Latin American Art Symposium in LA

In March, Leslye and I had the chance to attend a symposium in LA sponsored by the Getty Foundation and the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA). The 3- day symposium was titled Between Theory and Practice: Rethinking Latin American Art in the 21st Century and was a useful introduction to the professional/academic world of Latin American art study and presentation.

Arriving at the Getty in the North Los Angeles hills the first day of the symposium was like having died and gone to Art Heaven. Incredibly beautiful grounds, lots of staff to direct you to the stadium style meeting room which was as comfortable as any theatre I have ever been in. The projection and audio equipment were state - of-the-art and the food in the cafeteria was outstanding. (We didn't have time to eat in the Restaurant which has amazing food and views.)

The first day sessions the first day focused on the Role of the Museum: Collecting, Contextualizing, and Representing Latin American Art in the 21st Century. Curators from the Tate Modern, the Museo de Arte Moderno (in Mexico City), the Museo de Arte de Lima etc. discussed a variety of issues confronting the field of LA art today. The first, and perhaps most difficult, is whether there is such a thing as Latin American art, or whether the art from that region should be organized by nation, or art movement. (Leslye has written a separate paper on this topic which will be posted on our web-site sometime soon.) Other topics included the disparate roles of the specialized museums (i.e. MOLAA) and the large urban mega-museums such as MOMA and the Tate Modern, the latter which receives 5 million visitors a year.

One undercurrent of much of this discussion was the resentment about the marginalization of LA art which was ignored by the mainstream museums for so many years. Now that LA art is becoming hot, there is envy of the resources of the big museums to purchase and showcase LA art.

Day 2 focused on the Research and Interpretative and Critical Frameworks in the morning and Archival Impulse in the afternoon. Interestingly the Museum of Fine Arts has by far the most extensive archives of LA art. Many of these presentations, which were made in English or Spanish with unintelligible translations, were exceedingly academic and jargon. Most discouragingly, many of the presentations never mentioned specific artists or works of art and an even smaller number used slides to illustrate key points in the presentation.

Overall it was a useful opportunity to gauge the scope and breadth of the LA art scene and to make contacts within that world. And to renew old acquaintances: we reconnected with Erika and Alex, two former staffers from MOLAA, whom we had dealt with extensively before. We are working with them to plan an excursion to see Latin American art in LA this fall, (LA in LA??), details to follow. This is an exciting time for Latin American art and we feel very lucky to be part of the explosion of interest n the field. By the way, the symposium in LA was the first of two events: the second half is planned for early Lima in early November. Anyone wanting to subsidize two eager Northern California representatives please contact us immediately.