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IN AN INFORMATIVE AND INSIGHTFUL new profile of Oscar Murillo, New York magazine likens the 28-year-old artist’s meteoric rise to the current state of the contemporary art world. A few years ago, the black Colombian-born artist was doing janitorial work in the UK where he earned a master’s degree at the Royal College of Art. In short order, he has become a hot topic among collectors and the price of his work (several thousand in 2011) has spiked at auction garnering six figures.

“In short order, Oscar Murillo has become a hot topic among collectors and the price of his work has spiked at auction garnering six figures.”

nymag jun30-july13.14Today, Murillo is represented by powerhouse gallery David Zwirner where his solo show, “A Mercantile Novel” is on view through June 14. Known for his abstract canvases, he opted to stage a working chocolate factory in the gallery, replicating a local facility in Colombia and importing real workers from the company to run the production. Reviews of the installation have been decidedly mixed. Jerry Saltz, New York’s art critic, panned it.

Many critics have weighed in on the merit of Murillos’s work and several articles have reported on his rise and suggested his career is doomed to fail because of all of the early, outsized praise he has received.

In the June 30-July 13, 2014 issue, New York’s profile by Carl Swanson is rife with interesting new tidbits. For example, the Studio Museum in Harlem invited Murillo to exhibit there, before it was determined that the factory was better suited for the space at Zwirner. The magazine also captures intriguing and curious quotes from Murillo and Donald and Mera Rubell, the Miami art collectors whose patronage propelled his rise. A few excerpts follow.

Murillo Wondered How Artists Made Money:
“I’d always thought that art was a no-go zone,” he says…talking about his immigrant adolescence in London, where he considered becoming an animator before finding fine art. “And not because anybody prohibited me—my parents said, ‘Do whatever you want’—but because I thought, What do artists do? How do they make their money?” — New York

Murillo is Fond of Art Fairs:
Some artists don’t like the shopping-cart vibe of art fairs, but Murillo is known for going.…”Three years ago, he was at every fair, wandering around with his little backpack,” says a member of the traveling art tribe who admires Murillo’s pluck. “Telling collectors, ‘Hey, how are you, man? Come over, I’ll cook for you!’ All these rich white collectors were following him around: ‘Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!'” — New York

The Colombian Chocolatiers Like New York:
They were put up in Crown Heights, given English lessons two days a week, and ate every Friday with the largely female coterie of flawlessly cosmopolitan gallery employees…None had ever been to the U.S. before; most had never left Colombia. They had first heard that Murillo had made it big as an artist when a Colombian newspaper reported Leonardo DiCaprio had bought one of his paintings. They were surprised that New Yorkers ate so much salad, and all planned to come back. — New York

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Works by Oscar Murillo at the Rubell Foundation in Miami, December 2012 | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

Murillo Considered Animation:
When he went to art school at University of Westminster to study animation, “I thought, If all else fails there is a kind of structure. But I only lasted two weeks. It was stop-motion, so to get a minute of animation, you have to draw for two months. And that was not much like me. So I went to speak to the fine-art people, and they liked my portfolio and took me in.” — New York

The Rubells Feel Ignored by Zwirner:
“We have not had a sit-down like this with David Zwirner about Oscar,” complains Mera Rubell. “And it bugs the shit out of me. You’d think he would call us up and say, ‘Who is Oscar?’ We know him so well.” — New York

“The power of the immigrant is that they always show up. You don’t always know if you can deliver, but you always show up. Oscar always shows up. We give him 24-hour access to the space, and every day we get these updates: Look at what he did last night, look at what he did this morning, look look look.” — Mera Rubell, New York magazine

Murillo Paints with a Broom:
Mera Rubell: “What is dangerous for Oscar is that with all these accusations—he’s copying this one, he’s copying that one—is that he has to be careful that he doesn’t give up territories which are uniquely his. No one paints with a broomstick. His technique is so unique to him. His signature is literally a handprint. When I see those strokes, I think it’s a subliminal memory of his grandfather machete-ing his sugarcane.” Or perhaps, Donald suggests, it’s just that he worked with a broom as a cleaner. — New York

“Oscar Murillo: Work,” documenting the artist’s first solo U.S exhibition held at the Rubell Foundation where he created 32 works in the summer of 2012, was published April 30, 2014. CT

 

New York, June 30-July 13, 2014 | “Oscar Murillo Perfectly Encaspsulates the Current State of the Contemporary Art World,” by Carl Swanson, pages 36-41 and 122.

 

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