Interview with Teresa Margolles

The Interview was held on the occasion of the artist’s nomination for the Artes Mundi Price, 2012

Teresa Margolles (1963, Culiacán, Sinaloa) is a visual artist who examines the social causes and consequences of death, destruction and civil war. For Margolles, the morgue accurately reflects society, particularly her home area where deaths caused by drug-related crime, poverty, political crisis and government’s brutal military response have devastated communities. She has developed a unique, restrained language in order to speak for her silenced subjects, the victims discounted as ‘collateral damage’ and nameless statistics.

Subtle and seductively minimal, Margolles’ works initially offer a pleasant aesthetic experience. Viewers walk through mist before realising that it is made of the water used to wash the dead bodies of destitutes. A single line of delicately coloured and knotted thread is made of threads, stained with body fluids, that were used in the autopsies of murder victims. A small concrete block basking in the glow of a spotlight in a vast, empty room contains a stillborn foetus that would have been disposed of if the impoverished mother had not pleaded with Margolles to save it.
At the 2009 Venice Biennale in the Mexican Pavillion displayed cloths used to cover the corpses of victims of drug trafficking, while in another room of the palazzo men and women who have lost a relative washed the marble floor with a mixture of water and blood from murdered people. Such intimate proximity to the material of death produces visceral shock and psychic fear that initiates profound self and social interrogation.
For Manifesta 11, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art, held in Zurich from June 11 to September 18, 2016, Margolles is initiating an encounter between transsexual sex workers from Zurich and Juarez, Mexico. One of the sex workers is Margolles‘ host, Sonja Victoria Vera Bohorquez, who is from Zurich. The works Margolles developed for Manifesta are the setting for a dialogue about the rather diverse lives and working conditions of the sex workers in the two countries. The multimedia installation will take place in the Hotel Rothaus on Langstrasse and the Kunsthalle Zurich.

Teresa Margolles is known for creating powerful artworks that demand attention to violence, poverty and alienation; for exposing the social and economic order that renders violent and destitute deaths an accepted normality; for her courage and integrity in transgressing social and artistic conventions; and for speaking truth to power through public exposure of government complicity in violence and poverty, not only in Mexico, but throughout the world.

Selected Solo Exhibitions
Musée d’art Contemporain, Montreal, Canada, 2017
Museo de la Ciudad de Queretaro, Queretaro, Mexico, 2016
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY, US, 2015
Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland, 2014
Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid, Spain, 2014
Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2012
Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City, Mexico, 2012
Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico, 2011
Museion, Bolzano, Italy, 2011
Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany, 2010
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, US, 2010
The Venice Biennale, Mexican Pavilion, Venice, Italy, 2009

Selected Collections
Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Torino, Italy

CGAC Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Colección Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Mostoles, Spain

Colección Isabel y Agustín Coppel, Culiacan, Mexico




FRAC Lorraine, Metz, France

FRAC Nord Pas-de-Calais, Dunkerque, France

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, US

Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland

La Colección Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico


Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst – Sammlung, Zurich, Switzerland
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, US

Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico

Museo Amparo, Puebla, Mexico

Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico
Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany

Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona US
Tate Modern, London, UK

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, US
Perez Art Museum, Miami, US
MACBA, Barcelona, Spain
CNAP, Paris, France
Museo del Banco de la Republica Bogotá, Bogotá, Colombia
Frac Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, US
Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France

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