La Mirada – Looking at Photography in Latin America Today, Zürich 2002-2003

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»: many views for our first exhibition

From the very beginning, the intention behind establishing the Daros Latinamerica Collection had always been to exhibit the collected works, to present them, and make them accessible to a wider public. And that is precisely what we did—even earlier than originally planned!

In 2002 we had already included works from 45 artists in the collection. This encouraged us to bring our first harvest to the attention of the public in Zürich, so we organized a big exhibition in two parts with photographers from Latin America: «La Mirada» not only referred to the gaze of the camera or the sitter’s gaze, but also to the artist’s approach to photography, as well as to our European understanding of art from Latin America. Five male and four female artists from Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Chile, and Guatemala participated: Mario Cravo Neto, Vik Muniz, Rosângela Rennó, Miguel Rio Branco, Maruch Sántiz Gómez, Marta María Pérez Bravo, Manuel Piña, Paz Errázuriz, and Luis González Palma.

Manuel Piña, Zürich, 2002, Photography: Veit Mette

Let them speak!

This first exhibition of ours was accompanied by an opulent catalog impressively produced in four languages: Spanish, Portuguese, English, and German. Yes, we certainly wanted to accommodate everyone! The second volume of the exhibition catalog was dedicated entirely to conversations with the artists, for I had realized in the course of my research for and with the artists that they had so much to say, and that it was absolutely necessary to have them speak up at length. They all spoke to me with such a refreshing spontaneity—unlikely to be encountered in Europe or the United States—about their artistic visions and also about their political and personal concerns. Several of them expressed profound reflections that offered truly exciting insights into individual mental worlds, and all of them significantly paved the way to a better understanding of the art world in Latin America.

Mario Cravo Neto, Zürich, 2002, Photography: Veit Mette

Here is a passage from the introduction to the catalog that reflects our ideas at the time:

“Latin America is a vast cultural region teeming with extraordinary, untapped potential; a conglomerate of countless discrete histories, cultures, identities, and interests. It is our aim to explore this region section by section in order to put together a mosaic out of all the individual pieces; it will never be complete but it will in time have fewer gaps—especially since we are obviously not operating in a vacuum. An extremely diverse and rich exchange with those who foster art and culture is helping us to define our own position.

In exploring the art of Latin America, we believe that it is essential to apply exactly the same criteria that are pertinent to dealing with art in any other part of the world. Hence, there is no geographical bonus, no proportionality based on political correctness, no pressure to climb on to the bandwagon of the latest mainstream art, and most certainly no folkloristic, ethnic niche or any well-intentioned suspension of critical judgement—all or any of this would merely be counterproductive. 

We aspire to a crystal clear, selective, open approach that is to be expansive and detailed at once. We want the works of art that we collect to be self-contained, and thus be able to make an independent impact at any place and any time; they should have something to say that is also of interest to people elsewhere, with no special exegesis or interpretation on our part. The art should be able to make a deep impression and thereby combat all arbitrariness: it should be an art that can endure.” 

  1. Ciao Hans, great to be reminded of this splendid collection. I am so grateful to have the catalogue and others from Daros. The artists and their works which you have brought to our attention make a unique contribution to art and life. You, of course, recognised this early on. I hope all is well and you are coping with the lockdown. All my best, Kings

  2. Wie wunderbar und so Schade, daß ich dich damals nicht kannte… Eigentlich wäre ich direkt um die Ecke gewesen! Schöne Grüße, Mercedes

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