photograph: bath-time on an ancient pilgrimage through Andalucía | Art and design

I’ve been taking photographs on the El Rocío pilgrimage for 40 years, and it’s still just as intense an experience as it was the first time. Each year, more than 100 brotherhoods travel to the hermitage at El Rocío from all over Andalucía. I had heard that the Brotherhood of Triana was famous for its richness and its beauty, so in 1976 I decided to travel with them.

I went to their district in Seville, where they start their journey, and it was overwhelming: all the women in these beautiful flamenco dresses; the men just as beautifully dressed up; the horses; the oxen; the heavily decorated hooded wagons, or carretas each family travels with; the silver carreta out front, carrying the simpecado, the banner without sin, that some people venerate even more than the Virgin herself. I didn’t know whether to look left or right, in front or behind.

I’d met a Spanish photographer and was surprised to see he had a huge military duffle bag. He explained that we would be out in the fields for three days, with no shops and nothing to eat. All I had was my camera, 20 rolls of film and a T-shirt.

I kept going back. One time, in 1980, I had nowhere to sleep after we arrived in El Rocío. I was so tired after three days on the road, and needed somewhere to put my bags and films. A woman – I called her the Holy Magdalena – saw me crying. “What’s happening chica?” she said. “Come with me.” From that moment on I was part of Magdalena’s family, along with brother Joaquín and her children, Inmaculada and Marie Lole. One of their nephews, José Antonio, joined later on, and when he got married and had children, he started his own carreta family. This photo, from 2003, is of his wife, María José, washing their daughter, Rocío – in Andalucía, it’s an extremely common name – in a campsite basin at the end of the day.

Life on the camino, or pilgrimage route, is like stepping back in time. In this image you can see the makeshift outdoor kitchen, the bulls in the background, the carreta behind them: those are the things that make the story. It’s about improvising, making do with what you have. Otherwise it’s just a mother bathing her child.

In Andalucía, people are very devoted, but they’re not really churchgoers. They’re baptised and married in church, but for them it’s more about the rituals, the processions. On the camino, they do the rosary in the fields, and mass in the campsite every night. When passing a river, everyone gets baptised with a special El Rocío name. There’s constant singing.

The girls and the women travel with 10-15 dresses. You get so dirty every day, but you have to be clean and smart, so they change all the time. I always wear trousers and walking boots, and they always say: “Oh, María.” (I’m Maria there; Marrie is a little bit difficult.) But I can’t work with a dress on – I have to run after carretas, and bulls. I have to sit on my knees. I have pictures of myself covered in dust.

In 1990, though, I decided to buy a flamenco dress. I took some dancing lessons too. On the Monday evening before we left El Rocío to go back to Seville, there was a big party with soup, sangria and dancing, so I wore my dress for that. You should have seen the faces of the drivers. “Look at her! María! It’s María!” They couldn’t believe it.

Pretty soon after I’d put the dress on, though, people started calling me over – “¡Venga! ¡Venga!” – because there was a newborn calf that had to be baptised. They brought the calf over in their arms, because they know I take pictures of everything, and put it on the table, with a bottle of manzanilla sherry. I was on the wrong side of the table, so I had to clamber underneath and come up on the other side. My dress was almost ruined – but I got the pictures I wanted.

Marrie Bot

‘I was not allowed to go to art school’ … Marrie Bot. Photograph: Marrie Bot

Born: Bergambacht, Holland, 1946.
Trained: “At 17 I was not allowed to go to art school, so I worked as a graphic designer. I took evening classes in drawing and (staged) photography at the Free Academy, The Hague, and taught myself documentary photography.”
Influences: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Smith, Walker Evans, Bruce Davidson and the location paintings of the 17th century and impressionists.
High Point: “Being adopted in 1980 by the Rocío-Triana families as one of their own. And being given the Dr AH Heineken prize for the arts in 1990, as well as all the grants I have received from the Dutch Arts Council.”
Low point: “I always like to forget trouble as soon as possible.”
Top tip: “Be involved with the people you photograph and show them the pictures you make of them, so they trust you.”

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Court orders Salvador Dalí’s body be exhumed for paternity test | World news

A Spanish court has ordered the remains of Salvador Dalí to be exhumed from his grandiose self-designed last resting place in an attempt to extract DNA for a paternity claim from a woman born in 1956.

Pilar Abel, a tarot card reader and fortune teller from Girona, a city close to Figueres in north-east Spain where both she and the artist were born, has been trying for 10 years to prove that she is his only child and, therefore, under Spanish law, heir to a quarter of his fortune. Abel claims she was conceived during a secret liaison in 1955 and that her mother, Antonia, told her on several occasions that Dalí was her father. She has said the physical resemblance is so close “the only thing I’m missing is a moustache”.

A court in Madrid said Dalí’s body should be exhumed after previous attempts to establish the truth of her claim failed. “The DNA study of the painter’s corpse is necessary due to the lack of other biological or personal remains with which to perform the comparative study,” the ruling said.

Abel’s lawyer said no date had yet been set for the exhumation, but “it could take place as soon as July”.

Pilar Abel claims her mother had a secret liaison with Dalí in 1956.

Pilar Abel claims her mother had a secret liaison with Dalí in 1956. Photograph: RobinTownsend/EPA

The Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, which controls the artist’s estate, swiftly announced it would appeal in the coming days.

Dalí, who died of heart failure in 1989, was buried in a crypt under the stage of the old theatre in his home town, which he had spent years transforming into a museum to his “own genius”. It is the top tourist attraction in the region, attracting 1.3 million visitors in 2015.

Like every other aspect of his life, there has been much debate about the sexuality of the eccentric artist who painted naked women pierced by chests of drawers and watches melting in the sun, once paraded an anteater on a lead, almost suffocated while promenading in a bronze diving helmet and transformed a model lobster into a telephone, remarking he could never understand why telephones were not preserved in ice buckets and served grilled in restaurants.

Some believe Dalí was gay and once had an affair with the poet Federico García Lorca, others that he had feelings for his only sister Ana Maria. Others, however, believe that his sex life was confined to masturbation and voyeurism. His memoirs are spectacularly unreliable, but his account of his father trying to keep him on the straight and narrow by showing him images of body parts hideously disfigured by venereal disease cannot have helped. He once wrote: “Hitler turned me on in the highest.”

In 1929 he met the formidable Gala, a Russian woman born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova who was 10 years his senior and married to his friend Paul Éluard at the time. They married and she became his muse and business manager, but they never had children, possibly partly because she lived for much of the year in a small castle which he was only allowed to visit in her absence and with her written permission. He was shattered by her death in 1982.

Abel says she was conceived in 1955 when her mother was working for a family in Cadaqués, a fishing village near where Dalí’s family had a holiday home and which is also the setting for many of his paintings. Her mother subsequently left the village and married another man.

According to the Spanish newspaper El País, Abel first learned of her true paternity from the woman she said she thought was her paternal grandmother. Abel claims she told her: “I know you aren’t my son’s daughter and that you are the daughter of a great painter, but I love you all the same.” She also remarked that she was “odd just like your father”.

Abel won permission from the courts in 2007 for an attempt to extract DNA from traces of hair and skin clinging to Dalí’s death mask, but the results proved inconclusive.

Later that year an attempt was made to extract DNA from material supplied by the artist’s friend and biographer, Robert Descharnes. Abel claims she never received the results of the second test, but Descharnes’ son Nicholas told the Spanish news agency Efe in 2008 that he had learned from the doctor who conducted the tests that they were negative.“There is no relationship between this woman and Salvador Dalí,” he said.

Abel’s legal claim is against the Spanish treasury and the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, because Dalí left the state and the foundation his fortune and properties, including the castle where his wife is buried. The foundation now runs three museums and controls lucrative reproduction and licensing rights for an artist whose work has been endlessly exploited in art and advertising.

This is not Abel’s first recourse to the courts. In 2005, she tried to sue the Spanish writer Javier Cercas for €700,000 (£615,000), arguing that a character in his 2001 novel, Soldiers of Salamis, was based on her and that her reputation had suffered as a result. A judge shelved the case.

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‘I wanted the building to fly’: Renzo Piano’s Santander gallery opens | World news

Two great hull-like forms stand on the seafront in Santander, northern Spain, clad in thousands of pearlescent discs, like a pair of ships encrusted with exotic barnacles.

Jacked up 6 metres (20ft) into the air on slender white pillars, allowing views through to the water, this is the new Centro Botín, an €80m (£70m) art gallery by Renzo Piano, which opened to the public on Friday.

Italian architect Renzo Piano visits the Centro Botín the day before its opening.

Italian architect Renzo Piano visits the Centro Botín the day before its opening. Photograph: Pedro Puente Hoyos/Enrico Cano

“From the very beginning, I wanted the building to fly,” says the 79-year-old Italian architect, who has built 25 museums and galleries around the world. The levitation trick here was in part a response to local outcries that this big ark of art would block the view of the sea. In reality, it has done anything but.

Instead, the roaring coastal road, which had long severed the city from the water, has been buried, allowing the neighbouring Pereda Gardens to double in size, spreading over the sunken road to meet Piano’s shiny vessel and allow easy access to the waterfront for the first time.

The building is formed of two lobes, prised apart in the middle, where staircases and gantries zigzag to a roof terrace, designed with a nautical air familiar to much of Piano’s work.

One half houses 2,500 sq m of gallery space over two levels (compared with about 11,000 sq m in 19 galleries at Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao, with vast picture windows looking out to sea, giving the feeling of being on a ship’s bridge. The other side contains workshops and a 300-seat auditorium for concerts, festivals and classes in music, dance and cookery, in keeping with the centre’s aim for art with a social mission.

The gallery opens with an exhibition of Goya’s drawings and a crowd-pleasing show of interactive installations by Carsten Höller, while a third exhibition draws together works from the Botín collection, amassed over the past two decades, including by Mona Hatoum and Tacita Dean. An exhibition of African artist Julie Mehretu’s drawings and paintings will open in October.

The view from under the gallery. The pearlescent discs adorning parts of the building resemble glittering barnacles.

The view from under the gallery. The pearlescent discs adorning parts of the building resemble glittering barnacles. Photograph: Enrico Cano

The project has been privately funded by the Bótin Foundation, a charitable organisation established in 1964 by the aristocratic Bótin family, owners of Santander bank – whose name appropriately means “booty”. Former bank chair Emilio Bótin, who commissioned the building, died in 2014, the year his sparkling coffers of art were originally intended to open.

“The idea was not to create an icon like Bilbao,” says Vicente Todolí, president of foundation’s visual arts committee and former director of Tate Modern. “The building is not trying to show off or give the impression that Santander is more than it is.”

The glass containers housing the art gallery.

The glass containers housing the art gallery. Photograph: Enrico Cano

With a population of 170,000, the culturally conservative Santander is about half the size of nearby Bilbao, and Piano has created a suitably modest addition to the waterfront.

His pearly containers join a pleasingly jumbled promenade that includes the postmodern fortress of the Cantabria Festival Palace, designed by Sáenz de Oiza in 1985, and some great beaches, adding another reason to visit this charming port city – and providing a low-key foil to Gehry’s thrashing metallic fish.

The arts centre in the port city of Santander offers spectacular views of the sea.

The arts centre in the port city of Santander offers spectacular views of the sea. Photograph: Enrico Cano

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