Oscar Murillo Detained and Deported After Destroying Passport

Murillo says curators like Hans Ulrich Obrist are a problem.

Oscar Murillo.
Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images.

Artist Oscar Murillo ran afoul of Australian authorities recently when he destroyed his British passport while traveling to Australia, where he was scheduled to participate in the Sydney Biennale, resulting in his being detained at immigration.

“I wanted to create an entropy, a special situation, a traumatism,” the artist said in a statement to Art Media Agency. “In fact I didn’t have any thought-out plan. The question is: what happens when one can’t be identified? It was a way to ‘reboot’ myself, to start off from scratch again just like when we arrived from Colombia to London in 1997.”

Julia Joern, a partner at David Zwirner, told artnet News that Murillo still holds a Colombian passport and thus is still free to travel internationally. The artist, she said, is now in London.

Murillo elaborated on his non-plan in a conversation with French journalist Judith Benhamou-Huet, published in what is apparently a cellphone video on her blog. They were in Hong Kong during the recent Art Basel fair there, where he spoke on a panel.

“What I understood from that talk was that he destroyed his British passport en route to Sydney as an act and response to the notion of ‘privilege’ that is associated with certain citizenships in the Western world,” Joern told ARTnews. He also said in the talk, according to ARTnews, that “we in the context of the art world need to get rid of people like Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Cecilia Alemani, Massimiliano Gioni, and all these curators and individuals that keep the status quo.”

In the video with Benhamou-Huet, the artist complains that art fairs and biennials are “all effectively the same” and operate in a “bubble.”

“The criticality that happens, it’s so facile,” he says. “Nothing is jarring. Nothing is cutting.”

“The action of destroying the passport was to create a blockage situation—to create a point in which I am no longer that individual.”

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