SANTIAGO SIERRA


Galerie Thomas Zander is pleased to announce its first solo exhibition of works by Spanish artist Santiago Sierra. In his monographic show featuring works from 1999 to 2015, Santiago Sierra makes use of diverse forms of expression of Conceptual Art, which have their roots in the Minimalism of the 1960s and ‘70s. With his sculptures and “actions”, as well as their relics and documentations, the artist transfers them to the context of contemporary art today.


The installation Three Black Vehicles with the Engine Running Inside an Art Gallery is on view in the main gallery space. The work was premiered in Caracas in 2008 and will now be shown in Germany for the first time. Three black cars stand in the exhibition space, their engines are running and produce exhaust fumes, which are led outside through tubes. Sierra questions the noise, pollution, bad working conditions and social inequality as much as he is asking what a human being is worth in a capitalist society, which increasingly demands efficiency and quantifiability. By entering the exhibition space, the viewer becomes part of the system and thus also part of the performance. In his work Sierra references an unrealized project by German action artist Gustav Metzger, which Metzger had developed in 1972 for documenta 5. Four cars were to be placed around a cube, so that the fumes would accumulate inside the cube over the 100-day-period of the documenta.

Films and photographs of several performances are on view on the Second Floor, including a film documentation of Sierra’s well known performance 250 cm Line Tattooed on 6 Paid People (Havana, Cuba, 1999). The characteristically matter-of-fact title also describes the work. Through drastic means Sierra confronts the viewer with the poverty of the Cuban people, who are willing to trade their physical integrity for a few dollars, thus prostituting themselves. The line as a symbol of modern, nonrepresentational art is carefully chosen in this piece. In Sierra’s film The Penetrated (2008), the staged performance addresses sexual oppression and exploitation. Several acts show men and women of different skin colour performing the sexual act. As in the binary system, the partners change until they went through all combinations of sex (male and female) and skin colour (black and white). The film was shot on October 12, the anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in America, which in Spain is also known as “Day of the Race”. While making a reference to America’s colonisation by the Spaniards, the performance is much more than an allegory of domination. Santiago Sierra brings a topicality to his work and transfers its themes to our present time. It is by the power of his drastic images and the ruthlessness of the performance that he critically reflects on the moral prejudices of society.

The third film titled The Corridor of People’s House was made in the House of the People in Bucarest, Romania in 2005. While the building houses the National Museum of Contemporary Art today, it was previously devoted to the personal rooms of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Specifically for this performance, a corridor was built through the house, crossing all three stories of the building, but measuring only 120 cm in width. For the sum of six euro each, Sierra hired almost 400 women to stand on both sides of this corridor. The performance took place only once after midnight and each viewer who wished to see it first had to pass a metal detector. The documentation of the performance shows the passage of the viewers as they go through the corridor past the women, who are begging loudly and reach out their hands in the corridor.
The films are accompanied by photographs, which are artworks in their own right. On the one hand they document the performances and on the other hand define their position in the context of art. Since the 1990s Sierra has received international attention with these kinds of actions, confronting the viewer with radical positions and socio-critical aspects. The structural violence of political and economic systems, which Sierra makes visible in his art, is the creative breeding ground for these representations, that test viewers’ individual thresholds of pain. This is why his works have frequently been the cause for public discussion. Since they deliberately aim for dialogue and communication, they challenge the viewer to take a stance. Sierra’s artworks provoke and cause discomfort, as they often mirror the situation they denounce.


The exhibition is on view during special opening hours. Please contact the gallery for further information.

On the occasion of Art Cologne, Galerie Thomas Zander in collaboration with Galería Helga de Alvear presents another work by Santiago Sierra titled 483 Hours of Work. It consists of a 4 x 4 x 4-meter large, black concrete cube, which will be on view in Cologne-Deutz in front of the fair building, opposite the South Entrance.

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