The Zoo of Art

/ 1 March, 2016

WANTED: 4.5 METER TIGER SHARK was the announcement Damien Hirst applied for in the post offices of the Australian coast, after noticing that his work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) had begun to irreversible decompose. (…) While Hirst replaced his shark, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean Reynerio Tamayo made from creation a universe of divertimentos, an authentic parody of reality. The exercise of graphic humor allowed him to cover no end of topics, always in serialized productions, among which the market was present. From the end of the 1980s, his works evidence a deliberate interest in telling stories, in the style of a reporter or a story-teller, in which “high culture” and the daily routine nature of the Cuban mix together with ingenuity. Tonel already said it in 1991: “Reynerio Tamayo is an artist placed (…) in no man’s territory.”i And thus he has continued until today, although I would dare claim that a territory does exist and it precisely is his own. Loyal to himself and with an infallible respect for ART and trade, Tamayo has reached our days as a sincere and reflexive artist who does not abandon the very Cuban notion of joking.

This humorous essence is palpable in his most recent exhibition, entitled Zootheby’s and inaugurated on January 25 in Villa Manuela Gallery in Havana. The exhibition is a scathing critic to the mercantilist mechanisms underlying art, not only in auction houses like Sotheby’s, but the figures themselves that rule and determine the artistic production. (…) All Zootheby’s works represent a satire for art market behavior away from Cuban premises. All but one which, because of centering in the Cuban case, undoubtedly is the one that mostly differences from the rest. Zootheby’s House Project is, in my opinion, one of the best achieved pieces because it transcends the elitist artistic dialogue that may emerge in the auction houses and introduces itself in typical issues of Cuban contemporaneity. In this work Tamayo provokes, not without shrewdness, all those dreaming with a sales center in the island. But, further away from art, the piece is also an allusion to the present situation in Cuba, in which the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States has meant, besides, the possibility that—earlier than later—North American companies would make investments in the island, a situation Tamayo considered “unthinkable” twenty years ago, when he and his colleagues lived in a sort of “bubble” and created “just for the love of art”.

Reynerio Tamayo confesses that “art cannot turn into a sport or a marathon race”; creation cannot be marked by rules and much less with purposes conditioned by mercantile reasons. In this sense, Zootheby’s is a critic to the emaciated world of the art market, but it also is a warning, a piece of advice for the young artists to whom Tamayo recommends to enjoy creation and, first of all, be loyal to themselves. And if demonizing the market is not the issue, “since selling is necessary to live and pay the expenses of the production of the work, the artist may deceive the entire world, the collectors, the market itself… everyone and even he himself, but never, never, will he mislead ART.”

i Fernández, Antonio Eligio (Tonel): El Mundo no es Cruel (The World is Not Cruel), by Reynerio Tamayo. Collateral to the Fourth Havana Biennial, Centro Cultural Cinematográfico Yara, Havana, 1991. In

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