OUR FAVORITE KINGS CASE
08 March 2019, Pepino
Last week the day before Arco Madrid, I found out that my work Our Favorite Kings wasn't the only portrait of Felipe VI at the art fair. Santiago Sierra and Eugenio Merino showed a huge ninot of king of Spain. Ninots are figures that are burned during the Fallas, a traditional celebration in Valencia. Ninots are constructions of paper, wax, wood and polystyrene foam, often caricatures in provocative poses, including figures of politicians and the royal family. I thought that compared to the wow factor peace my black and white drawing wouldn't receive much attention but I was wrong. Of course the ninot was the work that even the Spanish minister of culture had to comment but Our Favorite Kings made it t all newspapers, several blogs, radio and national TV news. The work was acquired by Lluis Bassat, an advertizing mogul and TV host, which gave us extra visibility. The fair is over but yesterday a TV news crew came to my studio and today I have another interview for a TV program.
The ninot was seen by everybody as mockery to the monarchy but the reactions to my work have been more varied. Catalan separatist and far left have celebrated it because they think it discredits the king too. For the same reason it angered Spanish far right nationalits. On the other hand, the surprising reactions came from the more moderate right-wing, they see the work defending the monarchy and supporting the Spanish unity. I've been called a patriot artist (though I'm just an immigrant).
I think I succeeded. I make political art but not propaganda. Propaganda is communication that has only one possible interpretation. Good art must be more complex and assign the responsibility of thinking to the audience. I can't and I don't want to control the meaning of my art.
FROM AN AFRICAN VILLAGE TO THE ART WORLD NEWS
19 February 2019, Pepino
Naima wrote a great article about Bad Hair Day Leaders and Salon de Peinture Grand-Popo for the BBC. We had been talking about it since I launched the two projects almost a year ago and this was a good moment to make it happen when the leaders are exhibited at Himmelblau, Tampere, Finland.
Maybe I was once again dreaming too much, thinking that this would skyrocket the portrait business of Salon de Peinture - and bring a little bit wealth to the tiny village of Heve - but though we have had hundreds of thousands readers, only a few people have inquired pictures. Today Artnet, the prominent artmarket website, wrote about us in their news section.
Why a Street Painter From Benin Is Big in Helsinki – Benin-based artist Louis Houenoude used to paint signs for barber shops. Now, his series of satirical portraits, “Bad Hair Day Leaders,” which includes depictions of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Pope Francis I, is making waves in Finland. The artist’s solo show in Helsinki came about after the Finnish artist Riiko Sakkinen encountered his work on a trip to Benin last year. Now, new commissions are flooding in, and Houenoude is expanding his studio.
Very nice visibility but, unfortunately, most of the things go wrong. The show is not in Helsinki but in Tampere. Making Waves? Actually, the show hasn't got really media coverage in Finland. Louis painted the portraits but the satirical attitude is basically mine. It's Riiko Sakkinen feat. Louis Houenoude. I hope that the commissions will flood in soon and Louis can expand his studio!
MANIFESTO OF ANTHROPOMORPHIC ANIMALSí RIGHTS
15 February 2019, Pepino
We demand true animal rights. We demand zoological freedom. We demand freedom from the slavery of theme parks, fables, cartoons, games and advertising. We don’t want to be instrumentalized in animal show business.
We claim our natural habitat back. We don’t want to be grotesque anthropomorphic monsters domesticated in Wonderland or Duckburg. We want to be animals, not distorted hybrid creatures. We don’t want to live in houses, wear clothes, brush our teeth or talk human bullshit. We don’t want to be slaves of human culture and imagination.
Signers: Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty, Snoopy, Pink Panther, Bugs Bunny, Sponge Bob, Porky Pig, Yogi Bear, Kermit the Frog, Tigger, Tweety, Sonic the Hedgehog
BAD HAIR DAY LEADERS EXPRESS SHOW
27 January 2019, Pepino
I did the Bad Hair Day Leaders painting series ten months ago in Benin and I was already getting worried - the work depicting the most powerful presidents, prime minister, chancellors and religious leaders is like yesterday's newspaper when some of them are not anymore in power. Later the work will be again interesting when a few years pass and it becomes a historic document of our times. I had talked about the work to all gallerists and curators I work with but hadn't got any feasible proposal to show the project.
Friday, 18th January
Pertti phones me and asks is the series still available for a show. He has one of Himmelblaus' spaces free until the end of February.
Sunday, 20th January
We talk again and decide that there's no reason to wait. Theresa May can fall any time with the Brexit. We plan that if it happens during the show, her portrait is taken down to the floor. Pertti says he has to check some things with his team before setting the opening day.
Monday, 21st January
Pertti says that we can do it on Thursday. I buy the flights to Tampere, Finland, for Tuesday. I pack the paintings, two pieces of baggage.
Tuesday, 22nd January
I drive to Madrid Airport and fly to Tampere via Helsinki. Unfortunately, the paintings don't arrive. I go to the sauna in Grand Hotel Tammer. It's too cold to go outside, fortunately the gallery is only three hundred meters from the hotel.
Wednesday, 23rd January
The paintings arrive. We install the show. I go to the sauna of the hotel with Maco, who was my neighbor in Grand-Popo, Benin. Oulu Museum of Art contacts us and asks to show the series in May (Is Theresa still in?).
Thurday, 24th January
Opening of the show. Maco plays the two songs he composed in Benin. Not too many people attends the opening but two museum directors arrive when the others have left. A great blini and vodka dinner with them in Grand Hotel Tammer. One of the directors is interested in acquiring the work.
Friday, 25th January
I fly back home. Exhausted.
18 January 2019, Pepino
I’ve drawn and painted hundreds of animals but I was never really interested in them. Anthropomorphized fauna in fables, cartoons, advertising and subsequently in my art work are depictions of human beings, not animals.
Dear Donald, if you look like a duck, swim like a duck, and quack like a duck, then you probably are a duck. The ravenous carnivore rooster mascot of a fast food eatery devouring deep-fried chicken is not supposed to make you think poultry cannibalism.
An animalier is an artist who specializes in the realistic portrayal of animals. In the 19th century a taste for animal subjects in paintings was very widespread among the middle-classes. After those times the attitude towards animals have changed radically. Our dichotomic relationship with them consist of adoring their cuteness (real or Disneyesque) and their use as raw material for the alimentary industry.
Now I’m drawing animals. I’m a turbo-animaler.
I have cherished an idea for a faunal art project since 2016 when I was heading to the first leg of the Border Field Trip with Serlachius Museums' director Pauli. We were going to the African borders of the European Union and the night before catching the train to Algeciras, where the boats for Morocco set sail, we had dinner (Bugs Bunny in tomato sauce) in a Canarian gastrobar in Madrid and talked about animals. In Pauli’s opinion, our time will be remembered of the way how we treat animals. In the future our actions will be considered faunacidical and condemned like human slavery and holocaust. This is possibly true although my worldview is very anthropocentric. Before thinking of the wellbeing of pandas and spiders, I want to create world where all human beings have their basic needs covered and access to good life. Possibly I’m wrong - isn’t this exactly what nationalist, patriots, racists and other right-wing riffraff thinks of foreigners, immigrants and refugees?
I’ve understood that the idea of animal rights centers in the avoidance of suffering. It’s noteworthy that all manifestos of the animal rights have been composed by humans. It is like women’s right written by men or a movement of people of color led by colorless people. What rights the animals demand? How could they voice their clamor?
Another important question: Could conceptual rights be as important as corporal rights?
If the aliens of the outer space attacked the Earth and enslaved us, what would be worse - eating us or making us alienmorphic cartoon caharacters? Eating human sausages with ketchup or creating monsters half human half martian? I guess I prefer to be a meatball than a pet in an alien family or a mascot of an interplanetary fast-food chain. What is worse - murder or humiliation? What is more valuable - life or dignity?
Should Animal Liberation Front attack Disneyland rather than piggeries?