Conceptual artist transforms the remains of famed architect into a diamond

Luis Barragán via Wikipedia and the ring made from his ashes (Courtesy Jill Magid; Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen; Stefan Jaeggi; LABOR, Mexico City; RaebervonStenglin, Zurich; Untilthen, Paris)

American conceptual artist Jill Magid who works in Brooklyn (obviously), hatched a rather wacky plan to access the archive of famed Mexican architect Luis Barragán and have it returned to Mexico.

Known for his geometric, brightly colored buildings throughout Mexico, Barragán won the Pritzker Prize in 1980. He died in 1988, and his professional archive ended up in the hands of Swiss businessman Rolf Fehlbaum who paid a pretty penny for it as a supposed engagement gift for his wife Federica Zanco, an Italian architectural historian, who was interested in his work. Zanco then founded a not-for-profit organization called the Barragán Foundation. Her plan was originally to archive all the work, but many years later, it remains unavailable

Magid, who has exhibited internationally in the likes of the Tate Modern and the Whitney, befriended Zanco, but Zanco declined her request to open the archive and relocate it. But that didn’t stop Magid.

 Jill Magid
Jill Magid

After receiving permission from Barragán’s family, Magid traveled all the way to Mexico where his cremated remains rested. Magid took them back to the U.S. and had them crystallized and fashioned into a 2.02-carat diamond. The jewel was then used to create the ultimate unique engagement ring. Because conceptual artists are not like the rest of us, she hoped to offer it along with a rather strange proposal to Zanco to entice her to finally acquiesce.

“If you accept this ring, you will return the archive to Mexico,” Magid told Zanco. “I am offering you the body for the body of work.” Tit for tat, so to speak. Magid went on to explain she would also put the ring on view.

While moved by the gesture, she denied the archive had been an engagement gift at all, and so far has not been moved enough to agree to Magid’s request.

“I found it very touching,” Zanco said. “That it—he—was between us, there next to a cappuccino…”

It was not all for naught, though. Magid’s latest multimedia project, “The Barragán Archives,” is all about the experience. The U.S. premiere will be on view in San Francisco Art Institute’s Walter and McBean Galleries from September 9-December 10th.

We expect it to be a real gem. [New Yorker]