SFAI San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street
CA 94133 San Francisco
artist / participant
The Proposal presents a climactic moment within Jill Magid’s extended, multimedia artwork, The Barragán Archives, which examines the legacy of Mexican architect and Pritzker Prize-winner Luis Barragán (1902–1988). The multi-year project poses piercing, radical, and pragmatic questions about the forms of power, public access, and copyright that construct artistic legacy. With this work, Magid asks, “What happens to an artist’s legacy when it is owned by a corporation and subject to a country’s laws where none of his architecture exists? Who can access it? Who can’t?”
Through his will, Barragán split his archive into two parts. Along with the vast majority of his architecture, Barragán’s personal archive remains in Mexico at his home, Casa Barragán, which is now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1995, Barragán’s professional archive, including the rights to his name and work and all photographs taken of it, was purchased by the Chairman of the Swiss furniture company Vitra, allegedly as a gift for his fiancé, Federica Zanco; who now serves as Director of the Barragan Foundation. For the last twenty years, however, the archive has been publicly inaccessible, housed in a bunker at Vitra corporate headquarters.
The Proposal reaches a thrilling and unexpected salvo in Magid’s engagement with Barragán, Zanco, Barragán’s descendants, the Mexican Government, and the indispensable creative legacy that binds them. Through the public exhibition of The Proposal, Magid will present Zanco with the gift of a two-carat diamond engagement ring grown from the cremated remains of Barragán’s body, in exchange for the gift of his archive to Mexico.
The exhibit serves as both a poetic counterproposal to the original gift to Zanco, and a stunning re-animation of the formerly closed scenario. Magid’s gesture elegantly, and forcefully rejoins the divergent paths of Barragán’s professional and personal archives; even as it reveals Barragán’s official and private selves, and the unique interests of the institutions that have become the archives’ guardians. By developing long-term relationships with multiple individual, governmental, and corporate entities, Magid directly engages complex intersections of the psychological with the judicial, national identity and repatriation, international property rights and copyright law, authorship and ownership, the human body and the body of work. On May 31, 2016, Magid proposed to Zanco in Switzerland. The Proposal has not only exhumed Barragán’s physical remains, but opened the possibility to bring his spiritual and artistic legacy up out of the vault and back to life.
The Proposal is commissioned by San Francisco Art Institute. The exhibition is curated by Hesse McGraw, SFAI Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs, and organized with Katie Hood Morgan, Assistant Curator and Exhibitions Manager.
About the Artist
Through an artistic practice that is at once visual, textual, and performative, Jill Magid (*1973, lives in New York) forges intimate relationships within bureaucratic structures—flirting with, seducing, and subverting authority. Her projects probe seemingly impenetrable systems, such as the NYPD, the Dutch Secret Service, surveillance systems, and, most recently, the legacy of architect Luis Barragán, and infiltrates and unsettles these forms of power. Her work dynamically locates unexpected and rich communities within faceless bureaucracies.
Her works often take the form of elliptical love letters that draw out human qualities in agents of control. These charged encounters are founded on mutual trust, but are also fraught with ethical complications and social asymmetries. Through her works, Magid reframes the complexity, potential intimacy, and absurdity of our relationship with institutions and power.
Her performances and exhibitions have been commissioned and presented by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; and the New Museum, New York; among other venues.
Magid is represented by LABOR, Mexico City; RaebervonStenglin, Zurich; and Galerie Untilthen, Paris.
A documentary about The Proposal will premiere on The Intercept in Fall 2016. Field of Vision, a filmmaker-driven visual journalism film unit created by Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack, and Charlotte Cook, commissioned the documentary, which is directed by Magid, and filmed and produced by Jarred Alterman. View Trailer »
The Proposal is accompanied by a co-publication between Sternberg Press; The Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School; and SFAI. Released as part of the Sternberg Press Critical Spatial Practice book series, the book is edited by Nikolaus Hirsch, Carin Kuoni, Hesse McGraw, and Markus Miessen, and features contributions by Nikolaus Hirsch, Jill Magid, Hesse McGraw, Leonardo Díaz Borioli, David Kim, Daniel McClean, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Beth Povinelli, and Ines Weizman. The publication is funded in part by Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.