The Peruvian artist Daniela Ortiz saw the photograph of the couples of the leaders at the NATO summit posing together with Guernica, by Pablo Picasso, a monumental canvas that denounces the fascist massacre against the Basque population during the Spanish Civil War. Ortiz immediately wrote to the management of the Reina Sofía Museum to demand the withdrawal of his work exhibited in Communicating vessels. Collection 1881-2021, the particular vision of the center’s collections designed by its director, Manuel Borja-Villel. He has made public the letter in which he demands the immediate withdrawal of his series made up of eight paintings and from the Reina Sofía Museum they still do not know what to do, they explain to this newspaper. This Friday they kept trying to talk to the artist to make a decision, despite the fact that Ortiz is very clear in her writing.
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The Cuzco artist who lived in Barcelona until 2018 regrets the museum’s decision, which has “allowed the holding of a political act within the framework of the NATO summit, using Guernica as a backdrop,” she explains in her letter sent to the center address. The work to which the 37-year-old artist refers is titled White Breeds (2019) and was acquired by the museum in 2020 from the gallery owner Emilio Álvarez Costa, for 32,000 euros.
This newspaper has been able to speak with Daniela Ortiz by phone and the artist reaffirms her request: “NATO has wanted to appropriate the Guernica And they are killers. The Royal House, too. That painting represents something other than what they are. The artists represented in the Reina Sofía Museum need you to explain to us why they have allowed this photograph and for the management to take a position before NATO. Why hasn’t it been denied as an institution?” Ortiz asks from her house, a town two hours from Cuzco and a few days after giving birth to her second child.
The series is exhibited in the room entitled The invention of race, together with the work of the artist Sandra Gamarra (Lima, Peru, 1972). In the series, Ortiz denounces the “white anarchist” with a combination of image and text written on the canvas. “The white anarchist builds his tower of colonial privileges to act with arrogance on the migrant brother who has crossed the borders disobeying the Immigration Law, has rioted and set fire to a Foreigners Internment Center and who has put up radical physical resistance against his deportation”, can be read in one of the paintings in which, step by step, he portrays and discovers the character.
The statement made public by Daniela Ortiz explains that NATO is “one of the main entities for sustaining the hegemony of North American and European imperialism in the global south through military force.” She points to the Alliance to withdraw the sovereignty of countries like Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya with the use of weapons and violence. In Madrid, Ortiz says, “they have taken another step in the escalation of militarization, generation of wars and conflicts.” She also criticizes the demonization of the People’s Republic of China as a “threat” and the growth of tension with the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO, thanks to an agreement with Turkey that “implies an intensification of the war and persecution of the Kurdish people ”.
For everything, he demands that his work be withdrawn as soon as possible. Although a day after its publication, the museum had not even responded to him. “The Prado Museum was aberrational, but you can’t expect much from the Prado. I did not expect the Reina Sofía Museum”, he tells eldiario.es“ We know who runs the museum [Manuel Borja-Villel], how he thinks, and the exceptional work he has done to raise certain debates. It has also made an effort to include Latin American artists in the collection. We must recognize his political commitment, but it is aberrant that the Guernica. It was a very determined political calculation to take this painting and that museum, to build that photo at the same moment that World War III was declared,” says Daniela Ortiz.
One day before the Reina Sofía Museum interrupted its attention to citizens due to the NATO summit, some thirty activists protested against the event. The components of Extinction Rebellion [Extinción o Rebelión] and Fridays for Future [Juventud por el clima] they lay down in front of Guernica with banners that read: “War is the death of art” or “Here the lords of war will meet.” The peaceful action, inspired by an action by Fernando Sánchez Castillo, lasted for ten minutes before they were evicted by museum staff.
In addition, Ortiz regrets that the summit took place after “the massacre that took the lives of at least 37 migrants, many of them from territories at war and who were murdered in cold blood on the Spanish border.”
He points to the Reina Sofía Museum as responsible for ensuring the physical integrity of the works it protects, but also “for its political integrity”. During the conversation, the artist indicates that she does not want to “generate fights within the museum”, but she does want to discuss the political protection of works like hers and those of other artists. “Many of us are militants and we show our political positions. It is a very delicate situation, because our work can be distorted, as has happened with the GuernicaOrtiz says. His work always has a rebellious political dimension and he wants it not to be questioned in the museum exhibition. In fact, he comments that if the work belongs to the public collections of the State, it could be transferred to another public museum.
“Faced with these facts, we must have a forceful response, which the museum has not had. We will never expect anything from the Prado, but at a time as delicate as the current one, many of us expected a more forceful response from the management of the Reina Sofía in the face of the political use of the museum. They should never have allowed that political use of that painting. It is aberrant that the Guernica”, adds Daniela Ortiz.
“The Reina Sofía Museum, financed largely with public money from the efforts of the migrant and Spanish working class, cannot use not only the works of artists for the political purposes of organizations that impose war and violence, such as the NATO, but also the public resources to carry out events of these deplorable characteristics”, explains the artist in her letter. In 2003, Colin Powell, Chief of Staff of the George Bush Administration, had the tapestry covered, reproducing Guernica, which hung at the UN (owned by the Rockefeller family). Powell was going to announce the sending of the American military force to invade Iraq and they hid Picasso’s version with a big blue curtain.