In recent years, a spotlight has been trained on the art communities of Latin American countries, with the Western world increasingly looking south (reflected in major solo shows for artists like Joaquín Torres-García and Carmen Herrera at New York institutions, as well as an ever-increasing interest in Cuban and Caribbean artists). Meanwhile, curators like Jochen Volz and Pablo León de la Barra are bringing greater global attention to the historical and contemporary practices of artists across Central and South America.
In a territory where borders are not as porous as they may seem, and where the power dynamics still hinge on the interest and approval of big art world centers, a new generation of Latin American curators has made strides in shedding light on artists from diverse regions. They have placed a curatorial lens over the fraught political histories and experimental cultures common to their countries.
Here, we gather together 20 individuals who are making an impact. These Latin American curators are amplifying the voices of local artists, engaging in cultural dialogue with other parts of the world, and often taking a revisionist approach—filtering the past through the present in order to shape the future.
Marina Reyes Franco
Independent Curator in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Co-founder of La Ene in Buenos Aires
Recent career highlight: “Watch your step / Mind your head” at Institut für Auslandsbeziehunge (ifa) Galerie in Berlin
Portrait of Marina Reyes Franco. Photo by Victoria Tomaschko. Courtesy of Marina Reyes Franco.
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Marina Reyes Franco traveled south to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to study and establish her career, before returning to Puerto Rico years later to continue her work from her native country. In 2010, she co-founded (along with artist and curator Gala Berger) La Ene, or Nuevo Museo Energía de Arte Contemporáneo, an alternative space in the Argentine capital, and the city’s first contemporary art museum.
“Living in Buenos Aires was very formative for me in terms of political education, civil involvement, and feminist thinking,” says Reyes Franco. “And La Ene continues to be one of my proudest achievements. The museum-as-project idea was very important in the Argentine scene at a time when museums were going through a crisis and we sought to bridge the gap between the institutional and the independent.” She also co-founded Proyecto CARA with Lino Divas to map artist-run spaces and collectives all over Argentina.
Now based in Puerto Rico, she is concerned with addressing “the economic and social challenges that the country faces as a U.S. colony, and a Caribbean nation with service and tourism industries on the rise”—as well as researching the country’s unwritten and oral histories, as interpreted through visual and sound art forms, and exploring the constructed ideas about paradise in the tropics.
Miguel A. López
Chief Curator at Teorética and Lado V, San José, Costa Rica
Recent career highlight: “Balance and Collapse. Patricia Belli: Works 1986-2016,” Teorética, San José
Portrait of Miguel A López. Photo by Daniela Morales L. Courtesy of Miguel A López.
Born in Lima, Peru, where he co-founded the experimental art space Bisagra with Florencia Portocarrero, Miguel A. López later moved to Costa Rica and captured the attention of the country’s art scene by applying a queer, revisionist lens to exhibition-making. Now the chief curator of San José’s contemporary art space Teorética, López practices an approach to contemporary art that’s anchored in the history of 1960s conceptual movements in Latin America. It’s a period that he has also examined through the international research platform he co-founded, Red Conceptualismos del Sur. López has worked with curators like Ana Longoni, Emilio Tarazona, and Agustín Perez Rubio—some of the leading voices across Latin America. Franklin Sirmans, director of the Pérez Museum in Miami, chose López from a pool of 12 finalists for the Independent Curators International’s (ICI) Independent Vision Curatorial Award in 2016, calling him “an important young voice whose past projects suggest a brilliant future.”
Curatorial Assistant at Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Recent career highlight: “In Memoriam,” Caixa Cultural, Rio de Janeiro
Portrait of Fernanda Lopes. Photo by Rafael Adorján. Courtesy of Fernanda Lopes.
Fernanda Lopes has established a reputation for investigating the ways in which important movements of the past shape the work of a younger generation of artists in Brazil. One of her most significant bodies of work is her research on the “Grupo Rex” artists of the 1960s. This short-lived movement was championed by irreverent heavyweights like Nelson Leirner and modernists like Geraldo de Barros and Waldemar Cordeiro—names also at the forefront of geometric abstraction in São Paulo. They questioned the pillars of the then-burgeoning art market in Brazil by allowing the public to take works home from galleries on an exhibition’s opening day, thereby subverting the idea of art for sale.
“What I find most interesting are less historical ways of thinking, free from the official genealogy already built around Latin American art,” says Lopes. “Ways of thinking that look at the ‘gaps’ or are at odds with history—it’s what I believe can be thought of as freedom.”
Independent Curator, São Paulo and Minas Gerais, Brazil
Recent career highlight: Co-curated the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo
Portrait of Júlia Rebouças. Courtesy of Fundação Bienal de São Paulo.
It was no surprise that the last edition of the Bienal de São Paulo, directed by Jochen Volz with Júlia Rebouças as one of his assistant curators, focused on the environment. Much of the framework seems to have taken shape while both Volz and Rebouças worked at the Instituto Inhotim, Brazil’s sprawling contemporary art museum within a botanical garden in Minas Gerais. In São Paulo, they channeled global discourse about climate change and the need for renewable sources of energy. But Rebouças is also very engaged with ideas of transformation in the artistic sphere. “We young curators and researchers from Latin America must establish new poetical and political values,” she says. “It is our role to create a tension with the structure provided by the market, which has a potential to anesthetize a scene.”
Co-founder of the Random Institute in Zurich, Switzerland and Head of the Curatorial Program at Despacio in San José, Costa Rica
Recent career highlight: “First Day of Good Weather - Latin American Art,” organized by Despacio, presented at Sies + Höke in Dusseldorf, Germany
Portrait of Sandino Scheidegger. Photo by Maripaz Howell. Courtesy of Sandino Scheidegger.
Sandino Scheidegger advocates for what he calls “slow curating.” In addition to running the influential, hybrid art space Random Institute in Zürich, alongside Luca Müller—where the pair’s main strategy is to counter the fast-paced rhythm of the art world—he also works regularly in Costa Rica, at San José’s Despacio, which is named after the Spanish word for “slow.” There, Scheidegger has implemented a program along the same unconventional lines, converting the space into a karaoke bar and homebase for lengthy performance festivals. Since its inception, it has become a driving force in the development of the artistic scene in Costa Rica and across Central America.
Beatriz Santiago Muñoz
Co-founder of Beta-Local, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Recent career highlight: “Sessions,” a series of experimental seminars
San Juan-based artist and curator Beatriz Santiago Muñoz is one of the most influential figures in Puerto Rico’s art scene. She is a co-founder of Beta-Local, a San Juan-based arts organization that is heading up a major arts grant relief fund in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Maria, which has become something of a think tank and meeting ground for artists working in all mediums. She is also director of “Sessions,” a series of seminars where cultural figures come together to discuss the island’s political conditions as well as work by emerging artists, and frequently works abroad—both elsewhere in Latin America and further afield. Recent artistic projects have taken her to Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, in Mexico City, New York’s Guggenheim Museum, Gasworks, in London, and the Bienal do Mercosul, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. In her artwork, which often mixes elements of cinema and performance, she has explored Puerto Rico’s colonial histories.
Alejandra Sarria Molano
Curator at Espacio Odeón and CAMPO, Bogotá, Colombia
Recent career highlight: “A Seat at the Table” at Espacio Odeón, Bogotá
Portrait of Alejandra Sarria Molano. Courtesy of Alejandra Sarria Molano.
As curator at Espacio Odeón, a performing arts theater in Bogotá, and co-founder of CAMPO, an interdisciplinary cultural venue where artist studios share space with galleries, Sarria Molano often stages projects and exhibitions that address systems of power or shed light on the way the built environment reflects the city’s history of conflict. For one such show at CAMPO, “Marco de lo Común,” Sarria Molano invited artists to perform interventions in apartment building lobbies and hallways in order to examine the social tensions that play out between people in shared spaces. More recently, she has turned her curatorial eye to issues of land rights and labor conditions as they relate to food production in “A Seat at the Table,” which included work by Latin American artists like Maria Buenaventura and Juliana Sánchez (her co-founder at CAMPO), as well as Western artists like Christian Jankowski and Martha Rosler.
Independent Curator and Co-founder of Lulu, Mexico City, Mexico
Recent career highlight: Curated the U-TURN Project Rooms section of ArteBA, Buenos Aires
Portrait of Chris Sharp. Courtesy of Chris Sharp.
American curator Chris Sharp fell in love with Mexico City when he moved there and co-founded the independent art space Lulu, alongside Martin Soto Clement, four years ago, adding to the city’s rich network of alternative and artist-run venues. Sharp sees his work at Lulu as subverting dominant modes of artistic production in Latin America. “Where the status quo revolves around socio-politically engaged conceptualism,” he says, “Lulu seeks to present an alternative, in the form of idiosyncratic practices which think plastically, i.e. through materials. In other words, Lulu is much more interested in form and materials than language and ideology.”
Sharp has worked with emerging and more established Mexican artists, including Aliza Nisenbaum and Rodrigo Hernández, in some cases taking their work to other parts of the world, from the Mexican capital to Austria. He is currently working on a show about Mexico City for the Australian Center for Contemporary Art in Melbourne, which opens in April 2018.
Curator at Solar dos Abacaxis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Recent career highlight: “O Que Vem com a Aurora” at Casa Triângulo, São Paulo
Portrait of Bernardo Mosqueria. Photo by João Pacca. Courtesy of Bernardo Mosqueria.
One of the most active young curators in the Brazilian art scene, Bernardo Mosqueira is known for his close work with artists, and has staged memorable solo shows that have been responsible for establishing the reputations of up-and-coming artists like Ivan Grilo and mid-career figures like Afonso Tostes. And through his work with artists like Grilo and Tostes—who investigate racial injustices and stereotypes through key moments in the country’s history of avant-garde art—Mosqueira revises preconceptions about modernism and racial relations in Brazil. “I’m attracted to projects engaged in the transformation of a social context,” he says, “projects not just dressed up to look marginal, tropical, or experimental.”
Bernardo José de Souza
Curator at Fundação Iberê Camargo, Porto Alegre, Brazil
Recent career highlight: “Depois do Fim” at Fundação Iberê Camargo, Porto Alegre
Portrait of Bernardo José de Souza. Courtesy of Bernardo José de Souza.
Working inside the sci-fi-like, white concrete shell that is the Fundação Iberê Camargo—a museum designed by Portuguese “starchitect” Álvaro Siza in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre—Bernardo José de Souza uses his curatorial work to reflect on what he calls “the ruins of modernity on this side of the Atlantic.” With a background in communications and photography, de Souza is interested in disrupting traditional institutional models and building critique around the lack of cultural engagement that plagued the Brazilian art scene during the country’s boom years. “Brazil had succumbed to the seduction of occupying a place on the global stage,” says de Souza. “If it hadn’t been for the collapse of the country as we knew it, people would still be sitting comfortably in that VIP lounge without reacting. I still fight against how little experimentation there is, how little transgression there is.”
Independent Curator and Co-founder of Coletor and Observatório, São Paulo, Brazil
Recent career highlight: “Vertigem, Gagueira, Repetição” on the Minhocão, São Paulo
Portrait of Germano Dushá. Courtesy of Germano Dushá.
Germano Dushá is interested in taking art out of museum spaces and into the public realm. He has staged shows in public squares and on São Paulo’s Minhocão, the infamous elevated highway that snakes through the city’s old center. Known for his influential writings on contemporary art, Dushá is beginning to build a reputation for himself as one of the boldest young curators in the Brazilian art scene, with projects that tackle some of the country’s pressing issues, such as the experiences of alienation and political apathy. He aims to give a platform to “those who wish to experiment with new ways of living, thinking, and operating, those who wish to keep transformation alive in the heart of things, who are not afraid of change and work towards making discussions more accessible and inclusive.”
Natalia Valencia Arango
Independent Curator, Mexico City, Mexico
Recent career highlight: Curated “Los multinaturalistas” (“The Multi-Naturalists”) at MAMM
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, based in Mexico City, and having staged projects in Guatemala, as well as Bogotá and Medellín (and curated an exhibition at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo), Natalia Valencia embodies the idea that the ties among Latin American countries run much deeper than just the fact of their shared colonial histories. She has curated projects at the Museo Quinta de Bolívar, in Bogotá, and worked as an adviser to the Museo de la Plata in Taxco, Mexico, in addition to working at Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City, and participating in the curatorial program at the Gwangju Biennale in Korea in 2012. Her international presence and deep knowledge of the local scene have made her one of the most promising names in the up-and-coming circuit of Latin American curators.
Curator at Museu de Arte do Rio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Recent career highlight: “Dja Guata Porã” at the Museu de Arte do Rio, Rio de Janeiro
Portrait of Clarissa Diniz. Courtesy of Clarissa Diniz.
Since the beginning of her career, Clarissa Diniz has been expanding what it means to be a curator. In her position at the helm of Rio de Janeiro’s Museu de Arte do Rio, she has challenged the idea of the curator as an autonomous creative force by involving artists deeply in the production of exhibitions. Such was the case with “Dja Guata Porã,” a major survey of indigenous art and objects that addressed the conditions of Rio’s native populations. The exhibition was guest-curated by individuals representing these communities. “I’m interested in non-hegemonic histories, the revision of historiographies,” says Diniz. “I’m happy to see young curators not only dealing with artists of their generation, but also willing to revise other historical periods and contexts.”
Ana Maria Maia
Professor, Researcher, and Independent Curator, São Paulo, Brazil
Recent career highlight: Her book Vehicle-art: Interventions in the Brazilian Mass Media (2015)
Portrait of Ana Maria Maia. Courtesy of Ana Maria Maia.
Maria Maia worked as assistant to Agnaldo Farias and Moacir dos Anjos, mainstays of the Brazilian art scene who spearheaded the 29th iteration of the Bienal de São Paulo seven years ago. Since then, she has expanded her influence in Brazil’s biggest art circuit by presenting the work of some of the strongest artists of her native Recife, working with established figures like Paulo Bruscky and Montez Magno, as well as up-and-coming artists such as Amanda Melo. She also worked alongside Lisette Lagnado for the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo’s 33rd Panorama of Brazilian art, which invited artists to reinvent the Lina Bo Bardi-designed museum space; it’s considered one of the most radical editions of this biennial show to date. More recently, she has been teaching art history and researching. And, in 2015, she published Vehicle-Art: Interventions in the Brazilian Mass Media, a book about historical art interventions in Brazilian mass media.
Senior Curator at Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recent career highlight: “La Paradoja en el Centro” at Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires
Portrait of Javier Villa. Courtesy of Javier Villa.
Javier Villa recently shed light on a radical moment in Latin American art history. “La Paradoja en el Centro,” one of the most remarkable shows in the recent history of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (MAMBA), located in the Argentine capital, explored the 1960s in Buenos Aires, when artists were engaged in abstraction, performance, and happenings. It included internationally renowned names like Lucio Fontana and Marta Minujín, as well as those that are less widely known, like Federico Manuel Peralta Ramos and Carmelo Arden Quin. Javier Villa is interested in how political repression led to an heightened awareness of materials, as well as shaping an intensely experimental ethos across a generation of artists.
Public Program Curator at Proyecto AMIL and Co-founder and Co-director of Bisagra, Lima, Peru
Recent career highlight: “Elena Tejada-Herrera, Videos de Esta Mujer: Registros de Performances 1997-2010” at Proyecto AMIL, Lima
Portrait of Florencia Portocarrero. Couresty of Florencia Portocarrero.
At Lima’s Proyecto AMIL and Bisagra, the latter one of the few independent art spaces in Lima, Florencia Portocarrero has cultivated a climate for experimental art in Lima, recently giving a platform to the work of the subversive Peruvian performance artist Elena Tejada-Herrera. Her curatorial work, which sometimes examines relationships and emotional states (such as her 2012 exhibition at Lima’s Spanish Cultural Center, “The Tyranny of Intimacy”), is informed by her diverse professional background. She began with a clinical psychology degree at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in Lima before continuing to De Appel arts centre’s curatorial program in Amsterdam, and then on to the Contemporary Art Theory MA program at Goldsmiths in London, among other twists and turns. Portocarrero also worked as a research assistant for the Emergency Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.
Artistic Director of Pivô, São Paulo, Brazil
Recent career highlight: “Boom,” a solo show of work by Alexandre da Cunha at Pivô
Portrait of Fernanda Brenner. Courtesy of Fernanda Brenner.
When she took over two abandoned floors of Oscar Niemeyer’s monumental Copan building in downtown São Paulo five years ago to launch Pivô, the most influential space in the city’s independent art scene, Fernanda Brenner was already on to something. She knew a change in perspective would come from a geographical shift toward the heart of Brazil’s concrete jungle—then still a no-go zone for most local art patrons. Since then, Pivô has hosted over 40 exhibitions and featured some 200 artists from all over the world. “In the last decade, the ‘official art system’ has become more and more interested in the idea of Latin American art, but those of us who work in this environment know how fictitious some of these [stereotypes] are,” says Brenner, “so my interest lies in looking at the possible relationships between these countries.”
Rodrigo Ortiz Monasterio
Independent Curator and Founder of Guayaba Press, Mexico City, Mexico
Recent career highlight: Passerby 02: Esther McCoy, Museo Jumex
A Mexican curator with ties to California, where he studied at the California College of the Arts, Rodrigo Ortiz Monasterio curates shows that often juxtapose alternate realities, such as combining the pristine idealism of Minimalism and the promise of Modernism with the harsh consequences that sweeping ideologies bring to daily life in cities. This year, Monasterio curated “Cuevas Civilizadas” at Guadalajara’s Ladera Oeste with artists Leonor Antunes, Mario García Torres, Roma Cortina, and Rometti Costales. Past projects include two iterations of the “Passersby” series at Museo Jumex, one featuring Polish theater director Jerzy Grotowski, who visited Mexico in the 1980s, and one exploring the work of the American writer and architecture critic Esther McCoy and the parts of the country that she encountered during her travels to Mexico in the 1950s.
Head Curator at Museo de Arte Moderno, Medellín (MAMM), Colombia
Recent career highlight: “Contrarrelatos” in the MAMM Collection
Portrait of Emiliano Valdés. Photo by Stefanía Ramírez. Courtesy of MAMM.
Now heading up Medellín’s Museo de Arte Moderno, an institution in Colombia’s second largest city, Guatemalan curator Emiliano Valdés rose to the forefront of one of the most exciting artistic landscapes in Latin America after making a name for himself as co-director of the Guatemala City gallery Proyectos Ultravioleta, a powerhouse for experimental art in Central America. Over the years, Valdés has devoted much of his attention to the burgeoning performance world in Guatemala, which is known for stalwarts of the genre such as Regina José Galindo and Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa. Valdés believes that this flourishing scene can be attributed to a strong trend among Latin American artists toward the dematerialization of art.
Stefan Benchoam and Jessica Kairé
Co-founders of El Nuevo Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (NuMu), Guatemala City, Guatemala
Recent career highlight: “Paisaje Sonoro,” an exhibition by avant-garde Guatemalan composer Joaquín Orellana, which traveled in a replica of NuMu to LACMA as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Portrait of Stefan Benchoam and Jessica Kaireé. Photo by Arianne Engelberg. Courtesy of NuMu.
In a minuscule, egg-shaped building in Guatemala City, artist duo Jessica Kairé and Stefan Benchoam created the first and only contemporary art museum and artist-run space in the Central American country. Since its inception five years ago, NuMu, or new museum, has indeed become a powerful and quirky vitrine for some of the most innovative and expressive artistic projects in Guatemala’s blossoming art scene. Local artist Regina José Galindo, Mexican artist Mario García Torres, and Argentine Amalia Pica are some of those that have occupied this tiny space with their artworks and performances.
Header image: Pedestrian bridge by Oscar Niemeyer, Favela da Rocinha, Gávea, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, via Getty Images.