Mexican Artists Finally Get Their Due

BY Harper's Bazaar Arabia / Jun 19 2016 / 19:57 PM

Curator Peggy Leboeuf​ scoured the country to find its best artists. Here, she tells why Mexico is one of the new forces in contemporary art

Mexican Artists Finally Get Their Due

For two years, Peggy Leboeuf and co-curator Anissa Touati traveled throughout Mexico to meet with established and emerging local artists. After dozens of studio visits and planning sessions with curators, critics, museums and art school directors, the pair discovered a diverse cross-section of Mexican contemporary art provoked by the country's unique culture, history, and dynamic energy.

Sixteen of those artists are now being celebrated with a special exhibition at Galerie Perrotin in Paris, titled ¿Cómo te voy a olvidar? — a declaration of love to Mexico.  The group show, which runs until July 30, includes the work of Gwladys Alonzo, Edgardo Aragón, Ana Bidart, Pia Camil, and Yann Gerstberger, among others, and looks at notions of identity and citizenship, as well as modernity and history through ceramics, video, performance, sculpture, drawing, photography, painting, tapestry and collage.

Top: Edgardo Aragón. Bottom: Gonzalo Lebrija

The gallery admits it is "impossible" to completely summarise the Mexican art scene's history and dynamism in one group exhibition. Instead, it aims to offer a perspective on the rich and vibrant community. Leboeuf, the Senior Director of Galerie Perrotin New York, takes Bazaar through her two-year journey to reveal why the Mexican art world is one of the new forces in contemporary art.

Harper's Bazaar: What makes Mexican art so special? 

Peggy Leboeuf: There is a unique socio-cultural history alongside a strong intellectual awareness in Mexico that, combined, creates a very exciting art scene! There are also museums, institutions, curators and collectors with very sharp and specific points of view about what they consider contemporary art. A new generation is building on the work of established Mexican artists such as Damian Ortega, Gabriel Orozco or Gabriel Kuri. They are concerned also — but in new and innovative ways — with the ideas of modernity, identity, nationhood and history. 

Top: Jose Leon Cerrillo. Bottom: Galerie Perrotin

HB: What do you hope visitors will learn from the exhibition you curated?

PL: I hope they will immediately buy a flight ticket to Mexico after visiting the show! This selection of emerging artists shows our unique experiences and encounters in Mexico; it is an attempt at giving an account of the country's complexity and influences.  I hope visitors will walk away inspired, aware of how a new generation has a different way of thinking with their poetical and stylish approach to modernism, socio-political issues as well as more intimate concerns, such as relationships.

HB: How did your co-curator, Anissa Touati, help with the process?

PL: I invited Anissa because we shared a similar passion for Mexico and she had been looking for emerging artists all year long. It was a wonderful experience to share personal thoughts on art as we travelled, we really experienced and understood Mexico together through the two years of research and studio visits. 

Top: Gabriel Rico. Bottom: Edgardo Aragón

HB: You could say that you've started quite the love affair with Mexico.

PL: I went to Mexico for the first time in 2014 for Sophie Calle's exhibition at the Museo Tamayo. It was during this trip that I was first exposed to the dynamic art scene of Mexico.  But I really fell in love with the country, getting to know it well during those two years. The landscapes are amazing, we can see it in Gonzalo Lebrija's movies, The Distance Between You and Me, or in the film Extermino by Edgardo Aragon. You can also see that modernist architecture influenced some of the artists like Jose Davila and Jorge Mandez Blake.

HB: You're celebrating 20 years at the gallery this year. How has the concept of an art gallery changed since the 90s, if it has changed at all?

PL: The internet has changed everything! It's more immediate of course with social networks like Facebook and Instagram, for example. The benefits today are that we can access easily a variety of information and a very a specific art scene, like that we wanted to show in this exhibition. 

Top: Gabriel Rico. Bottom: Jose Davila

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