Critics’ Picks

View of “Instant Classic,” 2021.

View of “Instant Classic,” 2021.

Mexico City

Daniela de la Torre

Biquini Wax
Pedro de Alba 232
September 11–October 11, 2021

Twenty-four-year-old Daniela de la Torre wants to be the best Conceptual artist in the world. This deceptively simple premise drives Instant Classic, 2021, a Hollywood-ready fantasy in which the artist realizes her aspirations. Mimicking the generic structure of a rags-to-riches movie, the four-minute film—and centerpiece of the eponymous exhibition—documents our leading lady’s overnight rise to fame, culminating in a competition at a spoofed Venice Biennale. Clad in a chartreuse leotard, de la Torre performs a routine to a Gwen Stefani song before a row of dubiously qualified judges, the hypercritical gaze of curators, the jealous glares of art students, and the prying eyes of extravagantly dressed collectors. Her fate is likened to those of the protagonists of sports films like Rocky (1976) or The Karate Kid (1984): underdogs who must overcome all manner of hardships to achieve their dream. The film follows a similar plot arc when de la Torre trips and falls to the ground, only to get back up on her feet and, ultimately, succeed. The judges reluctantly grant her perfect scores.

In a separate room, selected relics bear witness to this extraordinary feat, including the artist’s distinctive leotard, a newspaper front page reporting her international triumph, and a cheap-looking trophy with the handwritten inscription BEST CONCEPTUAL ARTIST. Visitors exit the show through a parodied gift shop touting commemorative T-shirts and promotional coffee mugs and key chains. If quality (i.e., being “the best”) is measured by commercial success, de la Torre’s quest to become a brand is only logical. Despite the show’s jocular tone, it made me wonder: By preaching the centrality of the idea over its material execution, could Conceptual art be a predecessor to branding?