Cultured Magazine

Summer 2014

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Usually, polarizing artists have either committed a crime or unraveled art-historical convention. But Oscar Murillo is handing out candy. The 28-year-old artist re- cently mounted his first show in New York, titled "Mercantile Novel," with his newly minted representation, blue-chip kingmaker David Zwirner. The production, which opened April 24 and runs through June 14, entails a factory Murillo set up within the warehouse-size Chelsea gallery. He imported the very machines and factory workers of the La Colombina candy plant, where his mother used to work, and based in La Paila, Colombia, the city of his birth. As a result, 7,000 Choco Melos (chocolate-covered marshmallows) are produced there each day. "I don't really like chocolate," Murillo admits, "but I thought Choco Melos were interesting. When you have a large support system like David Zwirner, then why not make the most of it?" Murillo first came into the public consciousness when collectors Don and Mera Rubell snapped up a considerable quantity of his paintings. After the patrons gave him a five- week residency at their foundation in Miami, the demand for his canvases grew at a furious pace, causing a storm throughout the art market. When Murillo's first painting sold at auc- tion in May 2013, the primary market was valued at around $7,000. Most recently, Phillips saw the hammer come down at over $400,000 for his work. The bidder? None other than Leonardo DiCaprio. Murillo, along with a small group of (mostly) American male painters, has been designated a "flip artist," with his works trading much like a stock. Consequently their aesthetic value is overlooked in favor of their ability to generate monetary value, often exchanging hands at a rapid rate. But Murillo contests the affiliation assigned to him by critics and spectators, declaring that he's "not just a painter." While it's his paintings that seem to sell best (and are notably absent in his current show), Murillo's showings are carnivalesque and immersive installations, in which audience participation is the latchkey to the art. "I'm not doing this for anybody," the artist, who's quickly becoming known for his indifference, says, "I don't think that way; I don't know what my work is doing." If nothing else, it's creating a lot of buzz. His first exhibition in the U.S. (Zwirner is the second) was the inaugural show at L.A.'s Mistake Room; other notable exhibitions include those at the South London Gallery and Serpentine Gallery, a collaboration under Hans Ul- rich Obrist's zeitgeist eye with Commes des Garçons, also in London, where Murillo cur- rently resides. (He moved there to attend the Royal College of Art, working as a janitor to put himself through school.) So what does an artist like Murillo—who seems weary of money and eschews fame— seek to accomplish? "It's the beginning of an interesting journey," he offers, somewhat cryptically. Sounds like the right attitude for an artist destined to go down in the history books—but for what it is too soon to tell. 100 CULTURED BOY WONDER With a solo show at David Zwirner and demand for his work increasing at break-neck speed, the art world wants to know: Is Oscar Murillo the next Basquiat? BY JULIE BAUMGARDNER PORTRAIT BY LALO BORJA

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