Reframing Latin America : curatorial practice and Latin American art since 1992
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This dissertation presents a comparative analysis of institutional policy towards Latin American art after 1992. Specifically, this study examines several concurrent phenomena: the increased visibility of Latin American artists in institutions, a rise in academic and scholarly attention, growing numbers of collectors, and an extraordinary growth in the overall art market in the 1990s that dramatically increased the value of Latin American art. Though the expanded interest in Latin American art was wide- spread, four institutions – The Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA), the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH), the Tate Modern, London, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid – invested heavily in acquisitions and widely exhibited cultural production from the region. Though the impulse for strengthening institutional commitment to Latin America in Europe and North America resulted from factors arising from similar geopolitical and theoretical circumstances, these four museums approached developing their stake in Latin American art quite differently in a debate which was often contentious. Their rivalry emerged in an increasingly globalized art world, yet each institution remained committed to a notion of Latin America as a discrete cultural entity, the research and exhibition of which would allow each museum to assert its dominance as a leader in the field. In order to do so, each institution charted a different course marked by distinct aesthetic and curatorial choices that resulted in the establishment of competing maps (temporal, historical, and geographic) of Latin America. This involved a redrawing of the cultural maps which privileged a horizontal, transatlantic exchange over transcontinental or diagonal transatlantic dialogue. It also involved attempts to renovate or erase previously held notions of Latin American art as primitive, fantastic, or both. By emphasizing particular eras and styles, each case study institution created architectures of knowledge based on a particular idea of Latin American identity and culture. In doing so, they attempted to capture the symbolic capital inherent in defining a regional identity. The institutional and curatorial practice of these museums was emblematic of the confrontational and increasingly contentious debate regarding the relationship of Latin American art to modernity.