Brazilian Meireles wins art's coveted Velázquez Prize
Decades of hard work and a social message earn sculptor recognition20 February 2008
MADRID - Cildo Meireles, a Rio de Janeiro native born in 1948, was awarded Tuesday this year's Velázquez Prize, Spain's most prestigious award for art. The honour, awarded by the Culture Ministry and in conjunction with the 27th Arco International Art Fair, includes EUR 90,450 in prize money.
Meireles now joins the exclusive ranks of other Velázquez Prize winners such as Ramón Gaya, Antoni Tàpies, Pablo Palazuelo and Juan Soriano.
Critics agree that the strong social message found in Meireles' work is what distinguishes him from other contemporary Brazilian and Latin American artists. A good example of this is his work Mallas de Libertad (Liberty Mesh), which depicts red iron bars of a prison in allusion to the political repression found in the region.
Other observers see his work as a protest against the censorship that Brazilian art suffered during the 1960s and 1970s.
During those difficult decades, many Latin American countries such as Brazil were ruled by military regimes. Censorship and political repression were carried out systematically by the state and freedom of expression was in short supply.
This may help to explain the strong social message in Meireles' work. He has said on numerous occasions that he doesn't do art for art's sake, but rather seeks to create something tangible from his work.
One of his most famous and prized works, from 1970, is called Incerciones en los circuitos ideológicos (Insertions in Ideological Circuits), in which the artist attempts to show how ideology influences society.
In one work using banknotes, he rubber-stamped the bills by using politically charged slogans like "Yankee go home." In another work called the Coca-Cola project, Meireles uses empty bottles of the famous US soft drink to drive a political message.
John Alan Farmer described Meireles' work in the following words in the Art Journal: "He has created sculptures and installations that function as open propositions in which the audience is invited to become acutely aware of the experience of their bodies in space and time..."
Another factor that shines through his art is a testimony to the far-reaching changes that have taken place in the artistic language used from the 1970s to present-day Brazil.
The Velázquez jury, which was comprised of Ramón González of the Royal Academy of the Arts, Miguel Zugaza of the Prado Museum and Spain's Queen Sofía, paid tribute to Meireles' "political commitment," declaring that he "knows how to harmonise with the necessary poetics of all creation."
[Copyright EL PAÍS / E. TESSIERI 2008]
Subject: Spanish news