Global Art Daily Publication™
Veronica Hernandez, February 2016, Buenos Aires.
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The Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires (MAMBA) has recently
re-staged one of the most famous works in modern Latin American art, La
Menesunda, on the fiftieth anniversary of its opening. The show has since
generated lots of attention due to the historical importance of the piece.
La Menesunda was first staged in 1965 in Buenos
Aires and was a collaboration between Marta Minujin and Rubén
Santantonín. Neither an installation nor a performance piece, the work
was described as “art within something happening”. The best analogy for
this work is that it is an artistic version of a fun house, where
visitors walk through human-shaped entrances from room to room
interacting with what was installed inside. There are different surprises
around ever corner: an entire room covered in confetti, a bed with a
sleeping couple, and free massage services provided by performers. In
total, there are 16 “situations” that visitors get to encounter and
La Menesunda was one of Minujin’s first forays into creating happenings
and performance pieces, inspired by what she saw after traveling to Paris
on a grant. However, although barely credited for his role in the history
books, La Menesunda was also created in the same vein as Santantonín’s
His art was based on conceptual principles and required the viewers to
become active participants in the work. Santantonìn wanted his pieces to
become a “transformative matter” that could not bought nor sold.
Despite its anti-art slant, La Menesunda was a hit and a financial
success. One and a half million visitors lined up out the door to go see
the work, and the local media in Buenos Aires covered the work
extensively. Thanks to this phenomenon, Minujin and Santantonìn were able
to introduce and popularize the principles of conceptual art and pop art
to the South American art scene, making the La Menesunda a major turning
point in Latin American art.
Now, La Menesunda is still just as popular. The MAMBA now limits the
amount of visitors that are allowed to visit the exhibit per day. Yet,
this re-staging lacks the same dynamism as before. It is not transforming
or changing the local art scene. The only purpose it seems to serve is as
an educational tool for those who were not fortunate enough to see the
Re-staging such a show, even with the approval of Minujin, might
undermine the original intent of the work. The bright neon lights,
confetti, and outrageous performers in La Menesunda now make people pull
out their camera phones and document it. In this digital age, the show
has become Instagram-bait, the perfect form of free publicity for a
state-run museum with a limited budget. In the same vein as “Rain Room”
at MoMA and “Matisse Cut-Outs” at the Tate, “La Menesunda” is an example
of a blockbuster show whose main purpose serves to generate revenue. Not
surprisingly, MoMA will exhibit La Menesunda sometime in 2017.