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New York’s Museum Of Modern Art Just Bought The Nude Painting Of Mexican Icon Zapata And Not Everyone’s Happy About It

La Revolución by Chiapas artist Fabian Cháirez depicts Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata riding a white horse. Zapata has his eyes closed as if he was lost in reverie, he’s totally nude, wearing high heels, and a shimmering pink hat — and the horse has a massive erection. 

The painting isn’t new, it is one of 141 works included in the exhibit Zapata Después de Zapata to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the revolutionary’s death. When the Mexican Secretariat of Culture shared the image on Facebook, many users had a polarizing response. Cháirez believes the negative responses are rooted in sexist and homophobic attitudes.

The Museum of Modern Art decided to get in on the controversy surrounding the now ‘infamous’ painting.

Yup, New York’s own Museum of Modern Art decided to wade into the controversy surrounding the now iconic painting of Mexican Emiliano Zapata. The world-famous art museum made the announcement in a statement and explained that the piece would be housed in its permanent collection.

MoMA is also planning a special exhibition dedicated to Emiliano Zapata next summer, where we’re sure the now famous piece will receive tons of interest.

Although, MoMA often buys controversial and popular pieces of art to house in their collection, the purchase of this piece surprised many in the art community – especially in Mexico City.

Zapata’s grandson says he is taking legal action against the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature. 

“We are not going to allow that. That’s why they’re going to take legal action”. Zapata´s grandson said in a statement. “We came here to exhibit the nonsense they did… to exhibit a photograph of our general (Emiliano Zapata) in Bellas Artes”

One would think the issue a critic would have with the image is that there might be an implication of bestiality. No, according to Zapata’s grandson, Jorge Zapata who held a press conference in Cuernavaca  says the problem is that Cháirez painted him as “gay.” 

“What could we call him? An unknown painter, who I think wants fame… he portrays general Zapata as, gay. So I believe that as a family, as a people, where we are clearly Zapatistas, we are not going to allow that,” Jorge said according to the Yucatan Times

Does Jorge think being gay means two men love each other or that a man and a horse love each other? Jorge appears to be more repulsed by the thought of his grandfather possibly liking another man, more so than him being attracted to a horse. 

“Now we’ve done what’s right, we are going to sue them, and we´ll have demonstrations and hold press conferences. We are going to sue both the painter and the person in charge of Bellas Artes.” Jorge said at the conference. 

Art is subjective and isn’t always meant to be literally interpreted, Cháirez appears to be trying to evoke a feeling and a response from the viewer about what the image might mean rather than creating something intended to be taken at face value. 

Many people on social media were also offended by the painting.

“I truly think that the image is offensive for the Mexican leader and hero. I’m not at all against homosexuality . . . but Zapata deserves respect. He was a leader who fought for land rights and freedom. I will never accept the denigration of his image in this way,” Jonathan Gómez Rios wrote on Facebook.

However, others defended Cháirez’s painting, commending the artist for being able to stir controversy as it was clearly intended. 

“I love that a simple painting causes so much controversy. People argue and seethe because of a painting, A PAINTING! Well done to the Secretariat of Culture and whoever’s behind this post. Congratulations!” said another user on Facebook.

Cháirez speaks out in defense of his work of art. 

“The feminine [form of Zapata] is what causes contempt . . . We’re in a super sexist society. There are some people who are bothered by bodies that don’t obey the norms. [But] in this case, where’s the offense? Are they offended because he’s feminized?” he told El Universal.

Cháirez says portraits of Zapata usually glorify his masculinity, while his own works intend to do just the opposite. According to the Yucatan Times, the Chiapas painter is part of the Neomexicanism movement and his works typically portray bodies in ways that challenge traditional stereotypes about masculinity and social mores about sexual orientation. 

“His piece, ‘The Revolution’ questions the macho stereotypes that make up the national identity and makes visible the movements of sexual diversity,” the Yucatan Times writes. “The image has caused great offense among those who defend the memory of General Emiliano Zapata the ‘Caudillo del Sur’ and reject the idea of portraying him as a homosexual.”

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