Among the aisles and booths of ARCO, Madrid’s contemporary art fair, lurks the apparition of a man who looms large over the history of modern art.
Picasso’s lifeless body forms the basis for a work by the Spanish artist Eugenio Merino, titled Aquí Murió Picasso (Picasso Died Here), 2017. Rather than being based on Picasso’s actual corpse, it draws inspiration from the image of the artist that many associate with him: the blue striped Breton shirt, white linen pants, espadrilles.
The work is also quite literally larger than life. Picasso was said to stand 5 feet and 4 inches tall, whereas the sculpture is just over 6 feet long.
According to the Spanish publication El País, the sculpture “managed to concentrate groups of onlookers” on opening day. La Vanguardia described said the work was “death as a souvenir,” one of the “main centers of attraction for selfie addicts” and “the safe way get likes on Instagram.”
Curated by Los Interventores and presented by ADN Gallery, the sculpture was conceived as a critique of mass tourism, the art fair industrial complex, and the general selfie-fication of the cultural sphere. The work all but begs fairgoers to snap a picture of themselves next to Picasso’s body.
“The sculpture is basically a Tourist Attraction we made based on the Dean MacCannell’s 1976 book The Tourist,” Merino wrote in an email to ARTnews. “In the book, the author explains the characteristics of an attraction, and for us, it was basically what the art world and the art fairs have turned into.
“Institutions and companies wash their image in culture,” Merino added, “that’s why it’s important that this work presents itself, openly, as an object to be sold but also from which to extract symbolic value. A place where a ‘tourist art consumer’ can have its selfie…a souvenir that reminds us they were here, where Picasso died. Obviously, [it’s] as fake as any tourist attraction.”
The work comes in an edition of three and sells for a tidy €45,000. ARCO runs through February 26.