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Los Angeles Museums Connect with Expert Partners across South America

Los Angeles Museums Connect with Expert Partners across South America

Posted by Shanelle Weir on January 19, 2015

Of all the Southern California curators organising shows for the second iteration of the Getty-funded Pacific Standard Time (PST: LA/LA) of 2017, which focuses on Latin American art, Dan Cameron knows the territory better than most. In the early 1990s, he travelled widely in South America. Soon after, as a senior curator at the New Museum in New York, he organised exhibitions on Cildo Meireles, Eugenio Dittborn, Doris Salcedo and Rivane Neuenschwander.

Now, the show he is organising under the PST: LA/LA umbrella (PST2) for the Orange County Museum of Art, where he is chief curator, features Latin American kinetic art from the 1960s (which he sees as a tech-inspired predecessor of Southern California’s Light and Space art). He got the idea after seeing a show on a similar theme at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires in 2012.

Still, Cameron says he could not imagine organising the show without curators from South America: the Orange County museum has a ten-­person advisory board that includes María José Herrera, who organised the kinetic art show at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. One challenge that has already cropped up: since Argentina defaulted on some of its foreign debts, its national museums have not been sending works abroad for fear that they will be seized.

“Someone like María José is keeper of the keys because she knows the municipal museums, provincial museums and private collectors that are still able to lend—it’s so far beyond what I could do on my own,” Cameron says.

Expert advice from throughout South America, including Venezuela and Chile, is vital to ensure the US museum avoids “accidentally bulldozing in another country’s history in our zeal to come to a conclusion or pick an appropriate number of artists for the show”, he says. 

Cameron is not alone. PST2 is very different from the first edition, which focused on different aspects of Southern California art from 1945 to 1980, allowing US museums that took part to draw on their in-house expertise and archives. This time they are hiring co-curators, researchers or consultants on the ground in Latin America to help them identify artists, access archives, negotiate loans and the like, collectively creating a diverse network of collaborators. “By nature, the breadth of this topic requires bringing in more people. With PST: LA/LA, we thought we had the unique opportunity to strengthen the connections between research communities in Los Angeles and Latin America,” says Joan Weinstein, the deputy director of the Getty Foundation. 

Along with covering travel expenses for two dozen international scholars to join an event last October in Los Angeles, where museums shared briefs on their shows, the Getty has already distributed around $5.1m to some 40 ­California museums and cultural centres for “research and planning”, up from about $3.7m at this stage for the first PST.

The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles’ guest curator, Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, for example, has been working now for several years with the Argentinian art historian Andrea Giunta on “The Political Body”, a survey of radical women artists from Latin America, 1960 to 1985. After being scrapped by the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach (where Fajardo-Hill was formerly the chief curator), the show was picked up by the Hammer and given $225,000 in Getty funding. Now, the Buenos Aires-based Giunta is focusing on countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Peru, while Fajardo-Hill is looking at Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and the Caribbean. (They are both working on radical artists from Brazil and Mexico.)

Hugh Davies, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, joined forces early on with the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City and the Museo de Arte de Lima (Mali) in Peru, for a show about underground Latin American conceptual and performance art practices from the 1960s to the 80s. The show, which has co-curators from the three institutions as well as an independent expert from Brazil, has received a Getty grant of $275,000. “Financially we are a heavy partner,” Davies says. “But intellectually we are very much a junior partner in this collaboration, looking for leadership in our Latin American colleagues.”

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