Latinamerican Art

“Face to Face”, Zurich 2007 – 2008

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».

Art at eye level

Our concept for “Face to Face” was to present outstanding art from Latin America side by side and in juxtaposition with likewise high-quality works from North America and Europe. This idea was based on the didactic objective to thoroughly thwart the well-worn, stereotyped perceptions of our contemporaries and to once and for all dispose of the eternal prejudice that all Latin American art is merely epigonal.

Chemie Rosado Seijo, Zürich, 2007

In this context, I shall quote from the introduction to the exhibition catalog:

«For some time now, we have been toying with the idea of a show comparing the holdings of the two Daros Collections. After all, they both contain works from roughly the same period; that is, the past 50 years. What appealed to us was the challenge of selecting works of a similar character from the two collections and juxtaposing them so that they could enter into a dialogue. The works in the Daros Latinamerica Collection, founded in the year 2000, have been assembled by Hans-Michael Herzog and Ruth Schmidheiny. It currently comprises about 1,000 works by 100 artists from Latin America. The Daros Collection was established in the 1980s and 1990s primarily by Thomas Ammann and Alexander Schmidheiny. It currently comprises some 300 works by 30 artists from Europe and the United States.

Within the modest framework—in the scope of art history as a whole—of the two collections, “Face to Face” seeks to make clear that art from Latin American is clearly on a par with European and North American art. To anyone familiar with Latin American culture, of course this is simply stating the obvious. Indeed, why should art from Latin America (or, for that matter, Africa or Asia) be considered the least bit inferior to the so-called “western” art?

And yet, just how familiar are Europeans with Latin American art? Not at all. Which is why, in the year 2000, we started collecting contemporary art from the past decades and emerging art from Latin American countries. Our goal is not simply to draw attention to art production in Latin America, but above all to demonstrate its excellence. Needless to say, this implies a robust critique of the self-centered navel-gazing of dyed-in-the-wool Eurocentrics with little interest in broadening their horizons. Ignorance and the arrogance it inevitably spawns are all too common place in the European and US-American world of culture, whose acolytes feel no need to find out what is happening beyond the confines of their own cultural circle, i.e., to try to understand “the rest of the world”—which is actually substantially larger than our little slice of the cake. In fact, our cultural circles, fueled by a sense of ​​a priori superiority, arrogate the right to pass judgement on culture and to put their own stamp on books, catalogues, journals, exhibitions, museums, collections, etc. Art from Latin America (in this case) is automatically subject to the assumption that it has to be derivative, or, at best, exotic.

Luis Camnitzer, Hans-Michael Herzog and Nelson Leirner, Zürich, 2007

It is the objective of “Face to Face” to repudiate such preconceptions by juxtaposing a thoughtful selection of works from Latin America with works from Europe and the United States. It is our aim to show the art and not to judge it. Nor do we feel the need to underpin our compilation with theory. Even less are we interested in defining which is “better” or “worse” or, for that matter, in mounting a competition. Instead of pitting cultures against one another, we want to bring them together. Rhyme and reason are left up to the readers of this book and the visitors to the exhibition. Best case scenario, they will be motivated to reappraise their habitual ways of seeing, venture into new territory, and perhaps even discover that supposedly familiar art from their own corner of the world can be more alien than they had assumed, and vice versa.

The works are grouped in playful sequences on different themes, forming a network of unexpected surprises. Literal analogies and even quotations alternate with free associations, sampled with understated subtlety and without didactic righteousness. We wish to chart a cohesive path through our collections, where we invite visitors to ramble at their pleasure and draw their own conclusions. The subjects, themes, origins, and ages of the works of art constantly overlap in ever changing constellations, setting the pace and pointing the way on what will surely prove to be an inspiring treasure hunt.

We hope that the exhibition and the catalogue publication will provoke a diversity of questions, to which we ourselves are still seeking answers. We thank all those who contributed to the success of both.»

Luis Fernando Benedit and friend, Zürich, 2007


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