El Museo del Barrio and Maestro Dobel Tequila have awarded the inaugural Maestro Dobel Latinx Art Prize to New York–based, Havana-born artist Carlos Martiel, one of today’s most closely watched artists known for his intensive, durational performances.
With a $50,000 purse and an exhibition at El Museo, the new biannual prize was “created to raise awareness and amplify the cultural production of Latinx artists, a segment that has historically been underrepresented in the artworld at large,” according to a release. Martiel’s exhibition will open next spring in the museum’s Room 110 space.
“I am honored to have been selected as the inaugural winner of the Maestro Dobel Latinx Art Prize, an award that celebrates my community and stresses the crucial role of Latinx art in the creative world,” Martiel said in a statement. “Through this prize, I am looking forward to producing new work that will continue to drive conversations on subjects that matter and shine a light on the importance of representation.”
Martiel is best-known for his hours-long performance works that test the limits of his body and also address racism and various systems of oppression and violence and they directly impact people of color, Black and Latinx people in particular. His works have been included in the 2019 Sharjah Biennial, the 2017 Venice Biennale, and multiple editions of the Havana Biennial. In 2021, he was one of the inaugural winners of the $50,000 Latinx Artist Fellowship, which is funded by the Ford and Mellon Foundations.
Martiel was selected by a four-member jury that included El Museo’s executive director Patrick Charpenel, MFA Houston curator of Latin American art Mari Carmen Ramirez, LA’s Mistake Room director and chief curator Cesar Garcia, and Alejandra Martinez, the creative director of Maestro Dobel Artpothecary.
“Martiel’s work beautifully explores the complexity and nuance of racism and racialization, gender, immigration, and the legacy of colonialism in the Americas. We are grateful for our partnership with Maestro Dobel Tequila, who shares our commitment to supporting Latinx artists in the United States,” Charpenel said in a statement on behalf of the jury.
In January 2021, Martiel staged one such performance in El Museo’s Room 110 as part of the museum’s recurring La Trienal exhibition. For Monumento I (Monument I), he stood on a pedestal in the center of the gallery; because the work was staged during a coronavirus wave, he did the performance without an audience presence.
“I stand naked on top of a pedestal in the center of the space,” he said of the work, “with my body covered in blood drawn from migrant, Latinx, African American, feminized, Native American, Muslim, Jewish, Queer, and Transexual bodies considered as ‘minority’ or marginalized groups in the United States by Eurocentric supremacist discourses.”
After the performance’s staging, the empty pedestal, coated with the residue and detritus of the performance and his body, remained on view for the duration of the exhibition. Later that year, Martiel was commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum in New York to stage a follow-up, one-night only performance, titled Monumento II (Monument II), in which he stood nude, with his hands handcuffed behind his back, on a 50-inch pedestal in the museum’s rotunda.
“No documentation can describe the limitations and discomfort that affects the body during an actual performance,” Martiel told the Guggenheim days after the performance. “In the case of Monumento II, the situation was quite uncomfortable because the whole time, while standing on the pedestal, I was in an internal struggle to maintain my balance and endure the back pain that began to form from being handcuffed.”