The piece of the ninot of Felipe VI that Santiago Sierra and Eugenio Merino raised in Arco above the stands of the fair He has not found a buyer yet. Its creators, Santiago Sierra and Eugenio Merino, speak in this interview about the piece and clarify that their intention is not to break the law, because their work could be burned -the sales contract says that the buyer must do it after paying 200,000 euros- in another country, "for example, in France". The talk was produced by email and what follows is an edited version of that exchange.
Question. Why did you decide to make the piece like this?
Eugenio Merino. It is a natural collaboration. In the year 2012 I Franco Foundation denounced, with the confederacy of Ifema [el recinto ferial de Madrid] and the platform of anti-fascist artists, in which Santiago Sierra was, supported me through a public manifesto and some days against Franco in Vallecas. Since then. Santiago and I have been considering this collaboration.
P. Why was it important that the editing was not in his usual galleries, Helga de Alvear and in DNA?
Santiago Sierra. Work with the Prometeo Gallery, by Ida Pisani [la que expuso la obra] for 20 years. For me it is a regular gallery and Eugenio exhibits there because we made this piece together. Nothing strange.
P. How has Prometheus been able to overcome the filter of the fair?
H.H. You do not have to show the work to anyone before riding, so everything went smoothly. The thought contrary to the monarchy is inherent in the existence of this institution. In France these things do not happen because there is no king, it is a republic. The king is a symbol of institutionalized nepotism. It is an antimeritocratic symbol. The message that is sent to society is that it does not matter how hard you try, what matters is the family you were born in, the group of compadres. At the minimum we should aspire to is a republic of equals, without mega-individuals of four and a half meters, without highs.
P. The piece has been exhibited in Arco, does this mean that in Spain there is no problem with freedom of expression?
H.H. They have not censored us, but they have worked tirelessly to avoid their sale.
E. M. Our piece in Arco confirms that to the left in Spain it is monarchical.
P. The piece was created in a workshop of a Valencian faller. Was this aspect important?
E. M. Santiago and I were clear that, if the piece had to burn, the only workshop capable of understanding this process was a fallero workshop. A workshop [el del maestro Manolo Martín] who has already worked on other occasions with Santiago and with other artists such as Daniel García Andújar.
H.H. In addition to Manolo, another 19 specialists in different areas have participated in this work. From 3D printing, wax, human hair insertion, eyes, tailor, et cetera. Eugenio's workshop finished off the color. It is a choral work with an impeccable invoice, it is called The Ninot, but it transcends the genre.
P. To what do you attribute the negative reaction of some collectors in Arco to the piece?
H.H. Furious people make themselves felt more than others. There are collectors with extreme good taste who speak differently, do not hesitate. Not everything is furious people. However, my detractors have always been my biggest promoters and I send them a hug.
P. Is the Spanish collection heeled to the right?
E. M. Spain is listed to the right.
S. S. If so, I remind you that the world is huge. There is more of my work outside than inside Spain.
P. Why do you think your piece has been such a dissonant note at the fair?
E. M. Arco is eminently a decorative fair. Anything that does not follow this pattern usually attracts attention.
H.H. Everything that does not applaud the "virtues" of power is controversial. The fact that the art world from Madrid is added every year to the real kissing does not scandalize anyone. I'm embarrassed by others.
P. If your piece is so blatantly "anti-market", why try to sell it in Arco?
H.H. I do not know where you get that is "anti-market" and we do not want to sell it, that's absurd.
E. M. What is sold is the pleasure of burning the piece, a unique and historical moment that we offer to the collector for his own enjoyment. This is market too.
P. Have they already sold the piece? What type of collector do you think you might be interested in? If it is not sold, will it be a failure or is the objective of the piece already fulfilled?
E. M. There are several collectors interested and the contract is currently being reviewed [los artistas no quieren especificar en qué términos lo está siendo]. It is a complex piece and buying it requires some unusual steps.
H.H. It will also burn.
P. There have been female artists who have accused them of being "macho" …
H.H. There is no greater symbol of heteropatriarchal power than a monarch and it is going to be burned. On the contrary, to these statements this work could very well be burned by feminists. It would be an honor.
E. M. Arco entero is a macho fair, since the percentage of women in the fair is very low. That is something that should be asked to the galleries involved and the director of the fair, who ignore the demand for more women at the fair.
H.H. It is not the case of Prometheus of Ida, she was fairly even in her selection of artists.
P. Can the piece be considered an offense to the king?
H.H. The Spanish Constitution protects our right of creation and free artistic expression, as well as protects freedom of expression in general. On the other hand, as it is usual the burning of ninot where it is not surprising the annual presence of members of the royal house, we can frame our performance as within the uses and customs, in addition to the strong satirical tradition of the Spanish people. We do not intend to break the law, the burning of the ninot will be done in compliance with the law, for example in France.
E. M. Our lawyer has been the same one who took me the case of the Franco Foundation's complaint and that we won in 2015. It is not an offensive piece or pretend to be. It depends on the sensitivity of the viewer.
P. But there is a difference between a ninot, which is pure caricature and exaggeration, and a hyperrealistic sculpture like this. Why is it ninot and not sculpture?
E. M. It is ninot because it is meant to burn. In fact, only the burning process has been taken into account in its construction. All materials have been chosen for this reason and although it has been made with the highest quality everything will disappear when the contract is fulfilled.
H.H. The ninot is a hyperrealistic sculpture made with such precision that it hurts to burn it and that tension is stimulating. I have always been interested in the failure as a concept, in fact, it is not my first fault: I burned the future in the Cabanyal. It means burning the outdated so that the new arises and that is not a desire for hatred, but for regeneration. The work that we have presented in Arco is beautiful, precisely, because it will burn.
P. Is it comparable to burn a photo of the king (punished by the Penal Code) with the burning of a figure more than four meters high?
H.H. If you burn it in France, there is no problem.
E. M.[[The European Court of Human Rights of] Strasbourg says that burning photos of the king is freedom of expression.
P. Will they donate the money raised from the sale of the work?
E. M. Yes, we will donate it to the director of Arco so that he does not say again that there is no need to buy the work.
H.H. If you want to know what I spend my money can check my website where it has been explained, month by month, the last 30 years. We are not NGOs, we are studios and workshops of contemporary art, with employees and tax charges. It is not usual to ask these questions to other artists.