Love and beauty are two rarely uttered expressions these days, presumably for fear of saying something wrong or even appearing a fool. And yet, they are significant drivers for all of us; without them, our life would seem worth less to us.
Both are absolute – and ultimately undefinable – terms that have all but lost their meaning in our thoroughly functionalized, efficiency-oriented everyday lives. And yet, they are the touchstones that we perpetually strive for, both in our private and professional lives.
I have pondered the question of beauty in art for my whole life. Fully acknowledging the outdatedness of the very term, I did not resist temptation to ask the artists I was in touch with about their opinion on beauty in art. Here are some of the answers that seem relevant to me:
→ “About beauty – Part I”
«To make art, for me, is to organize my thoughts in an aesthetic way, to transmit ideas, to re-signify. It’s the perfect substitute for crime, because it allows me to aestheticize the transgression that is part of my very nature.» (Jhafis Quintero)
→ “Jhafis Quintero (Born in 1973 in La Chorrera, Panamá, lives and works in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland)”
«My aim is to understand human beings more and more, their basic instincts, their way of surviving and prospering, their relations with others, of loving and declaring, lying, hiding or exposing and being truthful with one’s self. The principal opponent is one’s self, you are who you should constantly overcome and get out of your comfort zone.» (Javier Castro)
→ “Javier Castro (Born in 1984 in Havanna, Cuba, lives and works in New York, USA)”
«How can social, political, economic, and ecological processes be convincingly transferred to autonomous and valid pictorial forms?» Adán Vallecillo’s artistic pursuit could be aptly worded in this or a similar manner, since the artist has been highly successful in conveying our contemporary civilizational environment into the most diverse aesthetic forms.
→ “Adán Vallecillo (Born in 1977 in Danli, El Paraíso, Honduras, lives and works in Tegucigalpa, Honduras)”
Asunción, November 9, 2018
→ “Interview with Ticio Escobar”
Rio de Janeiro, September 3, 2018
→ “Interview with Luiz Camillo Osorio”
«Ambivalence entered my work because humor, and irony especially, are so important to me. I am interested in the ambivalence of daily life. The unambiguous doesn’t attract me because there is no room for interpretation.»
→ “Tonel (Antonio Eligio Fernández) (Born in 1958 in Havana, Cuba, lives and works in Vancouver, Canada, and in Havanna)”
Doris Salcedo is one of the very few artists capable of expressing in art the horrors that political violence inflicts on humanity. And she has done so consistently over the past decades, unremittingly and entirely free of sentimental kitsch. Her indictment is full of deep mourning but without ever lapsing into pathos, and she impressively infuses the silence caused by human absence with an unexpected eloquence. In comparison to reality, she once referred to her work as a «Song of Impotence»: That, to be sure, is a stark understatement.
→ “Doris Salcedo (Born in 1958 in Bogotá, Colombia, lives and works in Bogotá)”
Madrid, 30 June 2017
→ “Interview with Gerardo Mosquera”
Madrid, 22 February 2017
→ “Interview with Santiago Olmo “
«Art is everything, it is the skin of culture. Every human action, all the markers of an age, including tastes and violence, are the driving forces in art.» (Miguel Ángel Rojas)
→ “Miguel Ángel Rojas (Born in 1946 in Bogotá, Colombia, lives and works in Bogotá)”
Betsabeé Romero is one of the rare artists to truly deserve the designation «culture creator». For many years now, she has been producing art of distinctly Mexican origin that at the same time entirely effortlessly conquers the international stage. Her art draws from the roots of the flourishing tradition of her country’s arte popular, which is so much more imaginative and alive than the bloodless academic repetition that has completely worn itself out over many generations in Mexico.
→ “Betsabeé Romero (Born 1963 in Mexico City, lives and works in CDMX)”
Fernando Arias (born in 1963 in Armenia, Colombia, lives and works in Colombia)
The many different themes that Fernando Arias turned to over his artistic lifetime read like a roster of today’s most topical hashtags: gender, race, class, religion, LGBTQ+, nature, environment, minorities, equality, society, politics—with the only difference being that Fernando Arias dealt with all these issues long before they were en vogue.
→ “Fernando Arias and José Alejandro Restrepo “
Is art play? Is life itself play? Like few other artists, Miguel Angel Ríos has «played» with himself, his life, and his art—and he took many risks in doing so, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. But he always managed to retain his personal integrity and his artistic independence. What could be more valuable than that?
→ “Miguel Angel Ríos (Born 1943 in Catamarca, Argentina, lives and works in CDMX, Mexico)”
Panama City, 16 November 2016
→ “Interview with Adrienne Samos”
Madrid, 25 October 2016
→ “Interview with Luis Camnitzer”
«I relate very much to visual expression. A movie, a projection, a photograph or a painting has to have some strength of visual impact. Art has become very descriptive. It’s not anymore about ideas, it’s about thematics; it may be about sociology, it may be about anthropology, it may be about politics, but it’s not about visual arts anymore.» (Conversation between Miguel Rio Branco and Hans-Michael Herzog, March 2002, Rio de Janeiro, in: La Mirada, Daros Exhibitions, Zurich 2002, p. 96)
→ “Miguel Rio Branco (born in 1946 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, lives and works in Rio de Janeiro)”
«I think that beauty is that moment of contradiction that an image can have, of absolute seduction and absolute repulsion. … Beauty as something that has a lot of meaning, but which loses it and opens up a space to you. That is exactly what I try to do in my work: not to say something or to create a specific allegory or discourse, but to create the possibility for a viewer to be able to associate his or her own idea within a composition of images.» (Carlos Amorales in conversation with Hans-Michael Herzog, Zurich, March 29, 2007, in the exhibition catalogue «Carlos Amorales: Dark Mirror»)
→ “Carlos Amorales (born in Mexico City 1970, lives and works in CDMX)”
« Wit lies in recognizing the resemblance among things which differ and the difference between things which are alike.» (Madame de Staël, Aphorisms)
→ “Thoughts on art criticism and market development”
«I don’t think it is terribly difficult to read my work—at least, that is how I would like it to be. … Of great importance to me is not trying to express a thought, but generating it instead: to create a gap between my proposal and the reader’s perception or reenactment.» (In: «For You», Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich, 2005, p. 30)
→ “Liliana Porter (born 1941 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, lives and works in Rhinebeck, New York, USA)”
My trips to the Dominican Republic are peculiarly unforgettable to me. Both gaily anarchist and extremely professional at the same time was the impression I had of the exponents of the autochthonous art scene whom I met over the years. The Dominicanos struck me as oscillating between the extremes of conservative bourgeoisie and eccentric non-conformity. I have always asked myself, which of the Greater Antilles islanders are actually the craziest: the Cubans, the Dominicans, or the Puertoriqueños? I still owe myself the answer…
→ “Raquel Paiewonsky and Quintapata: Mutants and ADN made in the Dominican Republic”
I recommend a wonderful interpretation of Bizet`s “Carmen”, by the Argentinian artists Lolo and Lauti:
“This film by Lolo and Lauti (and Rodri) is a metaphor in constant transfiguration. It unveils and it conceals. It is protean, provocative, eccentric, and uproarious. Restlessly moving, it fractures, darkens, flickers, expands, compresses, and multiplies. The shots, sequences, and special effects, like the artists on stage, subvert every univocal identity. It celebrates an art that delights in creating and bursting illusions; in putting on the mask and taking it off.” (Adrienne Samos)
Basel, 15 June 2016
As the founder and director of ArtNexus magazine, I imagine that you almost function like a thermometer: for a long time, you have observed and examined Latin American art-related issues, and its ups and downs. You are in the midst of everything, instantly and consciously taking its pulse. What is your opinion of the last twenty years? Where do you see the changes and, specifically, what has changed?
→ “Interview with Celia Sredni de Birbragher”
I believe that Mexico has the richest production of popular art in all of Latin America. In my opinion, it surpasses its contemporary art. In your work, there is a deep Mexican element. When you assess your production, how do you think it differs from popular art?
→ “Interview with Betsabeé Romero, Zurich, 19 June 2016, Second Part”
«The poetic value of a work can potentially transform the viewer to a certain extent.» (Oscar Muñoz, 2004)
The power and ephemerality of memory are the focus of Oscar Muñoz’s work. He artistically expresses the fact that memory – and time, which is tied up with it – is relative, can never be grasped entirely, remains constantly in flux, and ultimately escapes us, no matter what efforts we might make.
→ “Oscar Muñoz (born 1951 in Popayán, Colombia, lives and works in Cali, Colombia)”
Both artists live and work in Rio de Janeiro, and both have made very important contributions to the art world. Ernesto Neto’s «Leviathan Thot» at the Panthéon in Paris (2006) and Vik Muniz’s «WWW (World Map)» (2008) are two outstanding contemporary masterpieces which I want to discuss.
→ “Ernesto Neto and Vik Muniz”
«Paintant Stories» from 2000 is Fabian Marcaccio’s magnum opus—a matchless multimedia gesamtkunstwerk, a «mural» in the best sense of the word, with a steady height of a good four meters and a length of over 100 meters sprawling through the exhibition spaces and also trailing beyond, if need be outdoors, too. «Paintant Stories» is a contemporary history painting, a universal panorama of the world, a pictorial hybrid description of our time, with all its utterly mind-boggling complexity, all its ultimate incomprehensibility.
→ “Fabian Marcaccio (born 1963 in Rosario, Argentina, lives and works in New York)”
Marta Minujin (born 1941 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, lives and works in Buenos Aires)
Marta Minujin is a super star, a true celebrity in Buenos Aires, and if at all comparable, then to Andy Warhol in New York at his best times, whom she has of course already worked together with.
→ “Marta Minujin and Priscilla Monge”
HH: I drew up a list of institutions and collections that all started around the year 2000. Besides the Daros Latinamerica Collection, there is the Mexican Jumex Collection, Mari Carmen Ramirez with her great Latin American projects in Houston, the Halle collection in Phoenix, the Inhotim art project in Minas Gerais, Brazil, as well as MALBA in Buenos Aires plus the increasing activities of MoMA, Tate Modern, and the Centre Pompidou in the Latin American field. What do you think of this landscape? Is it still developing positively or is it already on the decline?
→ “Interview with Alfons Hug, Berlin, 13 June 2016”
HH: The period spanning the first two decades of this century has been crucial for Latin American art, don’t you think?
TS: Latin America has grown, yes. Before, there was nothing. Or rather, no one knew about it. Art was totally divided by countries. Very enclosed behind borders. What was made in Mexico stayed in Mexico, what was made in Colombia stayed in Colombia…
Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil, despite being very nationalistic, created a conceptual basis for art. The others have encountered more stumbling blocks in this process. Venezuela was very important and was destroyed. Cuba was completely destroyed: many artists left the island and a political art was enforced, just like in the Soviet Union. Criticism was crushed because it had to submit to the political agenda.
I think we have grown. We are not perfect yet. We could do better. But more interest has been building.
And what about Mexico and its strong relationship with the United States?
A 3000-kilometer-long border separates us from the United States. It is impossible to deny this relationship. There is always a lot of conflict. They look at us like they look at the rest of Latin America. We are starting to become interesting to them, but only because of the tragic aspects. They are not interested in the rest. We are just Latinos to them. As for the art, it has excelled in Houston thanks to Mari Carmen Ramírez, whose work has contributed decisively to veer the attention towards practices in Latin America.
What Mari Carmen has done is admirable: a huge challenge for a Latin American woman, especially in Texas. How do you see Miami, New York, and Los Angeles from a Mexican perspective?
In California alone there are eight million Mexicans. Eight million! We should be more important, but we are not. These are poorly educated peasants who have learned a very basic English in order to survive. The intellectuals who are supposed to make our art stand out have not yet emerged.
With its Basel Art Fair, Miami is looking more towards Europe. Florida is almost a country; a Latin American extension. But it stays local. Miami’s art is local. In Basel Miami, the buyers and exhibition spaces are European. It doesn’t have much of an impact on Latin America despite the new Pérez Museum. What a horrible thing to have given millions in exchange for the name!
It’s very difficult to work in the United States. I lived in New York for thirty years and I never saw anyone paying much attention to us, with a few exceptions. For example, Benjamin Buchloh met and befriended [Gabriel] Orozco at the Whitney Program, and gave him a lot of advice. Orozco learned very well how to navigate the North American market. His early works were extraordinary. I really liked them. They were talking about Mexico. Now his art is very international. It has no more to do with his identity. I am not a nationalist; I think rather universally, but I cannot deny that I am Mexican and that I care about my country. When I speak, I speak from my country, even though the problems I’m talking about are understandable anywhere in the world. Orozco is a very intelligent artist. Brilliant, I’d say. But I no longer see his Mexicanism.
He started with a gallery in New York that—along with some European centers—helped him conquer the market. What I mean is that his success didn’t come from Latin America at all.
You know about the academic situation in the United States, right? Nowadays, courses and programs focused on Latin American studies have multiplied. Entire university departments revolve around Latin American art. However, all of this often stays there, and the same old ideas are always being recycled.
At least there is more presence now. What do you think?
There are small groups of artists and academics that are being established because some curators decided to do something new.
They are very politically correct and their intentions are good. But in the end, they don’t work well.
Because no true knowledge is being produced and no collections of Latin American art are being created, except for small showcases.
And they don’t travel enough.
I studied in Canada and my roommate thought that in Mexico we went to school with feathers and riding a donkey. She told me that she knew Mexico because she had been to the border. “Which border?”, I asked her, and she answered: Vancouver. She had no idea where Mexico is. Some don’t even have a passport, you know? No matter how much you read, you cannot get to know another culture if you don’t travel.
That problem is getting worse and worse. Because of my work with the Daros Latinamerica Collection, I was fortunate to be able to travel as long as I wanted and wherever I wanted. That was and is impossible for my European colleagues. They don’t have the money or the time, and so they always repeat the same misperceptions, they always fall into the same trap. Brazil is the best example. Brazilians treat you wonderfully, like royalty, until you realize that it doesn’t mean much.
Due to the digitization of everything and the lack of time, many people no longer seek to learn in situ. They take everything that is secondary as truths. The same happens with secondary literature: you read a book about the book that you will never read. Even the synopsis on Wikipedia is good enough. The same goes for works of art. Many young scholars, curators, and even artists no longer want to see the works in person or to take the time to really observe them. Instead, they just want to check whether what they read more or less conforms to the pseudo-theories they have in their heads. They make their academic checklist: if several criteria match with what they see, they draw their conclusions, thinking that the more a work matches their list, the better it must be. Exactly the same happened to me in New York gay clubs in the eighties: “What are you into?” they always asked, checking my answers with their sexual-preferences checklist. With ten things on their list, three or four matches weren’t enough. This globalized utilitarian primitivism that abounds today bothers me a lot.
You are very cosmopolitan, Teresa. Do you feel more Mexican, gringa or European?
I am very Mexican. Once a gallery owner in New York asked me to show her my work. She liked it very much and suggested that I exhibit with her. She then asked me where I was from and when I told her she said: “Ah, that’s a problem. We don’t work with Latin Americans.” No one had ever discriminated against me like this! I felt brutally humiliated. At the same time, I also feel quite international. But Mexican culture is in my blood. That doesn’t mean that I am asking for mescal in other countries or that I eat mole every day. I don’t think that way.
Remember what Bolívar said shortly before he died: “America is ungovernable… This land will infallibly fall into the hands of unbridled masses and later controlled by petty tyrants almost too puny to notice.”
I think in the end he was telling the truth. He was deeply disappointed. Perhaps his early illusions were too great. Latin American art and culture suffers from the syndrome of caudillismo [strongman politics]. I see it in Mexico, in Cuba, in Chile… Men and women. And it carries on and on. When we begin to free ourselves, we return again to the same thing. What is happening in Latin America is a sad regression. The Spaniards were bastards, but they also left us wonderful things, like our language. Spanish America could be much more important than it is. We don’t have that many religious problems. We have a common language. Why can’t we achieve something together? We have mines, gold, silver, food, oceans, everything. Yet we cannot understand each other. This individualism is atrocious and our nationalism is a horrendous misunderstanding.
My idea with Daros Latinamerica was to unite in one way or another the different sides of that great continent. It still doesn’t seem like a wrong concept to me. Nor does it seem naive to believe that it makes or made sense. What do you think?
The idea was wonderful. You assembled a collection with works from each country, at the same time creating a continent through that collection, and that is a very good thing. I don’t think anyone else has had that vision and that ability. If you had kept the collection in Switzerland, it would have been better. Brazil is too nationalistic. And it displays the overprotection of a very closed culture. The collection would have been more powerful in Switzerland. The concept of uniting Latin America in Latin America is impossible because we cannot understand each other.
Staying in Switzerland would have been very imperialistic.
No. To have been able to see what you assembled in Switzerland would enable us to realize what our continent really is because the artists talk about the same problems. We could experience Latin America’s unification through the artists’ thoughts. If you had chosen Colombia or any other Latin American country, it would have been the same as what happened in Brazil, you see what I mean? The nationalism that prevails in each of our countries is too strong. So stupid. We are still children.
Your idea of getting a Mexican or a Colombian and a Brazilian together so they can establish a conversation is beautiful! That is true communication. It’s the same idea that Bolívar had: everyone gets together and talks to one another. To me, this way of doing things is remarkable.
True imperialism is the kind of art that Europeans always tend to favor and impose. In Mexico, those who count the most are artists like Orozco, and in Brazil, artists like Cildo Meireles. I believe that the most celebrated Brazilian art has been of a European nature. I’m going to say an aberration, but for me, Tunga is one of the few real Brazilians: the only great artist who talks about coal mines, about Brazilian Indians, the only one who tosses his head out to the sea… His work speaks of Brazil.
Tunga said a great thing to me once. It has stuck with me forever: “Here in Brazil, before educating the poor we must educate the rich.”
Same as in Mexico. Ignorance rules. People are very ignorant even if they have a lot of money.
Is there still an inferiority complex in Latin America? I thought, and hoped, that this would end.
It will take many centuries for that to happen.
And always blaming others. It’s a huge projection.
Sure is. We hold an enormous grudge. A rage. We are a different race: neither Spanish nor indigenous. A mixed race. Why do we still hold that resentment? Enough!
Almost all the lousy things produced in this continent are homegrown; they don’t come from outside. These words are being said by a German who works for a Swiss company. They are going to kill me!
Prickly situation! You can’t address these matters. I don’t know why people get so offended.
Moralistic sermons annoy me.
With good reason.
When do you think a work of art is good?
When it’s authentic. When it has quality and is well done. When it speaks with a heart. Banality abounds.
Several years ago, I asked a friendly waitress in Havana whether the fruit salad on the menu was natural, in the sense of fresh as opposed to canned. She answered: «No es natural, es tropical.» She was not aware that she had made a deeply philosophical statement.
→ “Mentalities, stereotypes, and projections”
What in the world of art could be better and more refreshing than an artist who says of himself that he wants to provoke and present new aspects, and who has set himself the goal «to break through and expand horizons»?
→ “Leandro Erlich (born 1973 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, lives and works between Europe, Montevideo and Buenos Aires)”
“My work aspires to a condition of density, great simplicity, directness, openness of language, and interaction.” (1999, in conversation with Gerardo Mosquera)
→ “Cildo Meireles (born 1948 in Rio de Janeiro, lives and works in Rio de Janeiro)”
Today I will introduce two outstanding women from the Mexican contemporary art scene: Teresa Margolles and Teresa Serrano. Both their art is highly expressive; both of them are exuberant bundles of energy in the «real world». And they certainly need this energy, as they are continuously engaged in countering the most blatant wrongs, much like two artists-cum-advocates. In very different ways, and each in her own right, they have become narrators of the violence which unfortunately not only prevails the gang and drug scenes in Mexico, but which does not spare civilians, in particular women, either.
→ “Teresa Margolles & Teresa Serrano”
When I took up my work with Daros Latinamerica Collection and started to travel all of Latin America on a thorough and permanent basis, I soon noticed that the assumption frequently formulated in Latin America of being disadvantaged as «periphery» in relation to the «centers» of the world did not hold in these absolute terms. I had already realized earlier that the so-called centers had become tired and sluggish and tended toward self-reflection at all levels. By contrast, I perceived the so-called peripheries to be on principle more active, more creative, and more innovative. After all, the alleged peripheries are often far better informed about ongoings in the so-called centers in order to compensate for their alleged shortcomings, while the «centers» themselves are prone to smugness and arrogance in their belief of being the hub of the world, no matter what.
→ “«Time capsules»: On the difficulty of procuring information in the «information age»”
“If one word doesn’t work, you try another. The image is something else. Especially when it comes to portraits. There’s no room for meandering, nor can you place adjectives on them. The secret is to be alert when an encounter occurs. You must pay attention to the intensity of the gaze, the gestures, the position of the hands. At this stage of the game, I believe that there’s no need to take two hundred pictures to say what needs to be said. A few well-made portraits that speak about two or three basic, central feelings are enough.” (Pact of Silence, 2006)
→ “Marcos López (born in 1958 in Gálvez, Santa Fe, Argentina, lives and works in Buenos Aires)”
Julio Le Parc is a unique magician with irresistible powers. Cheerfully and with a light hand, he transports us to a kaleidoscopic universe of flickering, shimmering, dancing, leaping, and swaying light, a realm of overwhelming elegance and beauty that exerts on us a hypnotic fascination. In Le Parc’s enchanted garden of light we become children again, absorbed in our games and oblivious to the rest of the world.
→ “Julio Le Parc (born in 1928 in Mendoza, Argentina, lives and works in Cachan, Paris)”
“Painting is a battlefield… about what is, what is not, what ought to be, what I like, what I hate, what I love.” (Guillermo Kuitca, 2006)
→ “Guillermo Kuitca (born in 1961 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, lives and works in Buenos Aires)”
Buenos Aires, 24 May 2016
→ “Interview with Orly Benzacar *”
Buenos Aires, 21 May 2016, Part Two
→ “Interview with Gabriel Perez-Barreiro”
Buenos Aires, 21 May 2016, Part One
→ “Interview with Gabriel Perez-Barreiro”
Throughout those years of intense work on the project of the Daros Latinamerica Collection, many people outside of the Latin American culture asked me what makes «art from Latin America» stand out and what constitutes its specific characteristics. Of course, answering suchlike generalizing questions will get you in hot water. But it will not do to dodge them forever, so I will owe up to it.
→ “What makes art from Latin America stand out?”
«It is really important to deal with what you do not know.» (José Damasceno)
I pondered for a while over how to best present an artist whom I do not understand; an artist whose art I simply cannot «explain» because it eludes me on a rational level. At the same time, his art is very much present to me on a different level, which engages me and which leads me to present him here.
→ “José Damasceno (born in 1968 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, lives and works in Rio de Janeiro)”
«I want to be able to move you, challenge you, touch you, irritate and provoke you. That’s a political task—but a difficult one. How do I work? With information and emotion, information and culture, information and spectacle…» (Alfredo Jaar)
→ “Alfredo Jaar (born in 1956 in Santiago de Chile, lives and works in New York)”
“I am always trying to create a balance between cultural, institutional, mental and emotional positions, searching for an impact that is both visual and physical, and which sharpens and empowers the perception of those who come across it.” (Iole de Freitas, 2013)
→ “Iole de Freitas (born 1945 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)”
René Francisco belongs to the generation that grew up under the impact of the US embargo policy, on which the Cuban regime has based its domestic political legitimation. The artistic creation of this generation centers on its own living conditions, the islands culture and its history, and also on the multitude of unchecked, unheeded, and unbounded fantasies belonging to the perpetual repetitiveness of everyday life on this tropical archipelago. All sorts of untenable utopias and fictions and escapist illusions are common practice; they are part both of official and private life.
→ “René Francisco Rodríguez (Born 1960 in Holguín, Cuba, lives and works in Havana, Cuba and in Madrid, Spain)”
«I believe that our civilization is reaching the most refined degree of barbarism ever recorded in history.» (León Ferrari)
León Ferrari was by far the most blasphemous and polemical artist I ever met. His work, however, comprises much more than just social criticism. León Ferrari was «eterno joven», forever young, a tremendous provocateur, entirely irreverent, never conformist, someone who as a matter of principle challenged all conceivable forms and mechanisms of prevalent powers, analyzed them with his sharp wit, and subsequently took them apart with his artistic means.
→ “León Ferrari (Buenos Aires, 1920 – Buenos Aires, 2013)”
Casa Daros was intended as an open house for everyone interested, as a platform for the arts and culture, which of course was also open to social and political issues. We saw it as a hub between Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Latin America, and the rest of the world, bringing together very different groups of people through art, opening new horizons by virtue of our networks and information, and challenging habitual patterns of thought and outlook.
→ “Casa Daros, Rio de Janeiro”
After «Face to Face» (see post no. 50), we hosted the video installations «FOR YOU – PARA USTED» (2009) at our exhibition space on Zürich’s Limmatstrasse as well as two monographic exhibitions on Antonio Dias (2009) and Luis Camnitzer (2010). The latter was exceedingly successful and toured through all of North and South America for several years. Each of our exhibitions in Zürich was a European premiere presenting previously unknown artists, subjects, and aspects.
→ “Neighbors finally became neighbors!”
Why are the artworks and their authors, the artists, not as much in the foreground as they ought to be? We are talking about art here, aren’t we? How come we neglect the artists then?
→ “In the beginning there was the artwork: But what do so-called curators make of it?”
«Curating» an art exhibition is like staging a theater play. First, you have to recognize the core of the «piece» in order to know what you are talking about. Next, you have to strive for the best possible presentation of your assembled material, for the «mise en scène»…
→ “On exhibiting art”
A number of solo exhibitions followed the major Colombia exhibition. Among the artists presented in our exhibition spaces in Zürich were Julio Le Parc, Fabian Marcaccio, Valeska Soares, Cildo Meireles, Ernesto Neto, Guillermo Kuitca, and Carlos Amorales. Eventually, we tackled a further premiere when we started working on our exhibition «Face to Face».
→ ““Face to Face”, Zurich 2007 – 2008”
Since we had committed ourselves to showing only works in possession of the Daros Latinamerica Collection, our Zurich exhibition program was necessarily based on the stage of the collection’s development. All art from Latin America was in general absolutely new to our audience; nevertheless, I wanted to provide as much variety as possible within this huge field and to surprise our visitors again and again with fresh new presentations.
→ ““Cantos Cuentos Colombianos”, Zurich 2004 – 2005”
What is the purpose of organizing exhibitions? To show something, of course! And why do we want to show something? Because we assume that we know or have something that others do not know or have, and because we think that the others may or should be interested in what we want to show…
→ “La Mirada – Looking at Photography in Latin America Today, Zürich 2002-2003”
Photo series concerned with minority communities have been the focus of Paz Errázuriz’s work for many decades. She commits large and comprehensive ensembles to circus performers, jugglers, the last remaining indigenous peoples in the country’s south, mental and psychiatric patients, transvestites under the military dictatorship…
→ “Paz Errázuriz (born in 1944 in Santiago de Chile, lives and works in Santiago de Chile)”
Is it possible in a state like Colombia to create art that has nothing to do with the social situation in the country? Is it to a certain extent an intellectual and/or ethical obligation for an artist to become politically engaged? Is not the human species per se, in the words of Aristotle, a «zoon politikon»?
→ “Juan Manuel Echavarría (Born in 1947 in Medellín, Colombia, lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia)”
Never will I forget the first time I met Wifredo Díaz Valdéz in his house in Montevideo, where he was standing at his long workbench in his blue smock like janitors used to wear and started to explain his carpentry. He initially appeared to me as an obsessed DIY nerd, a philosophical tinkerer—but I soon realized that before me stood a veritable, subtle, and exceedingly shrewd aesthete, who provoked my curiosity beyond measure.
→ “Wifredo Díaz Valdéz (born in 1932 in Treinta y Tres, Uruguay, lives and works in Montevideo, Uruguay)”
All his life, Antonio Dias remained utterly unpredictable in terms of artistic expression; he was always good for a surprise and ready to thoroughly challenge habitual expectations. Full of subversive and abysmal humor, he released his creations into the world of art, where they often enough met with incomprehension and produced scandals. His multilayered and plurivalent works consistently defied a conclusive interpretation; he would never be pinned down in his artistic creation, which, in its playful character, invariably also deals with the absurdity and futility of our human condition. His attitude remains elegantly poised; each potential statement at the same time implies its opposite. In this respect, his art has only little in common with the rather one-dimensional messages from his US American colleagues.
→ “Antonio Dias (Campina Grande 1944 – Rio de Janeiro 2018)”
When we met for lunch in Paris in 2018, we talked about the ingredients that Carlos regarded as essential for his well-being, his cheerfulness, and the drive he still felt at his age. To him, these were a peaceful surrounding in the circle of his beloved family; love, esteem, and respect in his contacts with the rest of the world, and, last but not least, always an exciting project awaiting completion. Carlos, with the characteristic twinkle in his eye, was ever ready for new shores!
→ “Carlos Cruz-Diez (Caracas 1923 – Paris 2019)”
I wish you a perfect new year 2020 ! Yours Hans
There is so much that deserves to be highlighted about Mario Cravo Neto that it’s difficult to even start. I am deeply grateful for having had the privilege of knowing this eminent Brazilian photographer, an idiosyncratic artist and highly independent person, a free spirit, and above all a dear friend…
→ “Mario Cravo Neto (1947 – 2009)”
Shortly after I met this team glowing with vital, artistic ambition in Cristina Vives’s house in Havana in 2000, the three young artists set off to conquer the world—or rather vice versa: the world discovered them in exhibitions in New York, Brazil, and Europe. In retrospect, they followed through with a storybook career that only few artists are able to achieve. Today, they are super cool and slick professionals. They somehow managed to suavely surf the art market without being washed away.
→ “Los Carpinteros (Alexandre Jesús Arrechea Zambrano, born in 1970 in Trinidad, Las Villas, Cuba, lives and works in Havana, Los Angeles and Madrid; Marco Antonio Castillo Valdés, born in 1971 in Camagüey, Cuba, lives and works in Havana and Madrid; Dagoberto Rodríguez Sánchez, born in 1969 in Caibarién, Las Villas, Cuba, lives and works in Havana and Madrid)”
Nicola Costantino is an exceptional artist and one of the most vibrant personalities of the Latin American art community. With the meticulousness of a surgeon and the loving care of a pathologist for his subject, she slaughters and dissects calves, pigs, and other animals; she moves around in the fauna of farm animals, merrily embalming, transplanting, hybridizing, and fusioning. Hermann Nitsch would go green with envy if he knew her oeuvre…
→ “Nicola Costantino (born in 1964 in Rosario, Argentina, lives and works in Buenos Aires, Argentina)”
Iván Capote (born 1973 in Pinar del Río, Cuba, lives and works in Havana, Cuba) + Yoan Capote (born 1977 in Pinar del Río, Cuba, lives and works in Havana, Cuba)
I admit I have never managed well to keep the Capote brothers Iván and Yoan apart, even though they are not identical twins, but rather two different characters and artists, each with a meanwhile substantial oeuvre of his own. Nevertheless, I am doomed to failure in trying to do them justice individually here, so I hope that they will forgive me for taking the liberty of dealing with them jointly.
→ “Applied Thinking: The Capote Brothers”
When I first visited Alejandro Campins in his studio some ten years ago, we had difficulty just viewing his latest, recently completed paintings, all of them giant formats: he had to struggle to roll them out on his far too small studio floor so that I could try to imagine what they might look like from a distance of 15 meters in a white exhibition space. Not to mention his conditions for production, which had certainly required enormous imagination from him …
→ “Alejandro Campins (born 1981 in Manzanillo, Cuba, lives and works in Havana, Cuba)”
“I still would like to change the world, but it turns out to be more difficult than I thought.” (Luis Camnitzer, in conversation with Hans-Michael Herzog, Zurich, June 22, 2009)
→ “Luis Camnitzer (born in 1937 in Lübeck, Germany, raised and educated in Uruguay, lives and works in Great Neck, New York, and Valdottavo, Italy)”
What is the context of an artwork? The dogma of context—to be by all means upheld or made transparent —has always been a determinant for the international art discourses of the recent past. So para-, meta-, sub-, and hyper-, or, simply, de-contextualizing, has been and still is the order of the day, come hell or high water…
→ “The dogma of context”
At schools and universities we once learned that centuries ago art was still entirely dependent and tied up in ecclesiastic or courtly contexts and constraints. And then came the grand Age of Enlightenment, and, in its wake, the Great Revolution that put a sudden end to all that…
→ “Bad times for subtleties, emotions, and subversion”
Waltercio Caldas is decidedly an aesthete. Incidentally, he is also one of the best-selling artists of Brazil, which goes to show that quality in art and economic success are not necessarily a contradiction in terms…
→ “Waltercio Caldas (born 1946, lives and works in Rio de Janeiro)”
Eduardo Berliner has a great deal to tell, both to himself and to us. For many years, he has been incessantly incorporating his inexhaustible repertoire of unprecedented visualizations into his artistic production…
→ “Eduardo Berliner (born 1978, lives and works in Rio de Janeiro)”
By no means is it unusual for 20thcentury Latin American visual artists to have been trained as architects—be this due to the lack of art schools in some regions or to their actual intention of creating real architectures for a living. The idea of realizing the own dreamt up architectural worlds to 100% as pure fictions may have lured so many young architects into the cosmos of visual art, where they could give free rein to their poetic, social, political, and symbolic creations without any external restrictions.
→ “Three architects”
The second time I went to Colombia, curator María Belén Sáez de Ibarra drew my attention to Álvaro Barrios. Soon after, I travelled to his hometown, Barranquilla, to take a closer look at his work…
→ “Álvaro Barrios (born 1945, lives and works in Barranquilla, Colombia)”
Soon after I took my post at Daros Latinamerica Collection, my dear friend and colleague Eugenio Valdes pointed out the works of the then just recently deceased Cuban artist Belkis Ayón to me. Her art historical significance and the superior quality of her works were immediately recognizable, which is why I contacted her sister and executor of estate, Katia Ayón, straightaway…
→ “Belkis Ayón (1967 – 1999)”
My intention at this point is to start introducing a few of the artists represented in the Daros Latinamerica Collection to you. But what is the best way to go about it? If I were to apply politically democratic principles such as the equal-time rule for candidates in campaigns, we would still be sitting here in a couple of years, bored to death!
→ “Observations on some of the artists in the Daros Latinamerica Collection”
“(1) America is ungovernable for us. (2) Those who serve revolution plough the sea. (3) The only thing one can do in America is emigrate. (4) This country will fall inevitably into the hands of the unrestrained multitudes, and then into the hands of insignificant tyrants, of all colors and races.”
→ “Who wants to be “Latin American”? An attempt at approaching an unpopular term – part 2”
The label “Latin American” in the sense of a supposedly uniform entity is as misleading as describing someone or something as “European”, “African”, or “Asian”. And yet, the term continues to be used all the time …
Unloved umbrella term used abroad…
→ “Who wants to be “Latin American”? An attempt at approaching an unpopular term”
Uruguay: on soccer…
Whoever spends some time in Uruguay, more precisely in Montevideo, and regularly follows the local press, is bound to come across reports, every two or three days, relating in one way or the other to the legendary World Cup Final of 1950 (!), when Uruguay won against Brazil in the Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro.
→ “Let`s not have fun! – Uruguay and Chile”
Only a few years ago, on the occasion of a lecture event at the auditorium of the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano – sic! – de Buenos Aires) and coram publico , the renowned Argentine artist Marta Minujín explained to me that she herself, and indeed all of Argentina, had nothing whatsoever to do with Latin America. She asked me pointedly where on earth we at the Daros Latinamerica had the idea from to collect “Latin American” art; there was no such entity in Argentina…
Back to the roots, somewhere in Europe
→ “Is Argentina in Latin America?”
Next came Tegucigalpa, where I was initially slightly frustrated because of the iris recognition and fingerprinting I had to undergo. Bayardo Blandino picked me up. He is a very professional, very friendly colleague in his mid-thirties and heads the Centro de Artes Visuales Contemporáneo de Mujeres en las Artes in Tegucigalpa.
→ “Travel log Central America, October/November 2005, part II”
All in all, with the benefit of hindsight, this was an interesting, illuminating trip. Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panamá were the only countries still missing on my list, apart from Bolivia, so the trip was also necessary. Even if these countries are “small” in terms of their size on the map and often neglected, they are nevertheless highly relevant for Latin America as a whole. I noticed both their similarities and their differences, their individuality and their common traits.
→ “Travel log Central America, October/November 2005, part I”
I have frequently asked myself what actually makes up Mexico, what its specific spirit is, and which qualities are characteristic of the country’s art. So far, I haven’t even come close to a tangible answer…
→ “What about Mexico?”
It was still the year 2000; I had already familiarized myself with my new work and had travelled quite a bit, when I noticed that Colombia was missing on my agenda. No wonder, really, for no one was traveling there, and everyone advised against it, out of deepest conviction, for safety reasons. What could I do? I turned it over in my mind for a while, weighed the pros and cons, and then told myself: “I simply have to go to Colombia; everything will be alright!” So I set off…
→ “Colombia – The Athens of Latin America?”
My first trip as curator of the Daros Latinamerica collection-to-be took me to Brazil in the very beginning of the new millennium. I landed in Rio de Janeiro in the morning of January 3, and I vividly remember the moment when I saw the Copacabana for the first time in my life. I was virtually blinded by the overwhelming blaze of the sun as I looked out of the window from the former Meridien Hotel and tried to grasp where I was. On the street, I was swept away by an ever-present eroticism; again, I was blinded, this time by the sultry, fecund, tropical, literally HOT atmosphere, and by countless permissive glances that met my eye wherever I looked…
→ “Brasil – ordem e progresso?”
I know no other country that holds so many contradictions as Cuba does. Virtually nothing on this Caribbean archipelago seems to exist that is not intrinsically contradictory. Dealing with Cuba can therefore be quite a feat…
→ “Cuba: real-life surrealism”
Give me a little break – it is time to relax for a moment!
I wish you a very good new year 2019! Yours, Hans
It is the dream of every true researcher to discover something radically new, something that dwarfs everything known up to date. The researcher seeks immortality through the definition of a new chemical formula or the discovery of a species to name after oneself. In much the same way, the art collector—who is also a hunter—passionately searches for the unrecognized genius to help bring out her or his light from under the bushel…
→ “Indiana Jones, or Hunting for the Hidden Treasures”
It was always a pleasure to meet the grand old Latin American artists. Some of those that I was very interested in had already died. You might think everything was easier if the artist was no longer alive? Well, that’s far from true. Because then you have to deal with the executors, who — out of greed or ignorance — are fully capable of blocking or botching entire oeuvres! And this applies not only to Latin America…
→ “Those deceased”
On seeking out the “old” artists of the 20th century at the turn of the millennium, I remember how my question: “Do you happen to know where the well-known artist such-and-such lives nowadays?” would pretty much worldwide produce the standard reply: “Oh, is he/she still alive?”
→ “Early rediscovery: the “old ones””
I invariably aimed at buying only first-rate art for the collection. I would rather refrain from a purchase than have second best works of an artist. Lame compromises were not my style, and I never bought on impulse, either. I always knew in advance what I wanted to have. Whenever I happened to stumble upon something that deeply interested and fascinated me, I slept on it for at least a night before making up my mind and arriving at an unbiased judgment. Once, however, I made an exception…
→ “Mutual confidence”