Buenos Aires

Sergio De Loof

miau miau

A prince and a pauper, Sergio De Loof has been a luminary in the Buenos Aires scene since the 1980s, an artist with an unusual ability to captivate the fashion world, the underground, and the intellectual establishment. He founded mythical bars like Bolivia and discos like El Dorado, decorating the places himself by fusing the garbage found on the streets with runway fashion and transforming everything into an installation. He designed clothes out of discarded materials and later edited Wipe, an arty magazine the size of a folded handkerchief. De Loof once proclaimed himself a scavenger with a good eye; his style was of major influence to galleries such as Belleza y Felicidad, an art outpost that successfully captured street vitality and highbrow collectors. All the while he has been creating objects that fall within a category of his own invention, “trash rococó”: objects of glamorous poverty, blending the lowest and highest cultures, vindicating minorities.

De Loof’s recent show, “Bolita”—a derogatory term used by Argentines to refer to Bolivians—proved that “trash rococó” is an omnivorous concept as well as an ideological statement. Undermining his own production and at the same time staying loyal to his credo, De Loof exhibited a vast amount of his belongings: diaries, scrap books filled with ideas, poems written on bits of paper, photos of his friends, a plastic duck, torn magazine pages, little words such as CRAZY, BAD, or FRUIT inscribed in marker on ordinary sheets of white paper. One could buy any item on view and take it home right then. Nearly everything was given an absurdly low price ranging between twenty and fifty dollars. At the opening, each time an object was taken, De Loof rushed to hang something else in its place. It was as if he were holding a yard sale, disposing of old things in order to make room for new ideas. The opening itself was packed to a degree that only De Loof, with his legendary ability to bring people together, could have managed; music from the Bolivian carnival of Oruro soon turned the opening into a typical De Loofian party.

“Money is the vertebral column of all my thinking. . . . I sometimes wonder why I have all these things inside and so few possibilities of actually creating them,” said De Loof in Una historia del trash rococó, 2009, an exquisite documentary made by artist Miguel Mitlag and exhibited at the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival the day before the opening. Watching the film, one sees De Loof as something like a low-budget Leonardo, someone with immense talent, able to read incisively into the fabric of his times, always involved in many small and vast projects at the same time—some of them proving successful and many going bust. The artist’s exuberant creativity materializes in settings as far flung as a bar named Paris that offers cheap dishes called “Liberté,” “Fraternité,” or “Égalité” (where he mounted an exhibition of discarded objects), or in a glittering disco, but the work always celebrates a state of entropy. The “spaceship,” as the artist calls his milieu, is something that hovers over the city of Buenos Aires, energy in a constant state of nomadism and transformation.

María Gainza