Oscar Murillo explains deportation from Australia following midflight destruction of passport

Oscar Murillo, tilapia, 2013, oil stick, oil paint, concrete dye, thread, and dirt on canvas, 195 x 165 cm. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner Gallery

Last month, stories of the detainment and deportation of Oscar Murillo, ahead of the Sydney Biennale were heard at Art Basel Hong Kong. Today, new details surrounding the incident have emerged from David Zwirner, the gallery representing Murillo. A spokeswoman from the gallery has confirmed that the London-based artist was deported from Australia after destroying his passport four hours before landing in Sydney as a political gesture, Artnews reports.

In a video on French journalist and curator Judith Benhamou-Huet’s blog, Murillo explained: 'I gave a proposal, I went and made a proposal with a curator, and we were both really happy with it. At the same time, I was feeling uncomfortable because, despite the agenda for the biennale, which wanted to propose a strong situation, there seemed to be a lot of conservative attitudes toward allowing an artist to be really freely expressive… So even though there was a degree of satisfaction with what I wanted to offer, I nevertheless thought that it wasn’t enough, that simply intervening in a space was too symbolic, too limiting and slightly ignorant, and not present and not urgent enough.'

A few weeks after his deportation, Murillo spoke during a panel discussion at Art Basel Hong Kong, expanding on his point: 'For there to be a valid and open conversation that transpasses [sic] the current still-dominant colonial situation in which we still live in – from a Western context, the West is a salivating penis, you know, pretty much ready to penetrate the rest of the world, as it has been for 500 years or more – we in the context of the art world need to get rid of people like Hans Ulrich Obrist, Cecilia Alemani, Massimiliano Gioni, and all these curators and individuals that keep the status quo.'

12 April 2016.