The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has defended security arrangements at the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) after a video showing a performance artist kissing and licking pieces in its collection was presented at a music festival last weekend.
Durango native Pepx Romero kisses and licks several pre-Hispanic pieces at the Mexico City museum in a video that is part of his “Mexique 2022” project.
Presented at the Ceremonia music festival, the video is intended to criticize the sale of such pieces at auctions in France.
A voice-over says that pieces sold at auction belonged to pre-Hispanic cultures and were stolen. “[They were] all pieces whose historic and symbolic cultural essence was incalculable and which became simple objects of decoration in the living room or studio of a house,” it says.
INAH said earlier this week that it had not authorized Romero’s performance and no request to carry it out had been submitted.
Diego Prieto, the institute’s director, said Thursday that no pieces were damaged, and claimed – despite the clear security breach – that the MNA is the “most secure” museum in the country.
“In no museum in the world does each visitor have a guard by their side. This person came into the museum with three companions, whose role was to warn him in the event of a guard approaching,” he said.
“Approaching a [museum] piece at such a close distance is not correct, but it’s possible at any museum in the world. Fortunately in this case the approaches didn’t cause damage. … We don’t believe there was any failure in the [museum’s] security systems,” Prieto said.
According to museum director Antonio Saborit, Romero and his accomplices spent just under an hour in the museum on March 31.
“The number of pieces this person touched with his lips is approximately 30 in five rooms: the Gulf, Mexica, Teotihuacán, Toltec and Oaxaca rooms,” Saborit said.
He also defended the museum’s security arrangements. “Every day there are 65 guards spread throughout the museum. They take care of the museum’s wellbeing in all areas,” Saborit said.
Pepe Romero, performance parte del proyecto Mexique, 2022.
El artista fue al Museo Nacional de Antropología en CDMX, besó y lamió algunas piezas de su colección.
Por supuesto que esto coloca a las espectadoras en una posición incómoda, están presenciando un aparente daño pic.twitter.com/nsBtqAb9lf
— Obras de Arte Comentadas (@obrasdeartecom) April 5, 2022
In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, Romero acknowledged that his performance was provocative.
“It’s a provocation to attract attention to this situation that is happening in the auctions [of pre-Hispanic artifacts],” he said.
“There have been auctions this year and they haven’t been able to be stopped. … French laws allow this disgrace, … they’re prostituting our heritage in front of our noses,” said Romero, who is also a theater director and founder of a music collective.
He said that the title of his project – which means Mexico in French – is meant to highlight that Mexico is becoming “a decoration boutique for rich people” who can afford to buy pre-Hispanic pieces to decorate their homes.
Asked whether he was nervous about being held to account for his kissing and licking spree given that there are laws that protect the country’s cultural assets, the artist responded:
“I believe that these laws … protect assets from being damaged. However, the act [I carried out] didn’t cause damage. … I’m completely relaxed.”
With reports from El Universal