Sunday, September 11, 2016

Jill Magid: The Proposal - opening at the SFAI


What happens to an artist's legacy after his death?

In his will made prior to his 1988 death at age 86, in Mexico City in 1988, Mexican architect Luis Barragán designated two people to manage his legacy, with his friend and fellow architect Ignacio Díaz Morales to identify an institution for his library. Díaz Morales established the foundation managing the Casa Barragán. Fundación de Arquitectura Tapatía which owns (in co-ownership with the Government of the State of Jalisco) Luis Barragán's former private residence in Mexico City: Luis Barragán House and Studio. The house is now a museum which celebrates Barragán and also serves as a conduit between scholars and architects interested in visiting other Barragán buildings in Mexico, including Capilla de las Capuchinas and Casa Prieto López.UNESCO added the Casa Luis Barragán to its World Heritage List in 2004. (Wikipedia)

But a portion of Barragán's estate, his professional papers and the copyright was bought in 1995 by a Swiss furniture executive and have not been made available to the public. Furthermore, Vitra, the Swiss company, claims copyright to all images of Barragán's work, including current photographs of the buildings he designed.

"Researchers have been denied access, and even the use of images of Barragán’s buildings is carefully controlled. Among those who study twentieth-century architecture, the inaccessibility of Barragán’s archive and the bizarre conditions of its custodianship have become almost as much of a preoccupation as his buildings." (New Yorker Magazine). 

After hearing about this, American conceptual artist, Jill Magid, felt this silencing of an artist's legacy was untenable. With the family's permission, Magid exhumed Barragán's ashes and had them made into a two-carat diamond engagement ring.

In The Proposal, now on view at the San Francisco Art Institute, Magid presents Federica Zanco, director of the Barragan Foundation (sans accent), Swiss home of the archive since 1995, with a two-carat diamond engagement ring made from Barragán’s ashes. Magid asks: Will Zanco accept “the body” of the man in exchange for the return of “the body of work” to Mexico?

The bare bones of the show - two vitrines with various documents, a floral tribute modeled on Mexican Day of the Dead, a film and even the diamond make the viewer reflect on the questions of intellectual copyright, corporate control, even the commodification of an artist's legacy. 

San Francisco Art Institute 
Walter and McBean Galleries 
800 Chestnut Street 
San Francisco, CA 94133
United States 
Hours: Tuesday 11am–7pm,
Wednesday–Saturday 11am–6pm

Walter and McBean Galleries, San Francisco Art Institute
Sept. 9 – Dec. 10, 2016

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