Luis Barragán is celebrated throughout the world as one of the most influential architects and engineers in Mexican history as well as a pivotal part of the Modernist movement. A winner of the highest award in architecture, the Pritzker Prize, and his personal home was declared by the United Nations to be a place of cultural and historical significance. Barragán’s constructions are visited by engineering and architecture students from all over the world.
Unfortunately, the rights to the entire archive of Barragán’s works and writings is under the ownership of Federica Zanco, the founder and director of the Barragán Foundation and is stored in a vault in Weil am Rhein Swizerland on the Swiss furniture brand, Vitra’s campus. The founding purpose of the Barragán Foundation is to protect the architect’s historic legacy, however many artists, architects, and historians as well as Barragán’s descendants are dissatisfied with the rigid copyright policies that the Foundation set up. Even the Fundación de Arquitectura Tapatía Luis Barragán in Mexico City, which manages Barragán’s work in Mexico, claimed to the New York Times that they are charged copyright fees, and that they “cannot publish books, photographs, or have films made in our own house without ‘proper’ permission” from the Barragán Foundation lawyers.
In 2014, ACT alum Jill Magid began planning her exhibition, The Proposal. Commissioned by the San Francisco Art Institute to “examine the ethics of corporate ownership of an artist’s estate”. It was also intended as a request to return Barragán’s work to their rightful cultural place. She started by contacting Barragán’s nephew, Hugo Barragán and met with him and other family members to ask permission to exhume the ashes of their illustrious ancestor. A unanimous vote allowed Magid to retrieve a half-kilo of ashes from the urn to be replaced by a silver horse (as Luis Barragán was an accomplished and avid equestrian). The ashes were compressed into a diamond – 2.02 carats, rough-cut with one polished facet. Magid set the diamond into an engagement ring and inscribed “I am wholeheartedly yours”. Magid’s intent is to “propose” to the Barragán Foundation, so they will return Luis’ archive of work to it’s ancestral home in exchange for the ring.
[Story from The New Yorker]