The Reina Sofía Museum continues to rearrange its collection by turning the map. The south is no longer the periphery. The south is future. And it is not a homogeneous whole. Latin America is not a country and perhaps it should not even be called Latin America, places to question even the colonial language from art. The second chapter of what will be the new rethinking of the permanent collection carried out by Manuel Borja-Villel during his period at the head of the institution —presented today Tuesday— is called The enemies of poetry. Resistances in Latin America, and shows how this region never lagged behind Europe and the United States, but became a place of “extraordinary experimentation”, in which “the collective mattered more than the individual” and where “popular culture was mixed with the avant-garde ”, in the director’s words.
In 10 rooms, more than a hundred works, the majority never exhibited, cover trends, artists and conjunctures from the sixties to the eighties trying to “decentralize the discourse that has been read to this region as the periphery, as happened to Spain at some point, and show the radical nature of the artistic practices that took place in that period ”, explains Lola Hinojosa, head of the performance arts collection, and one of the authors of the reorganization of these spaces, who warns that the museum it does not try to respond to “a fashion for collecting Latin American art with encyclopedic criteria”.
The second chapter of the reorganization of the Reina Sofía, in pictures
In Latin America, artistic radicalism had to do – and that idea still persists – with resistance. For this reason, when Caetano Veloso’s poetry becomes a disk-object and reaches the walls of a museum like the Reina Sofía, it not only dialogues with other pieces by the creator’s contemporaries, but also expands art in all directions and skips a few canons. That same path of resilience followed the Brazilian angelo de aquino, with the so-called postal art, in the midst of a dictatorship in his country, by circumventing censorship with a kind of international network of almost ephemeral works. artist identity (1973-1984) are 76 files – similar to identity documents – that different creators from all over the world filled in with their personal data and with proposals such as paintings and drawings, many of them critical in a period of restrictions for art.
Through photobooks, and the Italian Paolo Gasparini and the mexican Enrique Bostelmann they looked at Latin America. That’s why it’s called To see you better, Latin America the room where the documents that “record the contradictions and inequalities” of this region are gathered and show them to the world, explains Isabella Lenza, other of those responsible for the reorganization of these rooms. When Latin American artists looked within in those years, what they found were doubts about their own origin. The Chilean John Downey he toured the entire region with his camera. From that trip came Video Trans Americas (1976), an audiovisual newspaper to try to unite the native peoples of Latin America and connect with himself. “Some women he films tell him that he is laughing at them and that serves to question himself, because it is not his intention to ridicule them, but to delve into the relationships between them,” explains Cristina Cámara, head of film and video at the museum.
In Downey’s gaze, as in the photographer’s Claudia Andujar, colonialism appears. “They count on the camera what happens, they look, they shoot and they select what they are going to use. They make a colonial use ”, says Cámara,“ but in this exercise the artists themselves look for other ways of approaching the realities ”. In the photographs Vertical 9, from the series Marked (1981-1983), Andujar works with the Yanomami community in the Brazilian Amazon, with whom he lived for a long time. The portraits in this series show people who have been numbered after a vaccination campaign and next to them the Reina Sofía has placed reproductions of drawings made by this community collected by Andujar herself. The commissioners emphasize that they are facsimiles. It is the photographer’s way of preserving the Yanomami work: she saves it, she does not market it.
Indigenous art appears in these rooms as a popular vindication, but not in the terms that American pop art or other similar manifestations did. “It is an expression against capitalism, against developmentalism imposed from above,” explains Lenzi. The popular and the indigenous versus pop capitalism. The Latin American art that the museum now shows is manifested in installations, ephemeral works, postcards, videos, magazines, notebooks and newspapers that litigate against artistic, cultural, social and political impositions. A large part of the works on display have been acquired in the last eight years thanks to the Reina Sofía Museum Foundation, created in 2012, to attract collectors and benefactors (preferably Latin American).
The neoliberal dictatorships that devastated the region were not a thing of the past, Borja-Villel remarks, looking at two Chilean works in the last of the rethought rooms. In this space there is work from the 1982 Paris Biennial, in which the renowned theorist and essayist Nelly Richard, living in Chile, led a series of artists opposed to the Pinochet dictatorship who denounced, from the language of the body, photography and documentary, torture and repression of the regime. His message was somewhat blurred.
There are also pieces from the exhibition Chile Live, of 1987, which was organized as an act of support for the country by several official Spanish organizations, but not by Chile (in fact, the Chilean embassy in Spain filed an official complaint). This antagonism can be seen, for example, in the differences that exist between painting Mute and naked, freedom against oppression (1986), which the Chilean Roberto Matta made expressly for the exhibition based on the Guernica by Pablo Picasso, and other works, such as the photographs that make up the work A Chile (1979-80), by Elías Adasme, who had to go into exile to Puerto Rico in 1983 after several arrests and death threats by the Pinochet regime.
“A museum is not a repository or a warehouse, but a site that has to give people tools to understand where they are. As an institution, it is almost a moral obligation ”, summarizes Borja-Villel. The “total remodeling” of the museum’s permanent collection, which will be known “by episodes” and will conclude next November, is the result of a rethinking planned since before the pandemic. In total, it will be a set made up of around 2,000 works – 70% of which have not been shown before – that will occupy six different spaces in the gallery. After the Latin American episode, the next one will be exile and autarky.