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”
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?”
The rediscovery boom of the “old ones” had not yet set in, so my research on these largely forgotten artists seemed a rather lonely affair around 2000…
→ “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…
The better you get to know an artist—a human being like all others, after all—, the more obvious become the weaknesses and strengths of his or her oeuvre. I always had to take care not to become presumptuous and raise beyond measure the quality standards I applied. It’s similar in sports, perhaps, to being spurred on from one world record to the next, continuously topping your own self!
→ “Mutual confidence”
Exactly how is it possible to recognize art and to realize whether it is outstanding or only mediocre? Assuming you have no access to Wikipedia—how do you distinguish excellent art from average art? What makes the difference between “normal” art expertise and an infallible instinct for art?
→ “The automatic early detection system for art”
Overwhelming and deeply impressing were the generosity, the communication skills and the education of the artists and other exponents of Latin America’s art world. My itinerary was far from being a tedious chore—it was pure enjoyment! I rediscovered art’s capability of providing pleasure. In Europe and North America, discussions with artists had in the previous years far too often drifted into sheer triviality, focusing merely on the supposedly most interesting marketing strategy.
→ “Meeting the artists”
During my extensive travels in Latin America over the years—in North America and Europe as well—I have established a functioning network that includes nearly everyone involved in the Latin American art community: artists, curators, critics, art historians, collectors, gallerists and art dealers.
→ “Here we go!”
I believe in the power of art! I believe in the effective force and the potent impact that excellent art can make on aesthetic, social, and political issues.
→ “Priceless: On the Power of Art”
Wherein lies the famous, frequently invoked quality of an artwork? Are there objective criteria for judging art, and, if yes, which are they?
→ “On the intrinsic quality of art”
I certainly would have welcomed a clever book, something along the lines of “A Guide to Latin American Art”, sorted according to countries and of course recently updated, in order to prepare myself adequately for the tasks that lay ahead of me. But that was plain wishful thinking and ultimately nonsense.
→ “Critique of pure unreason”
This German tongue twister meaning roughly “In Ulm, around Ulm, and all around Ulm” not only inspired Wolf Vostell to one of his happenings; it also features the city of my birth. But why on earth was someone from Ulm employed for the job as curator, rather than someone from Latin America who already spoke both languages?
→ “In Ulm und um Ulm und um Ulm herum”
None of my trips to Latin America went by without people asking me: “Do you speak Spanish?” or “Do you speak Portuguese?” Do I take my job seriously? What a silly question, I thought secretly, and felt insulted.
→ ““Do you speak Spanish?””
So let’s take our course for a daring—and hopefully eventful—trip. Please bear with me when my narrative appears slightly chaotic or somewhat roundabout: those qualities precisely keep it true to life.
→ “Gray, dear friend, is all theory…”
What made us choose Rio of all places? We deliberately wanted to establish Casa Daros in a city with a thriving art scene that yet left ample space for new venues. And we were also looking for a location that would in itself be attractive to our future visitors.
→ “Scanning the continent”
A unique selling proposition (USP): “During the introduction and growth stage of a product’s life cycle, the marketing concept based on unique benefits works exceedingly well if it is the first product of its kind to enter an unsaturated market.” (Wikipedia, translated from the German version). The Casa Daros was such a unique art offering made in unsaturated Rio de Janeiro.
→ ““Made in Latin America””
“Nobody is a prophet in his own land.” According to the Evangelists, these are the words pronounced by Jesus of Nazareth to condemn the lack of hospitality he received from the people of his hometown Nazareth. Often enough, the same holds true in the art world, too …
→ “Nemo propheta acceptus est in patria sua”
Time to get down to business, dear honored readers, and go into the details. This will require some down-to-earth attention from you, and I am appealing to your sobriety now. We’re not here just for fun—or are we? So let’s start at the beginning and look into the Daros Latinamerica Collection …
→ “Putting Latin America on the map”