In García Villarán’s work, The Pop Martyr, he sets the scene for a debate over the strength and relevance of different categories within the art market. Do Old Masters reign supreme or has the Contemporary Art market taken over? Should these categories be examined against one another in the first place? He encourages this discourse by intersecting Spanish Old Master El Greco’s Saint Sebastian with Yayoi Kusama’s famous polka dots. He smartly juxtaposes these two artists as they have a common thread in the exploration of the sublime.
El Greco was known for his extremely elongated figures and use of sublime color and light in his paintings. The version of Saint Sebastian that García Villarán was inspired to recreate, is the most exaggerated of the three renditions. According to Christian legend, the Saint was sentenced to death by Emperor Diocletian for refusing to give up his faith and encouraging others that it was worth death to stand by their beliefs.
The story tells that he was killed by being roped to a post and being shot with arrows until he slowly died. Additionally, El Greco decided to paint the city of Toldeo in the background of this work as an homage to his home city, despite the Saint having had no connection to Spain. Likely another careful choice when selecting this artwork by García Villarán for his creations.
The intersecting art that García Villarán has chosen is Yayoi Kusama’s famous polka dots. He carefully intertwines the two artists’ works by layering Saint Sebastian’s body with red polka dots. From a purely stylistic perspective, the red dots can be seen as wounds on the Saint’s body. In this context, we are purely assuming that García Villarán has intersected these two works to push the viewer to think about the pain and brutality the Saint faced just before his death. As the El Greco work shows only a few arrows having pierced the figure, the Kusama polka dots push us to think about the state that the Saint would have been in just before his death.
However, I believe that García Villarán’s use of Kusama’s polka dots is even more deliberate. He refers to the polka dots as measles in the NFTs description. Thus, he asks a larger question with the juxtaposition of these two works, “has contemporary art plagued the Old Masters? Is this category now the dominant force in the art market? What is relevant? What is worth top market prices?” García Villarán asks the viewer to decide.