Monday, February 9, 2009

Friday, February 6, 2009


W.A.G.E. would like to clarify that no further offer was made to Mr. Villanes, depsite his request for negotiations.

El Museo del Barrio
1230 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029

Greetings to all.

This present open letter pertains to my withdrawal from the retrospective exhibition "Arte =/ Vida ("Art is Not Life"): Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000".

Regarding the final closing details in the exhibition of "Arte =/ Vida" of which I participated without pay, El Museo del Barrio approached me to extend the loan of my work, to be used as part of a traveling version of the exhibit that would be shown in various world museums.

I requested a monetary payment of $5,000 for my participation in each one of the future exhibitions of "Arte =/ Vida". El Museo del Barrio did not accept my offer, indicating that, to pay me, they would have to pay also the rest of the 117 artists and participating groups for each of the 5 exhibitions, which was outside of their economic scope:

"It is clearly acceptable to ask if there is a fee, particularly for one-person projects, but you must realize that in large group shows, requests such as yours, multiplied by the number of artists and then venues, would make such an exhibition impossible to mount in the first place" (cited from Ms. Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs, in an email to Eduardo Villanes, dated on January 13, 2008).

The calculations of what El Museo del Barrio would have to pay in total, contracting $25,000 to each of the 117 artists and participating groups, to lend their work for 5 exhibitions, would be $3,000,000.

El Museo del Barrio is currently squandering nearly ten times that total-- $28,000,000-- for "an exciting renovation project to update our galleries and museum shop, and add a cafe, among other amenities" (cited from

An art museum requires a physical space and a team of professionals specialized in exhibiting works of art. The work of the artist is the reason an art museum exists. The fiscal capital of a museum is chiefly generated by the use and/or exhibition of artists' labor. The paid contribution of museum professionals (curators, educators, administrators, etc.) is expressly contingent precisely upon this cultural capital generated by artists.

Artists have the right to the financial gain produced via the use of their works--- not the owners of the lucrative businesses of engineering and construction contracted as part of the "exciting project" to expand and improve the physical and visual space of the museum itself.

The officials of El Museo del Barrio, acting as the spokespersons of the building contractors, have an opposing response. This sounds strikingly similar to the threat of layoffs that the Peruvian workers in my native country receive, when they demand, for their labor, restitution that is rightfully theirs:

"Absolutely no artists in this project are receiving any payment for lending their works. Unfortunately, your request means that you will have to be withdrawn from the exhibit" (from Ms. Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs, in an email to Eduardo Villanes on January 13, 2008).

Ms. Deborah Cullen, you receive a salary and a budget for the completion of each one of your professional projects. I ask you: Who, exactly, is responsible for creating this financial capital that supplies your income?

Para el artista, Arte ≠ Vida
Para El Museo del Barrio, Arte = $$$
Eduardo Villanes