Philip Aguirre y Otegui (b. 1961, Belgium), whose work comprises sculptures, assemblages, and drawings, lives and works in Antwerp.
His sculptures are mostly made from traditional materials, such as bronze, terracotta, wood, clay, and plaster. Reflecting a profound sense of human tragedy, Aguirre y Otegui’s work frequently draws inspiration from political events, and above all from conflicts linked to migration and the human being as refugee.
With his sculpture entitled Fallen Dictator (2005) – which looks like a sculpture of a dictator that has been knocked down – Aguirre y Otegui refers to monument of King Leopold II, who colonized the Congo at the end of the nineteenth century.
An important and recurring subject in Aguirre y Otegui’s work is water. Water is vital for all human beings, but can also be used as an economical tool for power and a geopolitical weapon. In 1991 he worked on a series of etchings that proposed how to divide the water in the world in an honest way. In 2013 his monumental artwork Théâtre Source was inaugurated in Douala, Cameroon. In one of the most miserable slums of Douala, Aguirre y Otegui became fascinated by a drinkable water source where thousands of families came daily. Aguirre y Otegui transformed this site into a beautiful amphitheatre, which functions now as meeting place and village square, after considered improvements to both accessibility and hygiene.
Cabinet Mare Nostrum (Cabinet of the Mediterranean Sea, 2016) is an installation in which Aguirre y Otegui presents a selection of drawings, etchings, collages, models, and small sculptures made between 1990 and 2016 that focus on contemporary migrations. The installation is conceived as becoming immersed in the studio and is presented both at the Limerick City Gallery of Art and at the Hunt Museum. With this display, Aguirre y Otegui invites the viewer to think about migration, colonial conflicts, the issue of water, geopolitical issues, and the role of the artist.