First sign of Fallas – A visit to the Ninot Exhibition 2022. Fallas is back on track. After the strange, stunted celebrations of 2021, the city is trying to return the festival to its normal routine — and one of the first items on the agenda is the annual Ninot Exhibition. Last year, it was held in an empty building at the America’s Cup port, but the exhibit has now returned to the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencas, where it belongs. If you go, remember to pack your camera, your patience, and maybe some caffeine tablets… as always, there is a lot to see, and it’s going to take you awhile, even if you’re moving swiftly.
We visited the 2022 exhibit shortly after the spectacular fireworks show that announced its opening. The ninots selected by the Fallas commissions for display in this exhibition are the first glimpses the public gets at the artwork that will soon be taking over the city streets. You can pick up on trends — what politicians are going to be pilloried this year? What themes are most prominent? Which commissions are going to have particularly weird or beautiful creations?
You won’t be surprised to learn that one of the big themes this year is COVID. How could it not be? There were loads of figures which feature people getting vaccinated, wearing masks, running away from evil viruses, or all of those things at once. Another theme we picked up on was gender identity, and how children are beginning to question theirs — kind of a weighty topic for silly statues, but (most of) those which dared tackle it, did so with sensitivity. Strangely absent were world leaders — we didn’t see a single Trump, Putin … or even Boris Johnson, who basically could be a Fallas figure come to life.
To be honest, our overall impression of this year’s exhibition was rather negative. The figures just didn’t seem to be executed with as much artistry as usual. There were exceptions of course, and some definite standouts, as you’ll see in our pictures. But on the whole, there were way too many extremely basic statues, and tired old themes that should have gone out of style long ago — the goofy Native American, the exotic Chinese woman, the nearly naked Africans.
On the flip side, however, the energy which usually goes into the larger figures, seems to have been transferred this year to the Ninots Infantiles — the smaller “child” figures. These are always surprisingly good, but this year they seemed extra creative, and we spent more time with them than with their larger counterparts. It’s amazing how many ideas can be packed into such a small space.