While Latin Amer­i­can art might have been syn­ony­mous with Fer­nando Botero, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera a decade ago, col­lec­tors and art en­thu­si­asts are dip­ping their toes into pre­vi­ously ob­scure — but by no means less in­flu­en­tial — names.

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - Contents - STORY CHRISTIE LEE By Mari­a­sun Sal­gado.

Col­lec­tors and art en­thu­si­asts are dip­ping their toes into pre­vi­ously ob­scure - but no means less in­flu­en­tial - names

On a swel­ter­ing Sun­day in May 2013, a huge white cloth un­furled on smack dab in bustling Cen­tral. Sud­denly, a sea of heads pierces through ran­dom cuts in the cloth, the cho­rus of black bobs bounc­ing gen­tly up and down.

A young cou­ple searched for each other’s hands un­der the cloth, a smart­phone-wield­ing girl tried to snap a selfie, some­one strug­gled to stay ‘afloat’ as her head dis­ap­pears be­neath the white, vel­vety sur­face mo­men­tar­ily. The march be­gins.

To the un­trained eye, it’s noth­ing more than a bizarre rit­ual. To fans of Ly­gia Pape, it was a rare op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in a reen­act­ment of the Brazil­ian artist’s Di­vi­sor, a per­for­mance art piece first staged on the streets of Rio de Janeiro in 1968. In the ab­sence of wall text, what we are left with the cu­ri­ous feel­ing of be­ing iso­lated from ev­ery­one else, yet hav­ing to march in tan­dem with the whole pro­ces­sion. One is tempted to clas­sify Di­vi­sor as min­i­mal­ist, but that nu­anced ex­plo­ration of the ten­sion be­tween the in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive is any­thing but, and a far cry from usual im­pres­sions of Latin Amer­i­can art.


The Latin Amer­i­can art mar­ket has been on a steady climb in the last few years. Ac­cord­ing to Deloitte’s Art and Fi­nance Report 2016, over­all sales for mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary Latin Art are up by 11 per cent. There has been a slew of record-break­ing deals at the ma­jor auc­tion houses: Christie’s Latin Amer­i­can art auc­tion in Au­tumn 2016 nabbed a to­tal of 7 records, in­clud­ing Cuban artist Car­los En­ríquez’s Héroe criollo (1943), which went un­der the ham­mer for $US 967, 500; dur­ing the same sea­son, Phillips ham­mered down four auc­tion records, in­clud­ing Os Ge­meos’s Un­ti­tled (2009), which soared past its US$120,000 (HK$ 936,800) to US$180,000 es­ti­mate to notch US$310,000.

All of these have aligned with an in­sti­tu­tion-wide ef­fort to reeval­u­ate Latin Amer­i­can artists who were un­der the radar.

Last year, Wil­fredo Lam had a long over­due retrospective at the Whit­ney, which then trav­elled to Tate Mod­ern and Museo Reina Sofia. The Met Breuer mounted a Pape ex­hi­bi­tion the same year - the Brazil­ian artist’s first ma­jor US retrospective. Mean­while, Car­men Her­rera’s min­i­mal­ist ab­strac­tion­ist works were put on glo­ri­ous dis­play at the Whit­ney Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art last Au­tumn.

Yet, col­lec­tors who are en­ter­ing the fray might find the mar­ket hard to nav­i­gate. Af­ter all, given the ge­o­graph­i­cal and cul­tural di­ver­sity of thte re­gion, how does one be­gin to de­fine Latin Amer­i­can art?


Ac­cord­ing to Adri­ana Al­varezNi­chol, founder of the Hk-based Puerta Roja gallery, Latin Amer­i­can art is di­vided into three re­gions: Mex­ico, Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Caribbean, and South Amer­ica. “Brought to­gether by a colo­nial past, these re­gions share a Span­ishor Por­tuguese-speak­ing his­tory, and strong Catholic tra­di­tions.”

Broadly speak­ing, the de­vel­op­ment of mod­ern Latin Amer­i­can art fol­lowed two very dif­fer­ent tra­jec­to­ries. The first - the one that the am­a­teur art viewer is more fa­mil­iar with - is art heav­ily grounded in the re­gion’s colo­nial his­tory.

“This is es­pe­cially preva­lent in Mex­ico, where there is a strong his­tor­i­cal and visual bag­gage. Dur­ing the 20th cen­tury, many artists turned to so­cial and mag­i­cal re­al­ism to ad­dress is­sues re­lated to sovereignty,” notes Al­varez-ni­chol. Shin­ing ex­am­ples in­clude Frida Kahlo, who lever­aged a naive folk art style to ques­tions is­sues re­lat­ing to post-colo­nial­ism, gen­der and race, and Diego Rivera, whose gi­gan­tic mu­rals chart the his­tory of Mex­i­can it­self, from the Mayan age to post-in­de­pen­dence times.

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