Jorge Otero-Pailos (1971, Spain) is a New York-based artist and preservationist best known for making monumental casts of historically charged buildings. Otero-Pailos draws from his formal training in architecture and preservation to create artworks that address themes of memory, history and transition, inviting the viewer to consider monuments as powerful agents for cultural connection, questioning and understanding. He employs the material residues of our modernity - including airborne atmospheric dust, waterways, traces of sweat and body sounds, maps, even embassy security fences, to render their invisible meanings visible. Notably, he has used experimental preservation cleaning techniques designed to restore landmarked buildings, as well as reenactment methodologies, as part of his creative process.
His site-specific series, The Ethics of Dust, is an ongoing, decade-long investigation resulting from cleaning dust and the residue of pollution from monuments such as the Doge’s Palace in Venice; Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament, London; the U.S. Old Mint in San Francisco; and Trajan’s Column at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. His latest projects include preserving airborne dust in the atmosphere (Far Above, Cornell University, Ithaca), saving the perimeter security fence of the ex U.S. Embassy in Oslo by turning it into sculptures (American Fence, Oslo, Norway) and immersing visitors’ bodies in a soundscape composed with New York State’s main water bodies at Lyndhurst Estate’s historical swim tank (Watershed Moment, Tarrytown, NY).
Collections include Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; SFMoMA, San Francisco; The Museum of London; The Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland; The Whitworth, Manchester; The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea; Kelvingrove/The People's Palace, Glasgow; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; Museion: Contemporary Art Museum of Bolzano, Italy.
Exhibitions include: Watershed Moment, Lyndhurst Mansion (2020/2021); Far Above, Cornell University's School of Architecture (2019); Répétiteur, New York City Center, New York (2018/2019); Chicago Architecture Biennial (2017/2018); The Ethics of Dust: Westminster Hall, Artangel, London (2016); Space-Time, Keller Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2014); Making Worlds, Venice Art Biennial, Italy (2009); An Olfactory Reconstruction of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, New Canaan, CT (2008).
Otero-Pailos is the recipient of the 2021-22 American Academy in Rome Residency in the visual arts. He is also Director and Professor of Historic Preservation at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture in New York. He studied architecture at Cornell University and earned a doctorate in architecture at M.I.T.