Oscar Murillo - 20th Century to Now London Friday, June 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • The genesis of it all is in myself. My own anxieties, my own anger […] A lot of this mark-making is a release of anxiety and physical energy […] I want to liberate this energy, and allow it to exist openly, without too much reference to politics. I want to think about my practice as an honest offering to a large audience, something that goes beyond performative, symbolic gestures.”
    —Oscar Murillo

    Pulsating with raw energy and emotion, Oscar Murillo’s Money Maker! is a signature example of the artist’s acclaimed practice. Created in 2013, this work marks a transition to the Murillo’s mature style, in which he seamlessly distils painting, language, performance, and installation into a singular artistic project. 


    Deeply informed by themes of social injustice as well as his own personal migrant story, Murillo’s work negotiates questions of diaspora and belonging. Born in the small village of La Paila, Colombia, Murillo and his family moved to London when the artist was just 10 years old, escaping the ‘economic turmoil’ afflicting his native country. And while the artist was able to adapt to his new home with relative comfort, he notes having a ‘constant awareness of my own privilege, growing up in London, being educated […] It makes you think about those people who are lacking those things.’ii This hyper-awareness of social injustice in relation to race and class became a catalyst for Murillo’s artistic practice. His paintings project feelings of discontent and anger toward these pervasive issues, offering a raw, unchecked glimpse into the artist’s internal psyche. 


    In addition to drawing from these personal and political sources, Murillo is also deeply engaged with art history. Across his diverse oeuvre, Murillo explores the legacy of artists ranging from Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel. Through his embrace of found materials, Murillo develops a dialogue with Rauschenberg’s early combine works, which are similarly built up from the detritus of the modern city. Murillo’s mark-making is distinct, deftly blending the refinement of Twombly with Basquiat’s expressiveness and raw emotional energy. Like Basquiat, Murillo employs spray paint and text to create a sense of visual directness that communicates the social outrage motivating both artists.


    Another important element of Murillo’s practice is the idea of pollution. Each of his paintings accumulates particles of dirt, dust, and debris in his studio, with these stray materials becoming an integral part of each work. This pollution is evidence of not only his studio process but also when and where the work was created, locating each painting within East London no matter where they might hang in the future. Murillo’s embrace of soot and filth could also be read in iconoclastic terms, rejecting the perceived refinement and luxury of contemporary art against the backdrop of a booming art market in the early 2010s. 

    “My studio is a cradle of dust and dirt, of pollution. I don’t tidy up at the end of each production process. It’s all very much on purpose; it’s continuous process, a machine of which I’m the catalyst. Things get moved around, I step on them, and they get contaminated. It’s not about leaving traces, it’s about letting things mature on their own—like aging cheese or letting a stew cook, they get more flavorful. That’s kind of how these paintings are made”’ iii  
    —Oscar Murillo

    Murillo’s use of language is also central to his practice. Applied with spray paint - the medium of graffiti and street art - these textual elements further ground Murillo’s work within the context of his local community. Murillo’s earliest use of text was primarily focused on food, referencing Spanish-language dishes such as Carne and Pollo. By 2013 Murillo began to explore a new lexicon informed by his performances, in which the artist would host social events such as dinner parties and game nights, welcoming individuals from different socio-cultural communities to participate alongside one another. 


    The word depicted in the present work–bingo!–alludes to a specific series of performances from 2013, the first of which was staged at Carlos Ishikawa Gallery in London. Titled Animals die from eating too much – bingo! Murillo invited a group of women art collectors to have dinner at his exhibition. With help from friends and family, Murillo prepared several courses of Colombian dishes; during the dinner he served food and hosted a game of bingo for the ladies. Later that same year, Murillo staged a similar performance at Art Rotterdam in which visitors could play bingo and win vintage t-shirts from charity shops that the artist upgraded to Comme des Garçons pieces. Altogether, these performances constitute a kind of social practice in which Murillo extends his work beyond the studio. Subsequently referencing these performances through text in his paintings, Murillo expertly merges the studio and the outside world, with works such as Money Maker! representing a convergence between these seemingly disparate spaces. 


    Murillo has spoken to the unique personal resonance of bingo, not only within his work but also in his personal life. Curator Jonathan P. Watts writes that Murillo’s interest in Bingo is ‘deeply buried in biography. Growing up in La Paila…family sociality and play centred around bingo. Bingo’s pejorative status in the UK soon disabused Murillo of his love for the game. It was one of many experiences keenly felt as a Colombian emigrant in London that created a feeling of social displacement.’iv Hence, bingo plays many roles as a central motif in Murillo’s practice, at once centring his Latin-American heritage while also highlighting the injustice and othering he experienced after moving to London. This duality is emblematic of Murillo’s wider artistic project, in which he negotiates the complexities and contradictions of his own hybrid identity. 


    As one of the leading artists of his generation, Murillo has been the subject of several major institutional solo exhibitions, most recently at Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri in 2022; KM21, The Hague in 2021; Aspen Art Museum, Colorado in 2019; and Haus der Kunst, Munich in 2017. His paintings are held in prestigious museum collections around the world including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Broad, Los Angeles; The Dallas Museum of Art; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne. 

    • Provenance

      Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Berlin, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Oscar Murillo: Ramón how was trade today? Have a break... Sit! Enjoy the food, but you're not welcomed at the table, 27 April - 6 June 2013
      San Francisco, Ever Gold [Projects], Grinding, 9 - 21 October 2017


Money Maker!

oil, oil stick and dirt on stitched canvas
299.7 x 229.9 cm (117 7/8 x 90 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 ‡♠

Sold for £95,250

Contact Specialist

Leonor de Osma
Head of Sale, 20th Century to Now
T +44 20 7901 7912
M +44 7584 086 052

20th Century to Now

London Auction 30 June 2023