Latinamerican Art

Marta Minujin and Priscilla Monge

Marta Minujin (born 1941 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, lives and works in Buenos Aires)

Marta Minujin is a super star, a true celebrity in Buenos Aires, and if at all comparable, then to Andy Warhol in New York at his best times, whom she has of course already worked together with.

Digging up early works 

When I had the opportunity to visit her studio many years ago—ever on the lookout for «undiscovered» gems of art—I was still unaware of her utter cult status. She reacted somewhat bored to my wish of seeing a few of her early works. Apparently, she hadn’t kept them, and at any rate, she was clearly indifferent to them. She attempted instead to arouse my interest in some unspeakable three-dimensional creations from her later production. As if by a miracle, however, I managed to secure a couple of old drawings for our collection, which were connected to major projects, such as the Parthenon of Books. And miraculously again, a few months later the famous photos rematerialized that showed her symbolically handing maize to Andy Warhol in payment for her country’s foreign debt. The photos were exorbitantly overpriced in my opinion: She had by then certainly recognized the not-so-insignificant value of her early works.

Marta Minujin, around 1960

Making it happen in the 1960s

Marta Minujin already went to Paris, the then Mecca of the art world, in 1960. She immediately circled in on the avant-garde and very soon surrendered her «entire» art production to the flames in a performative public act («La destrucción», 1963). She thus shifted into the epicenter of happenings and performances, which were becoming the dernier cri of all avant-garde creation at the time. In the mid-1960s, she accordingly headed for New York, by then on the verge of overtaking Paris as the center of the global art world, where she participated to the attention of the media in spectacular actions with Allan Kaprow and Wolf Vostell («Three Countries Happening», 1966) and organized actions under her own label, such as «Minuphone» (1967) and «Minucode» (1968). Likewise, in the mid-1960s, she set up the performance «Suceso plástico» at a Montevideo soccer stadium, which included 500 live chickens thrown out of a helicopter together with talcum and lettuce to flutter down toward a group of bodybuilders, fat people, and motorcycle police…

El Partenon de los libros prohibidos, 2017, documenta XIV, Kassel, Courtesy: Marta Minujin Archives

Being in the right place & time

Over many years, Marta Minujin always seems to have been in the right place at the right time. She was quick to identify the opportunities lurking in a situation, and—much like Christo and Jeanne Claude—she often succeeded to convince the right people of her spectacular enterprises. She thought big and acted on a big scale. Like her U.S.-American colleague Warhol, she liked to stay deliberately on the surface. Delving deeply was not to her taste. She rather preferred the spectacular, which she always knew to manage and stage well. In the process, she created a number of works that became incunabula of art history, such as the Buenos Airian obelisk of «pan dulce» and her most famous work, the «Partenón de libros», which she erected on the Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires at the end of the military dictatorship in 1983, and which made it to the documenta XIV in Kassel in 2017.

Insta: @martaminujin

Priscilla Monge (born 1968 in San José, Costa Rica, lives and works in San José)

Priscilla Monge`s outer appearance is harmless, nice, and friendly, her demeanor delicate, reserved, unassuming, and proper. Her conceptual artworks, however, cut to the bone with unrestrained sharpness—and they widely contributed to the deserved recognition for contemporary art in Costa Rica. Monge is able to break down both structural and specific gender violence to a generally understandable level without ever resorting to crudeness. She rather goes about her work with eye-winking subtlety and ironically refracted elegance, thereby creating a considerable number of emblematic works over the years that will retain their significance in the future.

Priscilla Monge has tried out all available media in the course of her creative life. According to the particular situation and current necessity, she selects the appropriate medium to convey meaning in the best possible way. By artistically assuming and caricaturing the role society commonly ascribes to the feminine—servility, innocence, etc.—she subversively undercuts traditional female and male role behavior. Her challenging provocation is sophisticated and elegant, targeting the core of gender violence with her biting irony by far more precisely than black-and-white dichotomies would be capable of doing. With a good deal of black humor and sarcasm, she approaches all kinds of outworn behavioral clichés and even downright nightmarish and perverted situations. Most of her works require no explanatory comments and are globally and generally understandable without referring to local or regional idiosyncrasies.

Bailarina, 1995-2000, Drill and silver-plated bronze figure, 33 x 17 x 6,5 cm, Photography: Peter Schälchli, Zürich, Courtesy: Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich

The «Bailarina» on the drill machine or the school blackboards filled with the repeated sentences of a school punishment, such as the statement «No debo follar con criticos de arte.» («I must not fuck art critics») are immediately graspable. One of her most beautiful and widely appreciated works, which we were able to show in the patio of Casa Daros in Rio de Janeiro on the occasion of the 2014 soccer world cup, is her undulating soccer field. With regard to its original function, the foreshortened and hilly playing field appears grotesque, ridiculous, and absurd in its semantic distortedness. Monge in her subversive act casually overrides all previously applicable (game) rules, tongue-in-cheek simultaneously challenging our common social rules and conventions…

Soccer field, 2014, Casa Daros, Rio de Janeiro, Courtesy: Priscilla Monge


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