Jill Magid The Proposal, détails | details, 2016.
Photos : Michel Brunelle (haut | above), Stefan Jaeggi (bas | below), permission de | courtesy of the artist, LABOR, Mexico city & Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Gallen

Art: Whose Legacy?

Dominique Sirois-Rouleau
Prolific Mexican architect Luis Ramiro Barragán Morfín, who died in 1988, left behind a unique legacy divided between his home-studio and personal belongings, preserved in Mexico, and his professional archives and the reproduction rights to his works, held since 1995 by the Barragan Foundation, based in Switzerland. American conceptual artist Jill Magid first learned of this in 2012 during a visit to Casa Luis Barragán. The director of the museum told her the romantic yet controversial story of the wealthy owner and CEO of the renowned furniture company Vitra, who had acquired Barragán’s entire professional archives as an engagement gift for his future wife, architecture historian Federica Zanco. Zanco then created the Barragan Foundation, which she directs, and a bunker, inaccessible to the public, where the architect’s archives are held. Thus, not only did the foundation deprive Mexico of its cultural heritage but it also allowed Zanco to exert unprecedented control over the dissemination of Barragán’s work; in the late 1990s, for example, Zanco prohibited the visual documentation of buildings designed by the architect.

With her The Proposal project, launched in 2013, Magid suggests a solution to this grievous division of patrimony and its gradual disappearance from the cultural landscape. With the authorization of Barragán’s family, Magid had a diamond grown from some of the architect’s ashes and set the jewel in an engagement ring intended for Zanco. Engraved with the inscription “I am wholeheartedly yours,” the ring serves as a counterproposal to the romantic bequest of the Barragán archives, trading the dynamic of the engagement gift for that of an exchange. In return for the ring, Zanco would commit to returning Barragán’s professional archives to Mexico and opening them to the public. This extraordinary proposal, made directly to Zanco on 31 May 2016, remains unanswered to date. 

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This article also appears in the issue 97 - Appropriation

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