“I lived with being HIV positive for six months, when I first got tested,” artist Michael Elmgreen told A.i.A. at the opening of “You Are Not Alone,” an exhibition of AIDS-related works (through Sept. 18). “Thankfully, the test procedure was underdeveloped and proved false.”
The memory of this misdiagnosis continued, however, and informs Elmgreen’s commitment to the exhibition.
Organized by ArtAids, a foundation that invites leading artists to produce work dealing with AIDS and related issues, and curated by Hilde Teerlinck at the Miro Foundation, Barcelona, nine of the 15 works are new. They include a large neon by Elmgreen & Dragset, a floor sculpture by Danh Vo and a room installation by Latifa Echakhch.
The artists were commissioned by ArtAids with the request that the works “in some way relate to AIDS,” Teerlinck said. “But [I] was not interested in illustrating AIDS with pictures of young children dying.”
Dutch collector, and ArtAids founder, Han Nefkens said “collaboration with the artists has been a bonding experience over the past two years. It makes me feel that I am not alone.” Nefkens tested HIV positive in 1987.
Each piece shows how the artists responded to the assignment. “That is probably the most interesting thing about the exhibition,” said participating artist Matthew Derbyshire.
Indeed, each artist responded differently. Elmgreen & Dragset’s neon was direct and provocative, reading (and titled) AIDS Is Good Business for Some and aimed at those harnessing AIDS for marketing or sales strategies. By contrast, Christodoulos Panayiotou’s Nowhere consists of a theatre backdrop depicting a cloud-flecked sky that lies folded on the floor.
Elmgreen hoped his work could spur others to revive topical, political art. “It could have been slightly less polite,” he said of the exhibition.
Director of the Miro Foundation, Rosa Maria Malet told A.i.A., “We try to keep an open mind-like Miro had.”
“You Are Not Alone” will be on view October 21–January 22 at MARCO Museum, Vigo.