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Arts & Culture

Artpace Exhibit Suggests Alternative Ideas For San Antonio’s Removed Christopher Columbus Statue

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Artpace is a laboratory for creating and presenting art to the public. Created by philanthropist Linda Pace, the downtown space invites three artists three times a year to live there for two months to create. A San Antonio artist, a Texas artist and an international artist are chosen each time. This cycle’s international artist is from Colombia.

Ivan Argote was originally from Bogota, and lived in Paris for 15 years.

“I started working with video in my first years as an artist,” he said.

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Casie Lomeli
Ivan Argote

Argote eventually developed into other areas, like performance art and sculpture. He was trying to get people to think, at times in quirky ways.

“I was trying to, at some point, to give money in the subway instead of asking money, or kind of subvert some rules,” he said. “Some are very funny. Some are more dramatic.”

Here in San Antonio, he had an idea about the former Christopher Columbus statue at Columbus Park on Martin Street. The statue was taken down last year after more than a decade of public outcry over the colonial exploitation it represented to them. Argote had an interesting proposal.

Portrait of Michael Menchaca
Photo credit Anthony Francis
Portrait of Michael Menchaca

“What if we let everybody be the monument for a while and then in that way — kind of open the dialog or conversation about what to do with the space?” he said.

With that in mind, his project at Artpace is a 14-foot tall empty base for a monument. And you’re invited to step up and be the monument.

“So there is like 12 steps to go up. You can go on top and then kind of be the monument, as long as you want,” he said, laughing.

That empty base is in a large room with walls on three sides which show a cartoon-like Columbus statue climbing down off its base, then stretching out in the grass below it. He thinks maybe the statues have had enough of being statues.

“It's a monument that is tired of being a monument. These guys have been standing there for 100 years,” Argote said.

He also wonders if maybe our selection of who deserves a monument might miss some great choices.

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Nao Bustamante

“The people who build the roads, the people who build bridges, the people who are cleaning our houses, our mothers, all the women that raise children, they're like superheroes also,” he said.

The public is invited Thursday night to see Argote’s piece, as well as exhibitions by Californian Nao Bustamante and San Antonian Michael Menchaca. All three artists will be there for the free event.

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