A new arts nonprofit calling itself MAGA is offering tours of the U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes in California. Erected by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, the eight wall segments, erected by six different firms, currently sit near the San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico border. The first prototypes were completed in October 2017.
Now MAGA, named for President Donald Trump’s abbreviated campaign slogan, is repositioning the wall mock-ups as PROTOTYPES, an installation for curious art world onlookers. As of now, the group’s next and final tour is on January 13, but the $20 tickets are sold out.
According to a press release, MAGA is also petitioning to get the border wall prototypes recognized as national monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The designation of a monument under these rules would require the president’s approval.
A preliminary search for the nonprofit in the IRS’s database turned up no conclusive results.
Initial, neutral inquiries into the project and MAGA were mostly rebuffed. “You might want to do your homework, it’s better to be thorough than fast,” said Andrea Schwan, head of the eponymous public relations firm that blasted today’s press release on MAGA. Instead of fielding questions, Schwan told this reporter to read a January 3 New York Times story on the installation, which identifies Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel as the MAGA mastermind. Büchel explained the concept behind the piece, which is worth excerpting in full:
“‘I am an artist, but not the artist of this,'” Mr. Büchel said. Instead, he said, MAGA endorses the concept that Americans, by electing Mr. Trump, allowed his obsessions to be given form that qualifies as an artistic statement. The fact that the prototypes were designed and built by six private contractors matters less, he said, than the impression that, upon completion, they constitute an unintended sculpture garden willed into existence by the president and his supporters. “‘This is a collective sculpture; people elected this artist,’ Mr. Büchel said.”
The 51-year-old artist has never shied from controversy. His contribution to the Icelandic Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, a mosque erected inside a vacant Catholic church, was shut down by the city over security concerns. Before that, Training Ground, a vast installation planned for the North Adams, Massachusetts contemporary art museum MASS MoCA was cancelled when the relationship between the institution and the artist over the unfinished work. A lengthy court battle ensued.
The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) is reaching out for more information on MAGA and Büchel’s project, and will update readers with more details as soon as possible.