The view that the Anglo Saxon world has of Latin America never ceases to surprise me for it is, plainly speaking, delusional. What I find particularly interesting is the way in which the, so called, Contemporary Art world, in its utter snobbery, transforms classism, racism and post-colonialism into something cool. The ‘international art’ jargon tends to naturalise the unacceptable. Let me unpack.
In one of the most ridiculous articles I have read in a while, Art Review’s Dorothée Dupuis describes the emerging art world in Mexico City and its ‘Project Spaces’ (whatever that means). She starts by saying that: ‘Following the glitzy opening of the Museo Jumex, last November and the increasing prominence of a handful of Mexican galleries on the international art scene, Art Review (where this article is published) decided to go grassroots and check out the mobile, flexible and sometimes strangely named spaces at the heart of the country’s art scene’.
The point of the article is quite counter-intuitive. According to Dorothée, Mexico City is the new Berlin because ‘thousands of’ artists from all over go there to live and work, taking advantage of the lower costs of life. In spite of this, it takes one paragraph to see how Dupuis contradicts herself by saying that ‘We are 1,000 in a city of 20 million. In other words, at this point Mexico can’t yet compete with a city like Berlin, where 12 percent of the population allegedly works in the creative sector’.It is evident that she is already confusing two issues: the power of Mexico’s creative industry with Mexico as a cheap haven for unsuccessful (or yet to happen) artists. According to Mrs.Dupuis, the similarity between Berlin and Mexico City is that in both places, a significant amount of the money comes from abroad which, to begin with, is not true at all.
Having said this, according to her, Mexico is not as wonderful as it may seem. I am saying this because, according to Art Review, ‘the relatively small audience here, collectors included, makes it necessary for the few viable galleries to depend largely on foreign clients, collectors and institutions with real acquisitions policies, those galleries’ participation in Western fairs being generously supported by a Mexican government not at all reluctant to sponsor the private sector (but that’s another subject)’. So, one has to believe that the ‘real institutions’ are somewhere else but not in Mexico. If Mexico does not have an art market and no one is really supporting the arts, why is everybody going there. This does not make any sense. And most importantly, taking into account the opening of the Museo Jumex, which is Mexico’s place in the international art world? Well, Art Review seems to have a partial answer for this.
The reason is shocking. According to Art Review’s Dupuis: ’ Mexico remains a strongly class segregated society and the art world is anything but untainted by such segregation, perhaps even reflecting it with more cruelty. To be an artist nowadays means to have the means to travel, and few middle-class Mexican artists can afford to escape this somewhat isolated city, as the nearest major art scene to Mexico is in Los Angeles a three and a half hour flight away’. This is hillarious. The author wants to make up believe that Mexico is a classist society as opposed to the US? to the UK? Why middle class Mexicans cannot afford to travel? Most importantly, why is it that necessary for an artist to be able to travel? Do they have to go to LA or NY to sell their stuff in order to be considered ‘artists’? Is that what she is referring to? Moreover, Mexico City is isolated because it is a three hour flight from LA? One does not fly out of Mexico City but ‘escapes’ it? Who does this moron think she is?’
Mexico’s problem is that with the Museum Jumex, it has not only naturalised but also convinced itself that art is what this ‘emerging cosmopolitan artsy fartsy thing’ that Art Review’s Dorothée Dupuis seems to think it is actually is. Just a thought.