Edward Sullivan: “Observations on the Myths and Magic of Collecting Latin American Art…”

Edward Sullivan: “Observations on the Myths and Magic of Collecting Latin American Art…”


– Inga, thank you so much, that was far too generous an introduction, but I’m very grateful. And actually I was overjoyed when I heard that this event was going to take place. Obviously, it’s something
that is of great interest to all of us, and is a– (background whisper) I do, I do have the right remote. I have the right remote that says “PC” which means politically correct, (laughs) which I try to be at all times. At any rate it was a great thing for me to hear about
this and to collaborate even in a modest way in this project. But it was also something that I saw as an opportunity to bring some of many people who know a great deal about this subject, and we could’ve had a
list of five times as many of friends and colleagues, who are wonderfully knowledgeable about collecting and the
history of collecting and exhibitions and so on of Latin American art
in the United States. So we got some great people. There are other wonderful ones, so if we do Part 2, you’ll be receiving an invitation. Anyway, so I will give a I guess, keynote talk is the name of this, and it is about issues that I believe will not be discussed by others. So I wish to stress
actually the importance of this conference to a
field at a critical time, when intense interest in
the art of Latin America from all periods is growing. Even judging by the events
of the past few weeks in New York alone, we can see how this art
is making a serious impact on the imaginations of American audiences and collectors, both
private and institutional. The months of April and May witnessed the opening of a
major museum-quality show of the work of German-born
Brazilian artist Mira Schendel, at the Hauser & Wirth gallery, the virtually miraculous
retrospective, I think, of Lygia Clark, debuted at the Museum of Modern Art, as did a splendid exhibition
at the America Society of Alexander von Humboldt, and his impact on landscape painting and other forms of arts
from the 19th century to the present. There are many other such things that I can mention, even a show that opened last night, or two shows of photography at the ICP, a brilliant show of Caio Reisewitz, Brazillian artist and a great exhibition organized in Bogota, which is now open to the public of Latin American photography
of the 20th century. So all of these things, and numerous other gallery shows, I think present to us a wide panoply, not only of great art, but also manifestations of the importance of this subject to all of us. In addition to these, the Guggenheim is preparing a major show of contemporary Latin American art. The Metropolitan Museum
has recently appointed two new curators, and is searching for
two additional members of its curatorial staff in the area of modern Latin American art. And one of the new curators, Ronda Kasl, will address us in just a while. In academic terms, more and more students are choosing to consider
Latin American art, colonial, modern and contemporary, as their fields of focus at universities throughout the U.S. In New York City, my own institution, New York University, as
well as the city university in Columbia, to say nothing of many other distinguished departments of art outside of New York, have important historians
of Latin American art on their faculties. A number of museums have
made significant purchases in the area in the last decades, and in some cases have established specialized departments
for Latin American art. Private collections, large and small, are flourishing throughout the country. So in the course of this symposium, all of the topics I just mentioned will be dealt with in one or another form by a group of scholars,
curators, collectors and advanced graduate students. It is bound to be an
enlightening experience. The Center for the History of Collecting at the Frick is to be
of course congratulated for their foresight in
organizing this event. My former mentor and now colleague at the Institute of Fine
Arts, Jonathan Brown, was certainly instrumental
behind the scenes in suggesting this conference. In Greece, Samantha Deutch, as well as many other members of the Frick to say nothing of the
distinguished Director and my former classmate, Ian Wardropper, and curators including
Susan Galassi and others are all implicated in
this most positive affair, and I thank them all very heartily. First, an explanation of
the title of this talk. The exhibition Myth and Magic
in the Americas: the 1980s, or as it was originally called, Mito y Magia en las Americas: los Ochentas was the opening event of what was then and I believe is still the largest museum of contemporary art in the hemisphere, the Museo de Arte
Contemporaneo de Monterey, or MARCO, in the industrial capital of northern Mexico in June 1991. I chose to appropriate
the title of the show to remind us of the many debates regarding misrepresentations of Latin American Art
throughout the decades. Debates have swirled
around the stereotypes projected by many exhibitions like the 1998 show Art of the Fantastic, and these controversies have engendered lively discussions over the years regarding the use of
certain terms and cliches that still cloud many
people’s understanding of what art from this region represents. I wanted to underscore the fact also that these controversies
are still alive today. In calling this talk what I did I did in addition wish to invoke a somewhat more poetic concept that a fashioning and ongoing history of the art of the Americas, a term I actually prefer
to Latin American art, and to suggest the
mutability of this history as the years pass and social,
political and aesthetic circumstances change and influence our approaches to this and all other histories of art. Collecting of Latin American art has of course a lengthy
history that begins with the voyages of colonization. The exotic and rare objects, for example the gold described by Albrecht Durer, who observed the looted treasure from the Americas brought to Brussels and the unknown species of plants, or then-unknown species of plants, textiles and objects of
religious inspiration, all form the contents of
the cabinets of wonder of both private and princely collectors throughout Europe starting
in the 16th century. The amazement produced by the unknown was a factor in this type of collecting and to a certain extent, this wonder, or if you will, magic,
which sometimes may descend into stereotyping, is a factor even in
today’s collecting habits. The history of collecting
Latin American art in the United States is
a more recent phenomenon. It began in the 19th
century with individuals such as Robert Lamborne of Philadelphia, who formed the core of what came to be the Colonial Collection
of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, about which Joe Rishel will
certainly speak, presently. What I wish to do in this talk is to enumerate certain themes which will most likely not be touched upon by today’s and tomorrow’s speakers. The history of public
and private collections is now a well-recognized
subdiscipline of art and aesthetic history. It comprises numerous complex issues, and even in a two-day long celebration of this subject, we cannot hope to touch on
every significant topic. Therefore, allow me to enumerate a list of several points, in
a bullet point fashion, that lie at the core of my narrative that I will present here. They are, in the order of the images which will appear on the screen, number one, corporate collecting of Latin American art, and corporate sponsorship of initiatives related to Latin America in the U.S. throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Number two, the role
of individual curators, both North American and Latin American in the formation of trends and tastes, as well as influencing
the collection of art from the region. A number of these have been women art museum directors,
curators and gallerists, and their efforts must be stressed. Number three, private collections and the distinctions
between large publicly known private collections and
smaller, more discreet, but no less important ones. And the fourth section of this talk constitutes an appeal
for a reconsideration of what in the past had been a part of U.S. collecting of Latin American art, but in recent times, seems to have fallen out of favor, namely the art of the Caribbean, and specifically that of Haiti, as an integral component of the definition of what constitutes the visual production of the Americas. These points, which I
hope to address critically and not as a simple enumeration of names, places, or events, might serve as a partial road map to some of the pieces
of the complex puzzle with which any scholar interested in the history of collecting
Latin American art must grapple. I would like to begin
the body of this talk anomalously, by taking a look at
what I will not address throughout this lecture, namely, the art of the Colonial era, and that of the 19th century, as the bulk of my remarks will pertain to the modern and contemporary eras. Colonial art collecting will be examined by several of our speakers as well as in my conversation with Roberta and Dick Huber. The collecting of 19th century art of Latin America is in
critical need of examination, as 19th century art from Latin America and the Caribbean has
long been underresearched. I show here two images
that may be understood as iconic works from both periods. The Cuzco School, Our Lady of Cocharcas Under a Baldachin, from
approximately 1765, and the Hacienda La Fortuna, by the Puerto Rican realist
impressionist painter Francisco Oller. I’ve specifically chosen these examples, as they are part of a highly
distinguished collection of Latin American art
from the 17th to the 19th century at the Brooklyn Museum, which also has in the past several decades organized significant shows featuring works of this type. As always, prominent
curators shape the direction of the collections. In the case of Brooklyn, the curator Herbert Spinden, who was at the museum from 1929 to 1950, followed the trend of many American museum directors and curators by turning his attention to the Americas during the late 1930s and
into the World War II years. Spinden’s 1941 to 2 exhibition entitled Colonial Art of Latin America, displayed the riches he had amassed for his institution from his travels to Mexico, Peru, and beyond. These paintings, sculptures and many forms of sumptuary arts that later remained mostly
off view for decades were reexamined in 1995 by Diana Fane, who served as curator of New World Art from 1979 until 2000. Her landmark show, entitled “Converging Cultures” reconfigured our comprehension of the rich material
that Brooklyn possessed examining it from a transatlantic and thoroughly cross-cultural perspective. Current European Collection curator, Richard Asti has added
to the distinguished nature of Brooklyn’s holdings with key purchases of
18th and 19th century Caribbean artists, such as Oller, as well as artists from Europe, who traveled to the Caribbean, like the Italo-British painter, Agostino Brunias. Asti’s 2013 collection-based show called Behind Closed
Doors: Art in the Spanish American House. currently touring to various U.S. venues, once again allowed us
to understand the work from Brooklyn’s collection, in the light of current
revisionist scholarship about the domestics’ fear and the impact of social mores and class distinctions on the creation of a wide
variety of forms of art and visual culture. Corporate collecting of Latin American Art in the U.S. was initiated
in the first half of the 20th century. David Rockefeller’s presidency of the Chase Manhattan bank served to enhance the Chase corporate art collection, which was begun in 1959, by supporting the
addition of many examples from Latin America, Not surprisingly, given the importance of the Rockefellers as collectors and promoters of the arts of the region. Now known as the J.P. Morgan Chase art collection, reflecting
corporate mergers, its more than 30,000 pieces include a large portion of works from all over the Americas. This and other corporate collections and their parent organizations also serve as sponsors for a wide variety of exhibitions and other forms of cultural manifestation. I will return to the subject in a moment and briefly examine the sometimes problematic nature of the relationships between corporate
interests and art museums. Art collecting by corporations is first and foremost about enhancement of the entity’s perception by the public. Amassing a distinguished
assembly of artworks from any part of the world and from any geographical area serves to burnish the image of the firm. In the best of cases it is done with care and thoughtfulness on
the part of the curators who are engaged by the corporation. Yet corporate collecting is also subject to the mutations of the market, as well as the taste of individual CEOs and presidents, and as we have often seen, corporate collections
are repeatedly disbanded when tastes change or
economic conditions decline. I would urge that this significant chapter in collection history
be taken into account, for the potent but sometimes
temporarily limited influence corporate collections have had in the public and private sphere. With almost 60,000 pieces, the collection of Deutsche Bank is the world’s largest corporate holding of art. A listing of all the artists represented may be found on the collection’s website, although the exact works
cannot be determined. There is sometimes a
certain lack of transparency regarding many corporations’
art collections on their respective electronic pages. The names of the artists
of Deutsche Bank’s collection are however revealing. German and American artists tend to dominate the roster, but there are many Latin
Americans there as well. Brazilian artists are
prominent on the list, Amilcar de Castro, Hercules Barsotti are included, many others as well, yet other well-known contemporary artists from elsewhere in Latin
America are also present. Francis Alys and Gabriel
Orozco from Mexico as well as Carlos Garaicoa from Cuba are among the many prominent names. The art is present in the bank’s offices throughout the world, serving to create an
image of the organization as an entity friendly
to artistic creativity. Entire exhibitions of
corporate collections have become more and more common in U.S. museums, as recent shows at the Guggenheim and the Bronx Museum
of Arts have attested, although there has not
been, to my knowledge, an exhibition of the
Latin American collection of one of these corporations
in recent years. The Swiss-based UBS bank has over 35,000 modern and contemporary works. As this collection pertains to the subject of this symposium, it
is significant to note that UBS has entered into a partnership with the Guggenheim Museum to promote the museum’s ongoing project of collecting and
displaying contemporary art from Latin America. Known as the Guggenheim UBS MAP or Map Global Art Initiative, MAP signifying Mix, Amplify, Propel, a properly corporate sounding slogan, this project relies on
curatorial residencies of two to three years. Curators at the early
stages of their careers are associated with the Guggenheim as curatorial ambassadors, traveling extensively in the regions of their expertise, locating promising artists,
buying their works, and displaying them at the New York venue of the museum. The first such curatorial resident was June Yap, who organized the 2013 exhibition, No Country: Contemporary Art from South and Southeast Asia, the contents of which have been added to the museum’s collection. The Guggenheim has a long
history of engagement with the art of Latin America. The Guggenheim has been collecting, and here you can see the logo for the Guggenheim, and here we have the newest Latin American curatorial representative from the Guggenheim, a museum that has been collecting modern masters from the
region since the ’50s. Former director Thomas Messer had particular interest in the Americas. During his tenure he initiated several important projects in the field of Latin American art, including the 1966 show,
The Emergent Decade, about which Delia Solomons will speak later on in this conference. While Messer was at the museum, major retrospectives of
Joaquin Torres-Garcia, Jesus Soto, and Rufino
Tamayo also took place. Messer later served as
head of the Visual Arts Advisory Committee of the Americas Society after retiring from the Guggenheim. In 2001, during the
administration of Tom Krens, the Guggenheim’s mega-exhibition, Brazil, Body and Soul attracted
large numbers of visitors, but was roundly criticized,
especially in Brazil, where it was seen to be an extension of the economic empire-building of its principal corporate
and private sponsors. That the show was organized concurrent with the Guggenheim’s plan for an unrealized branch in Rio de Janeiro further added to its
opportunistic character, according to some. As chief curator of that
exhibition, however, I can also offer a positive note to the history of that initiative, as it served as a catalyst
for significant purchases as well as produced a substantial, and I hope quite useful catalog. The Guggenheim’s latest
corporate related project involves Pablo Leon de la Barra, originally from Mexico, who is in his first year
as curatorial resident. His many activities are well-documented in the blog he writes, a part of the UBS MAP
initiatives activities. He’s also the curator of the exhibition of contemporary Latin American art, to be called Under the Sun: Art from Latin America Today, and you see a poster for it at the right. This show opens in June, and it will certainly represent
a significant next step in the Guggenheim’s ongoing acquisition of Latin American material. In this consideration of the role of corporate collecting within the history of Latin American art in the United States, allow me to take a
brief retrospective look at what was certainly the most important such collection in this country, that formed by the
International Business Machines corporation. I am grateful to two of my PhD students at the NYU Institute of Fine Arts, Rachel Kaplan and Susanna Timken, for discussing the IBM collection with me insofar as it intersects
with their own work. The origins of the IBM art collection go back to 1939 and the interest on the part of the company’s president, Thomas Watson, to create an exhibition for the New York World’s Fair that opened in April of that same year. In addition, IBM also sent another show that included substantial examples of Latin American art to the Golden Gate
Exhibition in San Francisco which also happened in 1939. In New York, the IBM pavilion at the fair housed one of a two-part show, one module of a two-part show. The art there shared the space with the collection of
nascent computer technology and we can see a photograph of this here. Part Two of the exhibition was held at the corporate headquarters of the IBM in Manhattan. IBM had commissioned
artists from 79 countries to paint one work each, that then entered the
corporation’s collection. It is important to remember that the motto of the 1939 World’s Fair,
brainchild of New York mogul of urban planning, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, was The World of Tomorrow. However, when reading the advertisement for the show, printed
here in a special issue of Art Digest in June 1939, the exhibition is described as quote, “a show of ethnic
importance” end of quote. The sound bites from such
prestigious art critics as Emily Genauer and Henry McBride stressed the backward-looking, exotic enticement the
paintings in the show provided. McBride of the New York Sun stated, and you can read this here, that quote “much of the interest of
the present collection “lies in its revelations
of romantic scenes “in faraway places,” end of quote, while Rosamund Frost of Art News affirmed that it was a
quote “enticing travelogue “a tourist’s glimpse of
the vast economic kingdom”. I underlined that word economic, that lies at the other end of a Normandy or China Clipper passage, two well known boats of the era. A great many of the works in the IBM show were from Latin America and the Caribbean. Studying the list of artists
and titles is instructive. Most of the painters’
names are now obscure, with some exceptions, like Yoryi Morel, from the Dominican Republic, Carlos Merida from Guatemala, or Julia Codesido from Peru. In virtually every case, however, the subjects of the work underscore stereotypical cliches about Latin America. An Indian Hut, the Coffee Picker, the Poet of the Countryside, are just some of the names of the paintings
shown, and which then entered into the IBM collection. The IBM collection went on to acquire many significant examples
of Latin American art. Two of its most famous pictures were Diego Rivera’s 1928 Dance in Tehuantepec and Tamayo’s 1944 Flutist. In 1983, the company opened the IBM Gallery of Signs and Art, a spacious, if somewhat claustrophobic
below-ground level space on the corner of Madison Avenue, between 56th and 57th streets. The gallery presented however, significant exhibitions, such as the groundbreaking show of Diego Rivera: The Cubist Years, originally organized for
the Phoenix Art Museum in 1984, as well as the 1990 exhibition, Mexican Painting 1950-1980, that complemented the many other showings of Mexican art during
a year that witnessed the Metropolitan’s Mexico,
Splendors of 30 Centuries. Ultimately, with the economic decline of the mid-90’s, IBM decided to divest
itself of the collection. It closed the gallery in 1993, and sold the art at Sotheby’s in 1995. To underscore the vagaries
of corporate collecting we should note that the collection of the Readers Digest corporation, which included equally valuable holdings of Latin American art as the IBM was also sold at auction at Sotheby’s, where it broke record prices in 1998. Seen here is a photograph of Ines Amor, owner of the Galleria de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City’s first
major commercial gallery, and site of the 1940
international exhibition of Surrealism. Amor formed a crucial link between U.S. collectors and
modern Mexican artists. She is the subject of
a soon-to-be-completed dissertation by Rachel Kaplan, in which she explains in detail the links between Amor and among others, Henry Clifford, curator
of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Amor was the driving
force behind the creation of the 1943 exhibition at the PMA, called Mexican Art Today, that later toured to
numerous North American and Canadian venues. The splendid collection
of Mexican modernist art in Philadelphia began at that same time, with the acquisition of
works by the likes of Federico Cantu, David Alfaro Siquieiros, Juan Soriano, and other artists who represented by Amor at her Mexico City gallery. She sold these either directly to the Philadelphia museum, or to local Philadelphia collectors who in turn donated them to the museum. Lesser known is Amor’s collaboration as adviser to the Brooklyn museum as well as the Dallas Museum of Art, and her work with New York galleries, such as Perl’s, Valentine and Knoedler. Amor also had a close relationship with the IBM collection, and helped them organize the exhibitions such as their World’s
Fair show and others. She worked closely with
IBM’s Mexico City office as well as corporate
headquarters in Manhattan. Among those bullet points
I enumerated for you at the beginning of this
talk as subjects to consider in studying the collecting
of Latin American art in the U.S., was that of the importance
of women curators and arts professionals. Ines Amor’s work links the theme of corporate collecting
and women promoters of Latin American art. Another individual in this chapter is Grace McCann Morley, a crucial figure in the formation of collections of art from the Americas on both the East and West coasts of the U.S. A close collaborator and adviser to Alfred Barr in his formation of the Museum of Modern Art’s Latin American collection, Morley is best known as the founder of what is today called the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, then known as the San
Francisco Museum of Art. Morley’s dedication to
the art of Latin America was thoroughgoing. She traveled widely to the Caribbean, and especially to the west coast of South America, spending considerable time in Peru. Morley organized a number of important exhibitions of Latin American painting for the San Francisco museum, and introduced significant modern masters to U.S. audiences, such
as the Peruvian painter Julia Codesido. She was instrumental in buying many pieces for the museum’s collection that today is notable for the diversity of its Latin American holdings. Berit Potter, an advanced PhD student at the Institute of Fine Arts is examining the work of Morley and her widespread links to art circles throughout South America. Her dissertation will illuminate many of these aspects of Morley’s long and complex career. Any discussion of women promoters of Latin American art must include an acknowledgement of the accomplishments of Anne d’Harnoncourt, friend and colleague to many of us, who served as director of
the Philadelphia museum from 1982 until her very
untimely death in 2008. She was the daughter of course, of Austrian-born Rene d’Harnoncourt, who arrived in Mexico
City from Paris in 1926. The following year he began working with Frederick W. Davis, well-known dealer and collector of Mexican Arts. D’Harnoncourt began his own collecting and curating career then, organizing in 1930, or helping to organize the first important show of Mexican art for the Metropolitan Museum. He came to New York in 1933 and served as director of the Museum of Modern Art from ’49 to 1967. Anne, for her part, was
a highly distinguished art historian, curator, and director working in many areas, although her principal interest was in 20th century
European and American art. Nonetheless, her interest
in Latin America, and especially in Mexican art led her to continue
adding to the collection of this material. During the later years of her tenure at the museum, she presided over such
important exhibitions, and we’ll hear about
them tomorrow from Joe, as the 2006 Arts of Latin America: 1492-1820, and the 2007 Frida Kahlo exhibition. I have a personal debt
of gratitude to Anne for encouraging me to organize the exhibition of the work of Juan Soriano at the PMA in 2007. In the 1940s the museum had acquired four major paintings of Soriano, an artist closely
associated with surrealism in his younger years. This was yet another manifestation of Anne’s continuing devotion to Mexico which was attested to when she was granted the Order of the Aztec Eagle, or the Aguila Azteca, by
the president of Mexico, the highest honor awarded by the nation for achievements in the realm of culture. The combination of corporate collecting and dynamic women promoters of Latin American art coalesced in the personality of Reba Williams, who, with her husband Dave, shown here, amassed a collection of over 5,000 fine art prints beginning in 1975. For many years the
collection was displayed on the seven floors of
the New York headquarters of Alliance Capital
Management Corporation, of which Dave Williams
was CEO and President. Reba Williams had completed a PhD degree at the City University of New York, the Graduate Center,
with a dissertation on the Weyhe Gallery in Manhattan, which in the 1920s and ’30s, printed and sold work by some of the most distinguished graphic artists of the day, both from
the U.S. and from Mexico. In many cases, the Williams’ prints were either unique or rare examples. Among its point of pride was Kahlo’s Frida and the
Abortion, done in 1932, in an edition of only six. This and many of the
choicest Mexican prints were included in the
spring 1988 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Ultimately however, the
collection was disbanded. The North American prints
mainly representing the WP era, the WPA era, rather, were divided between the
National Gallery in Washington and the Metropolitan Museum, while the Mexican prints were sold at a Sotheby’s auction
in November of 2001. One of the most problematic issues regarding corporate
collecting and sponsorship may be embodied by the relationship between Phillip Morris Tobacco company, its Milwaukee subsidiary,
the Miller Brewing Company, and the Milwaukee Art
Museum, which in 1995 organized the exhibition, Latin American Women
Artists, 1915 to 1995. As historian Mark Rectanus,
author of the insightful study, Culture Incorporated, Museums, Artists, and Corporate Sponsorships stated, quote “Phillip Morris’ involvement
illustrates the degree “to which corporations
have become participants “in the construction and promotion “of identity politics
and multi-culturalism,” end of quote. By the early 1990s, Phillip Morris, which had its own substantial corporate art collection that featured both Latin American and Latino artists, was perhaps the most active supporter of exhibitions and other
cultural activities, such as concerts and dance performances in the United States. Nonetheless, by 1995, the
closeness of the firm’s CEOs and the directions of the art they promoted were widely questioned. The Milwaukee Museum was obliged to form a strategy with its security office in advance of the expected protests from a large sector of the public against Latin American Women show. Such protests did not occur, however, and the exhibition continued on to a five venue tour. Yet by the late 1990s, in the wake of much controversy over the involvement of corporations in art ventures, and particularly corporations involved in what many saw as the manufacture of harmful commodities like cigarettes virtually ceased its activities in the cultural sphere. It changed its name to the Altria Group, closed its art gallery on 7th Avenue and 57th Street, and sold a good part of
its substantial collection. Phillip Morris’ American and Latino works were donated to the Whitney and El Museo del Barrio respectively. Although in my conversation tomorrow with Mrs. Cisneros, we
will certainly touch on exhibitions of her collections, such as the splendid showing in Austin and New York of The Geometry of Hope, I would like to use these two images, the catalog cover and a
poster announcing events surrounding the exhibition
at the Grey Art Gallery here in Manhattan to make the penultimate of my four points for consideration in the study of collecting of Latin American Art in the U.S. This category has to do on one hand with large, private collections of which the public has become conscious through catalogs and exhibitions, and which have also served to stimulate both collecting and an overall taste for certain types of
art from the Americas. I would like to contrast what I might term this “public form of private collecting” with the many, less well-known, smaller assemblages of Latin American art amassed for the gratification
of the collectors who have an equally
specific and well-considered collecting strategy. The Cisneros collection
of geometric abstract art from mid-century South America is undeniably one of the most important and impressive in the world. Since its first showing in the U.S. at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard in 2001, portions of the collection have been seen in various parts of the country, as well as in South America, and most recently in Europe, in Madrid, and very soon at the
Royal Academy in London. The Cisneros distinctions in collecting, as well as its many educational and admirable publication endeavors have undoubtedly had a considerable impact on the taste for Latin American art in the U.S and elsewhere,
as well as scholarship. In my own experience,
after the early 2000s and the publication of the collection in various exhibition catalogs, students doing M.A. and PhD work in the field of Latin American art began turning their
attention much more markedly than before to geometric, kinetic and ultimately minimalist and conceptual art. This is not to say that
a single collection was responsible for this shift in research priorities. Other collectors and curators, especially Mari Carmen Ramirez who will speak later, had played a decisive
role in this expansion since the 1990s. Nonetheless, the Cisneros collection was definitely shown and promoted in the right place at the right time and affected other collectors’ interests as well as helping to stimulate new areas of research. An area of note and example of a notable private collection of Latin American art in the U.S. that has not had the far-reaching consequence of that of the Cisneros Foundation and a few other well-publicized and well-published collections, like those of Diane and
Bruce Halle in Phoenix, Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, or
Rose and Carlos de la Cruz, both in Miami is that of Pearl and Stanley Goodman, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This collection was started in the 1980s when the Goodmans, she a retired educator, and he, a retired surgeon, began traveling to Latin America. The collection, and I could have chosen any number of small private collections, but I think this is a
very coherent example, this collection has several criteria. First, the works must fit in their fairly modest-sized house. Second, the art must be figurative, and have a narrative
or, more specifically, a political content. There has been only one public showing of their art at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art four years ago. Their collection includes works by artists such as Matta, whose 1955
Prophet is seen here, Antonio Berni,
Torres-Garcia, Wilfredo Lam, Jose Clemente Orozco and many others. The collector’s principal interest is the work itself and
their own enjoyment of it. This cohesive and
intelligently formed collection like many others, stands as a model of modest scale, sensitive and methodical research on the part of two individuals concerned to create a gathering of works with a clear point of view. Art galleries and auction houses are the traditional venues
for the purchase of art. In terms of art from Latin America, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips all have their biannual
Latin American sales, and the number of reputable galleries specializing in this field in cities like New York, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and elsewhere is increasing. Nonetheless, a more recent phenomenon lies in the growing
importance of the art fair as a source for collectors. The two major art fairs that give pride of place to art from Latin America are Art Basel from Miami,
functioning since 2001 and Pinta, which began in New York in 2007 and in London in 2010. Although Art Basel is not dedicated exclusively to Latin American
art, as is the case with Pinta, as is the case with Pinta the fact that it is located in Miami, a city in which interests in the arts from the region is intense, many of the dealers bring
out their choice works of modern and contemporary art from the Americas. In many ways these fairs
reflect quick-changing trends of tastes. I remember distinctly
that the first Pinta, held at the Metropolitan Pavilion on West 18th Street was dominated by geometric abstract monochrome work. It was not a coincidence that the Geometry of Hope show of the Cisneros collection had garnered critical acclaim in Austin
several months before. The same exhibition had a much-heralded opening at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery in September, just two months prior
to the birth of Pinta. A glowing front-page review in the New York Times by Roberta Smith, who called it thrilling on September 14th of that year certainly gave added
impetus to collectors, curators, and critics to look very closely at the contents of that show expertly curated by Gabriel Perez-Barreiro currently director of
the Cisnoeros Foundation. As I stated at the beginning of this talk, I wish to look at the
issues discussed here with a degree of critical analysis, as opposed to a simple enumeration of facts or events. It is very important for those of us interested in collecting to analyze how today’s market fairs like these and many others in certain ways serve to create an
alternative form of display to that in galleries, museums, or even artists’ studios. The increasingly more affluent visitors to the fairs often vie with one another to purchase the latest or the hottest works on offer as quickly as they can possibly obtain them sometimes for strictly
commercial purposes, to resell them in short order. As interesting as they are to visit, we should look at the phenomenon of the art fair with a critical eye in order to analyze how their forms of commercialism which are inextricably linked to the buzz surrounding them, including articles in the
art press and art blogs the cocktail parties, the VIP previews, and other such ancillary
media and social events inevitably create tensions among potential buyers, which sometimes result in impulse buying. The market for and desirability of modern and contemporary
Latin American art is undoubtedly increasing for reasons that I enunciated at the start of this presentation, and thus it is all the more urgent for us to analyze these marketing and collecting strategies within the panorama of the growing importance and ubiquity of art fairs. I come now to the final of my four points to consider in a study of collecting of Latin American art. Although I have attempted to tie the previous three points together by demonstrating affinities between, say, corporate collecting, curatorship, commercial and economic interests, the fourth of my areas might be considered as something of an outlier. Nonetheless, as I will hope to suggest in my final remarks in a moment, the following appeal for the broadening of our definitions of Latin American art or art from the Americas as well as an extension of our categories of collection history connect directly with what
had been a common interest among collectors of art from the Americas in the past. I show you two photographs taken by the art historian, museum director, author and sometime dealer Selden Rodman, in the mid-1940s in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. These and dozens more
photographs by Rodman and others document the foundation of the Centre d’Art in the Haitian captiol by DeWitt Peters, who is
seen here at the left, an American artist who went to Haiti as a conscientious objector
during World War II and taught both English and Art to promising young students. Peters however by no means discovered Haitian art as some have suggested. Since the 19th century and the end of the Haitian revolution in 1804, there had been many official
and unofficial schools in Port-au-Prince, Cap Haitien, and other cities and towns where teachers, both
native-born and foreign imparted lessons based mainly on European-inspired forms of art, from Neoclassicism to Impressionism. The Haitian art scene
of the mid-20th century was lively and varied. The Cente d’Art which was mostly destroyed during the devastating earthquake of January 2010 served as a gathering place and museum for art and artists of all tendencies. However, shortly after
its founding in 1944 the work of artists like Hector Hyppolite, seen at the slide at the right with DeWitt Peters in the background, Seneque and Philome Obin, Wilson Bigaud, and many others who constituted the first generation of the so-called Haitian Intuitives, caught the attention
of Haitian and foreign collectors. Haiti, like Cuba, had become a popular tourist destination starting in the 1920s. From the years of World War II, until the darkest days
of the Duvalier regime in the case of Haiti, and in that of Cuba, the beginning of the revolution in 1959, artists, curators and collectors flocked to both countries. In December 1944, Rene d’Harnoncourt then MOMA’s Vice President
for Foreign Affairs traveled to Haiti as part of a three-month Latin American tour. Alfred Barr became
interested in Haitian art as he had early become fascinated by American folk art in the early 1930s, and I think there’s a very definite link between those points of interest on the part of Barr. And the Latin American fund of the Museum of Modern Art was used to purchase works by Bigaud, Hyppolite, and many other Haitians paintings that have,
with very few exceptions, remained in deep storage virtually since their purchase. These are representative images by Bigaud and Hyppolite, demonstrating their
characteristic attention to minute detail and strong color, as well as subject matter,
derived from Voodou, one of the number of syncretistic Afro-Caribbean and
Afro-Brazilian religions that have had a strong impact on the imagination of artists throughout the Caribbean and beyond. The 1950s and the 1960s
marked a high point for acquisitions by U.S. collectors and museum curators, and the beginning of
significant collections of Haitian art across the United States. In some notable instances, private collections made their way into museums. Two outstanding of many such examples are in the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Figge Art Museum
in Davenport, Iowa. In the case of Davenport,
which also houses an exceptional collection
of Mexican Colonial painting a local medical doctor,
Walter E. Neiswanger started buying Haitian art in the 1950s, during his many trips to Port-au-Prince. He donated his collection to what was previously called the
Davenport Art Museum, and it is grown to over 150 examples since the 1980s. In Milwaukee, Richard B. Flagg, a president of the Flagg Tanning Company, became interested in the subject somewhat later, first going to Haiti in 1973, and starting what has
become an outstanding collection at the museum in his hometown. In the mid-20th century, Haitian art was regularly shown in exhibitions as part
of the larger panorama of Latin American art. The 1959 Art Institute
of Chicago exhibition The United States
Collects Pan American Art, the catalog cover of which is seen here, included a number of Haitian works side by side with those of artists from other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. On these pages of the same catalog, we observe a painting by Hyppolite depicting Saint James, who represents the Voodou spirit, loa, or god of warfare, called Ogou. Next to it is a work by Jasmin Joseph, entitled The Shepherdesses. On the opposite page there is a crucifix by Georges Liautaud,
the outstanding sculptor of the so-called Haitian Renaissance, juxtaposed with a semi-geometric and semi-gestural abstraction by Venezuelan artist
Humberto Jaimes Sanches. The April 1967 MOMA show
of Latin American art entitled Latin American Art, 1931-1966, an installation shot
of which you see here, very kindly provided to me by my student, Delia Solomons, who will talk later, included Wilson Bigaud’s
1950 Murder in the Jungle, and Philome Obin’s
Inspection of the Streets of 1948. These Haitian paintings are exhibited in the company of works
by other modern masters, such as Amelia Pelaez, Candido Portinari, Carlos Merida, Cundo
Bermudez, and Frida Kahlo. As I stated earlier, most of
the museum’s Haitian works have not seen the light of day for a very long time. Nonetheless, if I’m not exactly preaching here to the converted, I know at least that
there are several curators in this symposium who
will present their views, although, not talking about Haitian art, who are sympathetic to my call for including Haiti into
the wider definition of art from the region
under consideration here. Luis Perez-Oramas who most recently curated the museum’s Lygia Clark show beautiful exhibition and reviewed in today’s Times, is a kindred spirit on this. On May 17th, 2008, the exhibition that Luis organized along
with Geaninne Guimaraes entitled Latin American and Caribbean Art, Selected Highlights from
the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art opened at the New York
State Museum in Albany. Happily it included work by both Obin and Hyppolite, in conversation with pieces by their contemporaries
and more recent artists as varied as Helio Oiticica
and Felix Gonzales-Torres. In addition Mari Carmen
Ramirez is actively encouraging purchases of Caribbean art by her many supporters at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. I would strongly argue for a hemispheric and more inclusive definition of the art of the Americas, one in which works by Haitians as well as Puerto Rican
or Dominican artists will be accorded equal
importance and attention within U.S. collections
of Latin American art, as their continental counterparts. In conclusion, I would call for attention to the areas that I have enumerated here within a larger framework
of collecting history of the art of the Americas. The present symposium
represents a major step in foregrounding this chapter
in the overall panorama of development of Latin American art that continues to unfold at an ever more rapid pace. Thank you very much. (applause)

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