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Santiago Sierra - Mea Culpa

- Part 1: PAC Milano

For Easter, Global:artfair went to Italy, and visited two interesting exhibition in two different cities : Milan and Rome. The exhibitions were really different one from the other, but they had in common the fact that they exposed a big name of contemporary art. On one hand Santiago Sierra, presented for the first time in Italy by the PAC in Milan, with the exhibition titled « mea culpa », on the other hand Anish Kapoor who came for the second time to Rome, to the MACRo, with his homonym exhibition. If it is true that these two artists are profoundly different both in the language they use and in what they express, it is also true that they are both great in their way and their purpose. global:artfair wants to allow our reader to explore the work of these two artists through the two exhibitions which were named above. “Santiago Sierra - Mea Culpa”, PAC Milano 29 March 2017 - 04 June 2017 curated by Diego Sileo e Lutz Henke The title of the exhibition itself is really clear and leaves no doubts. The visitor finds himself in front of different works of the artist, which go from the 90s until today. All the works are exhibited by following a precise rhythm and they are all realized with the same black and white technique, so beloved by the artist, because globalization (Sierra says) eliminated all colours and nuances: either rich or poor; either slaves or patrons; either victims or executioner; what interests Sierra the most is in fact the critic towards the socio-political conditions of our time. In his works, the artist convicts the alienation and the human exploitation by recreating the same exploitation conditions with his performers.

Burial of ten workers

From this way of working, we can easily understand the title given to this exhibition in Milan; the core question is in fact that of responsibility, which includes everyone and doesn’t leave anybody outside: the artist, the exhibiting space and the visitors are all participating to this mechanism which plumps the process which creates inequality. We are all agent of the socio-economical issues of our contemporary society.

Sierra becomes in this way the messenger of the sad truth of our time, through intense, cold and raw art pieces.


These works are allocated in four rooms and they all suggest pure emotions.In the first room, we find a some blow-ups photographic prints: Gypsies of Ponticelli (2008), 250 cm tattooed on 6 remunerated people (1999), Line of 160 cm tattooed on 4 people (2000). The two last works show the most cruel and ruthless truth of the world of work: the ethic limit. Some people were paid by Sierra to get a horizontal line tattooed on their back. This action is documented through the artist’s camera; Sierra uses art in order to show the squalor of the medium which runs the world, which is money.

Black flag (part 1 and 2)

In the central Room we find “Destroyed word”, in which the artist let burn the single letters forming the word “KAPITALISM”. Sierra could realize this video thank to collaborations with artistic centres and local art festival. Each letter was in fact destroyed in different parts of the world and each letter is made of a primary product which is fundamental to the economy of that particular country.

Form of 600 x 57 x 52 cm built to b sustained perpendicularly to a wall

21 anthropometric modules of human faeces made by the people of sulabh international

In the second room, we find “40 sq.m. from the Iberian peninsula”, “200 litres of water from the dead sea” and “Jerusalem stones in a meter cube box”.

All these three works might be placed in the minimalist tradition: geometric structures and modular repetitions of simple and regular shapes characterize these works. Sierra buys for these works some primary elements (such as water, rocks, or sand) and insert them in a context which is alien to the original one. In this way the artist shows how anything can possibly be transformed into an item which can be bought, and how anything can be reduced to a mere object of commerce.

Text and Photos by (c) Carmen Frigerio


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