Artist Spotlight: Pedro Reyes


In a world where the debate on gun control is regularly in the headlines, Pedro Reyes, a Mexican artist, finds a creative solution - transform weapons that have taken lives into functional musical instruments.

Pedro Reyes, Shakers y zampoña, 2013

The Tiroche DeLeon Collection is proud to announce the acquisition of a body of work commissioned for the Zona Maco art fair in Mexico City in April 2013. The key work of the installation was the Cuernofono, an automated marimba instrument with 12 drum pedals playing rhythms controlled by software. We supplemented the Cuernofono with several percussion instruments - shakers, zampona, rain stick and panderos, and together with a specially commissioned guitar we created an entire band. 

Pedro Reyes, Guitarra, 2013; Pedro Reyes, Cuernofono, 2013

Born and raised in Mexico and currently residing in Mexico City, Reyes has been turning weapons into musical instruments since 2008 when he initiated the project 'Palas por Pistolas'  in Culiacán, a city in western Mexico with a high gunshot death rate. Together with local authorities he started a campaign to collect weapons from citizens, offering in exchange other useful items such as food coupons or electronics. 1527 guns were collected, crushed by a steamroller and melted to produce 1527 shovels which in turn were used to plant trees in Mexico, Vancouver, Jamaica, San Francisco, London, France, and other places around the globe.

In 2012, together with local government in Juarez, Mexico, he used 6,700 seized or turned-in guns, and with the help of six musicians over a two-week period, transformed them to create a veritable orchestra of fifty musical instruments, including winds, strings, and percussion. This project was called 'Imagine' and was the incentive for the Zona Maco project as well as a large scale solo exhibition recently held at Lisson Gallery in London. 

“It’s important to consider that many lives were taken with these weapons,” he says “the music expelled the demons they held, as well as being a requiem for lives lost.” He wishes for his art to have an international effect in the broader sense of the term “It occurred to me to make musical instruments, because music is the opposite of weapons,” Reyes said. “This exercise of transformation we see with the guns, is what we would like to see in society.”

Pedro Reyes is represented by Labor gallery in Mexico and Lisson gallery in London.

Serge, Pedro and Labor Gallerist Pamella Echeverria in Mexico City, April 2013