Police Graduation (Juarez) (2014)
This provocative painting is not what it seems. An Irish artist who began making work during the Troubles, Brian Maguire later radiated his socially conscious art outward to other flash points around the globe—a working mode that brought him a few years ago to Ciudad Juarez, the notorious murder capital of Mexico.
Drawn by the horrific unsolved mass killings of women in the area, whose bodies are left along the roadside, Maguire initially set out to paint portraits of the victims but soon became interested in the systematic corruption of the region’s government and decided to embed himself with the newspaper El Norte. This history painting recreates an image he found in the paper’s photo archives, of a graduation ceremony for Juarez police recruits.
Such a painting, recalling the notorious Hitler salute in the midst of Germany, caused a stir among collectors. “They’ve been taken aback,” said a dealer at the booth. “Especially with the older people, whose parents were either killed by the Nazis or were on the other side of things, you really need to step in quickly and explain.” Tensions were particularly high in Cologne during the fair, as the trial of a Neo Nazi who stabbed the city’s mayor, Henriette Reker, in the neck with a hunting knife had just begun.