Yale Daily News – 31 Março 2009

Peru art, revisited — but not at Yale

By Paul Needham


NEW YORK — In the fall of 2007, when it seemed certain that Yale andPeru would reach an amicable agreement over the ownership of Incaartifacts housed at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, it alsoseemed certain that a museum would be built in Peru to house thehigh-quality pieces the University was willing to send back.


Now, as the parties begin to wage a legal battle that could involveyears of filing motions and rebuttals, it is unlikely that such amuseum will open in time for the 2011 centennial anniversary of Yaleexplorer Hiram Bingham III’s expedition to Machu Picchu. But onePeruvian artist is in no mood to wait for a resolution to the nearlycentury-long dispute.


Instead, Sandra Gamarra installed work here in New York earlier thismonth in what she calls a “fictitious museum.” Gamarra’s museum doesnot display the artifacts themselves, but rather paintings of picturesof the artifacts that she found in a 2004 exhibition catalog from Yale,“Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas.”


The installation, called “The Second Room of the Rescue,” includes morethan 100 small paintings of the artifacts, displayed as a house ofcards.


“The house of cards is a direct reference to the state of the Peru-Yalecase,” she said by phone from her studio in Spain. “It’s a veryunstable situation and at the same time it’s gone on so long thatthere’s a kind of equilibrium. That’s the idea of a house of cards.”


While Gamarra said in the interview that she hopes the Inca artifactswill be returned to Peru, her art is not explicitly concerned with thefate of the artifacts. Rather, she said she hopes it is seen as acomment on the changing meanings of art.


One aspect of art that Gamarra dwells on is the commercial mechanismsof museums. Her installation includes painted mugs and a poster, meantto mimic the offerings of a gift shop.


Richard Burger, the Yale archaeologist who edited the catalog on whichGamarra based her paintings, said he was unaware of the artist’s work.But he added that the appropriation of the artifacts onto anothermedium was an “interesting twist” to the complicated history of Yaleand Peru.


Gamarra’s installation was on display at the Volta fair, an event thatshowcases solo projects. Some of her other work is in the collection ofthe Museum of Modern Art in New York.


For now, the work that was on display in New York remains in the UnitedStates, albeit not on view. Gamarra said the installation may be shownagain, and that one American university — not Yale — has expressedinterest in purchasing the work.