The recent opening of the Museo Jumex in Mexico City has raised a series of questions about the purpose of those institutions. Firstly, the Jumex makes us wonder whether its collection is relevant enough to get tax incentives and to be transformed into a ‘museum’. Secondly, it raises the issue of its decontextualised nature. It is as if these kind of museum were constructed in opposition instead of taking into account the community in which they are inserted. The snobbery that the Museo Jumex showcases is a sign of the times and the good thing is that the specialised journalism has surprisingly been unanimous in its ‘condemnation’. We can only hope this to be symptomatic of a change in attitude.
With a Gatsby-esque ball, the Jumex, which building has been designed by David Chipperfield as a travertine-filled, deluxe gem that costed $50 million, opened two weeks ago in Mexico City. I resisted the temptation to attend for I was invited. In hindsight, I think I made the right decision because it ended up being a Tackeray-esque bonfire of the vanities more worried about displaying other things than what really matters. This, of course, did not prevent the organisers to launch its first activity as an ‘academic’ conference which topic was: ‘Why does contemporary art choose to privilege kitsch, frivolousness and the banal during a time that demands profound answers with respect to interiority, spirituality and poesis?’. Whatever!
Started 15 years ago by Eugenio Lopez Alonso, literally a juice mogul, the Foundation Jumex owns the biggest collection of contemporary art in Latinamerica. Made up of 2,700 pieces valued at some $80 million, the foundation’s uneven holdings range from Dan Flavin to Paul McCarthy. Also included are storehouses full of second rate stuff by Richard Prince, Maurizio Cattelan and Urs Fischer. It would not be inaccurate to say that this is a checklist collection like many of the big private collections amassed in a hurry in the past ten years.
The surprising thing is how underrepresented Latinamerican art is in this museum. This coincides with what we might already justly consider a Latin trend as in the case of the MALBA in Buenos Aires. Proof of this lack of purpose is its first show, curated by Charpenel. ‘A Space in Two Dimensions’ is composed by a selection of 50 mostly mismatched pieces from the collection that also includes a group of seven architecture enhancing string sculptures by the late Fred Sandback (organised with the help of David Zwirner). This exhibition showcases the who is who of important art market names (Damien Hirst, Thomas Ruff, etc) alongside a mere handful of Warhols and Koons. So boring and irrelevant! As Art Review Magazine referred to it: ‘More misses than hits, the collection highlights function as an all-too-familiar grouping of trophy art. Despite the effort to turn Sandback’s sculptures into an exhibition through-line, it’s hard to shake the idea that this kind of flashy loot can easily be piked up in a day of conspicuouss shopping at Frieze, the Armory Show or Art Basel Miami Beach’. In other words, complete lack of taste, connoisseurship and real sense of opportunity. Just a thought.