Minerva Cuevas, The Enterprise, 2021, Copyright: the artist, photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv / Marc Weber

Schultze Projects #2
Minerva Cuevas

Novem­ber 2021 – Novem­ber 2023

For the third edi­tion of the Schultze Pro­jects se­ries, Min­er­va Cue­vas (*1975 in Mex­i­co Ci­ty) has cre­at­ed a new site-spe­cif­ic work for the large front wall of the main stair­way at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig. The name of the se­ries re­fers to Ber­nard Schultze and his wife Ur­su­la (Schultze-Bluhm), whose es­tate is ma­n­aged by the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, and in whose me­m­o­ry ev­ery two years since 2017 an artist has been in­vit­ed to cre­ate a large-scale work for this promi­nent lo­ca­tion.

The wall re­lief, near­ly five me­ters high and fif­teen me­ters long, con­sists of for­ty-eight square pan­els. To­gether they form a scene fea­tur­ing the cor­po­rate lo­gos of Deutsche Bank, Mas­ter­card, BNP Paribas, Bar­clays, Kredyt Bank S.A., ING-Di­Ba, Com­merzbank, and ANZ (Aus­tralia and New Zea­land Bank­ing Group). Th­ese em­ble­ma­tize an all-per­va­sive econ­o­my. Some­times th­ese lo­gos use a sym­bolism that draws from na­ture, such as the li­on of ING-Di­Ba Bank, which as the “k­ing of the an­i­mals” is pre­sum­ab­ly meant to sig­nal the com­pany’s su­pe­ri­or­i­ty over all other banks. Sim­i­lar to the up­side-down Bar­clays ea­gle pro­trud­ing in­to the pic­ture, the li­on is a com­mon heraldic an­i­mal that rep­re­sents strength and pow­er. Cue­vas com­bines th­ese mo­tifs from to­day’s fi­nan­cial world with pre-colo­nial sym­bolic rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Me­soamer­i­can dei­ties, some of which are part of the col­lec­tion of the Na­tio­n­al Mu­se­um of An­thro­pol­o­gy in Mex­i­co Ci­ty. From left to right, there are sculp­tu­ral mo­tifs of a styl­ized bat (af­ter the Mayan god Ca­ma­zotz), a snake, a fig­ure seen from be­hind wear­ing on­ly a loin­cloth, a dog (af­ter the Aztec mythol­o­gy around Ahuít­zotl), a fish ly­ing on the ground, and a mon­key on a lia­na from the Ja­ma-Coaque cul­ture. Al­most the en­tire height of the pic­ture is tak­en up by an ab­s­tract Mayan co­coa tree on the right.

What do th­ese el­e­ments, which at first glance might ap­pear to be con­trast­ing, have to do with each other? The ti­tle of Cue­vas’s re­lief, The En­ter­prise, points to a few loose threads that run through­out the work. Some might ini­tial­ly be re­mind­ed of the space­ship of the same name in the Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion se­ries Star Trek. It not on­ly suggests fu­turis­tic fic­tion, but al­so con­crete ini­tia­tives for ex­pan­sion or col­oniza­tion, since the Unit­ed States space agen­cy NASA gave the same name to the pro­to­type for the space shut­tle. It is al­so fitt­ing due to the dou­ble mean­ing of “en­ter­prise” as an un­der­tak­ing and a busi­ness. The com­bi­na­tion of the two seems to come clos­er to the ac­tu­al top­ic of the re­lief, since it rep­re­sents a col­li­sion be­tween dif­fer­ent forms of eco­nom­ic ven­tures from dif­fer­ent times. In ad­di­tion to the afore­men­tioned em­blems from the world of bank­ing, the co­coa tree and the ar­rows point­ing at the mon­key and the fish are al­so ref­er­ences to ear­ly, in­dige­nous forms of trade, agri­cul­tu­r­al ac­tiv­i­ty, and hunt­ing. The colo­nial eco­nom­ic ex­ploi­ta­tion of ear­ly com­mu­ni­ties and their cul­tures be­comes in­creas­ing­ly clear with pro­longed view­ing.

In this sense, this lat­est work cre­at­ed for the Mu­se­um Lud­wig is a log­i­cal cont­in­u­a­tion of the themes and ap­proach­es that Cue­vas has en­gaged with over the past two de­cades. Af­ter all, the artist is known for her re­search-based pro­jects, which she ex­hibits in the form of in­s­tal­la­tions, per­for­mance, video, and paint­ing. She is in­ter­est­ed in eco­nom­ic and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues and their so­cio-po­lit­i­cal in­ter­re­la­tions. For ex­am­ple, she ex­amines the role of large multi­na­tio­n­al cor­po­ra­tions in the food in­dus­try and how na­t­u­ral re­sources are used in this con­text. Her works are of­ten hu­mor­ous and iron­ic. She of­ten ref­er­ences the places and si­t­u­a­tions in which her works were cre­at­ed. For in­s­tance, the ref­er­ence to the pro­duc­tion of cho­co­late in the co­coa tree serves as an al­lu­sion to the his­to­ry of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig: the in­sti­tu­tion was found­ed in 1976 with a do­na­tion by Peter and Irene Lud­wig, whose for­tune pri­mar­i­ly came from the multi­na­tio­n­al pro­duc­tion and sale of cho­co­late.

For the ex­hi­bi­tion mark­ing the for­ti­eth an­niver­sary of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, Cue­vas cre­at­ed a work that ref­er­ences the Peter and Irene Lud­wig Foun­da­tion, which was estab­lished in 1982. She de­signed an in­s­tal­la­tion made of a black rec­tan­gu­lar woo­d­en frame with red, yel­low, and blue ac­cents, whose com­po­si­tion was remi­nis­cent of Pi­et Mon­drian’s ab­s­tract paint­ing Tableau I (1921). Its purchase by the ci­ty of Cologne in 1967 was high­ly con­tro­ver­sial. To­day it is one of the high­lights of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig col­lec­tion. In the in­s­tal­la­tion, sim­i­lar to some of her other works, the artist deals with the so­cial po­ten­tial and ef­fects of artis­tic prac­tice. In this sense, Cue­vas sees art as an ac­tive con­tri­bu­tion to so­cial changes. For her large-scale works to date she has of­ten used the lan­guage of ad­ver­tis­ing, in­clud­ing the lo­gos of spe­cif­ic brands, which she usu­al­ly sub­s­tan­tial­ly al­ters. Fol­low­ing her crit­i­cal ap­proach, with her vari­ous works Cue­vas il­lus­trates the neg­a­tive ef­fects of con­sump­tion and of the eco­nom­ic ori­en­ta­tion of hu­man ac­tiv­i­ty on so­ci­e­ty and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Min­er­va Cue­vas has been fea­tured in the fol­low­ing so­lo ex­hi­bi­tions, among others: Disi­den­cia, Mishkin Gallery, New York (2019); No Room to Play, daad­ga­lerie, Ber­lin (2019); Dis­sidên­cia, Galpão VB – As­so­ci­ação Cul­tu­r­al Video­brasil, São Pau­lo (2018); Fine Lands, Dal­las Mu­se­um of Art (2018); Min­er­va Cue­vas, Museo de la Ci­u­dad de Méx­i­co (2012); Land­ings, Corn­er­house, Manch­ester (2012); S·­COOP, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Lon­don (2010); Min­er­va Cue­vas, Van Abbe­mu­se­um, Eind­hoven (2008); Pheno­m­e­na, Kun­sthalle Basel (2007); Das Ex­per­i­ment 6: MVC Biotech­nolo­gies: Für ein natür­lich­es In­ter­face, Se­ces­sion, Vien­na (2001); On So­ci­e­ty, MC Kunst, Los An­ge­les (2007); Egal­ité, Le Grand Café – Cen­tre d’art con­tem­po­rain, Saint Nazaire (2007); Sch­warz­fahr­er Are My Heroes, daad­ga­lerie, Ber­lin (2004); Me­jor Vi­da Corp, Ta­mayo Mu­se­um, Mex­i­co Ci­ty (2000).

About Schultze Pro­jects

From 1968 on, Ber­nard Schultze and his wife Ur­su­la (Schultze-Bluhm) lived and worked as artists in Cologne. For de­cades they were a fix­ture of the ci­ty’s cul­tu­r­al life and had a par­tic­u­lar­ly close re­la­tion­ship with the Mu­se­um Lud­wig. The mu­se­um now holds a large part of their artis­tic es­tate. Ber­nard Schultze was one of the pi­oneers of Art In­formel in Ger­many with his works from the ear­ly 1950s. The large-scale for­mat was a cen­tral as­pect of his lat­er work. It rep­re­sents the sub­s­tan­tial ref­er­ence point for the artists in­vit­ed to par­ti­ci­pate in Schultze Pro­jects.

Cu­ra­tor: Yil­maz Dziewior