The great city planner Daniel Burnham was famously quoted as saying “make no small plans”, and the city of Juarez seems to be taking that to heart. They recently built what was described as a state of the art baseball stadium, they are going to build the largest convention center in the country and tomorrow they are dedicating Sebastian’s monumental X sculpture in a ceremony involving conductor Alondra Parra, Natalia Lafourcade, Elys Guerra and Denise Gutierrez performing their CD “Travieso Carmesi”, a beautifully rendered compilation of well known Mexican songs with full orchestral background. There will be in addition food vendors, and well-known restaurants, who will be allowed to sell alcohol to go with dinner, and of course a large number of national and international dignitaries.
There are many people who find all of this a waste of money which could perhaps be better spent on much needed social programs, etc., but I like the fact that the city considers using art as a part of building the city’s self image, and doing so in such a flamboyant way. Obviously the X sculpture is not like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, but I think there is a feeling that it might perform something of a similar boost-they are creating a complex of buildings at the foot of the sculpture so that it should be a destination, and of course it is so huge that it can be seen from the States as well as all over Juarez.
I love the grand gesture particularly when it involves art. I remember back in the 70’s in Chicago when Alexander Calder was installing both a sculpture and a series of huge mobiles in downtown Chicago. They gave him a full blown parade, and he himself rode shotgun on top of the Clydesdale pulled Budweiser beer wagon.
I can’t help contrast this with El Paso’s recent installation of a smaller, but still impressive Sebastian sculpture. There was a little publicized reception in the afternoon-I’m not sure they were even able to slip the guy a galleta, let alone a symphony orchestra, and much griping about the cost in the comments section of the local newspaper. Limited funds, according to the relevant department, but the problem is one of limited imagination on the part of so-called city leaders.
In any case, the event in Juarez has been promoted with huge posters everywhere, sections of the newspaper devoted to explaining the significance of the X- (indigenous references, the changing of the name Mexico from Mejico to Mexico, hope for the future, etc.), and in general a great desire to make the whole community a part of the celebration of a locally born internationally known artist.
They may have paid way too much for this and may also might be expecting way too much to come from it, but you gotta give them credit for the grand gesture and inviting everyone to the party.-david sokolec