Interview Fairs USA

Something new from South America

The curator Jesús Fuenmayor puts works by Latin American artists in the fair’s Nova section into a wider context

The director and chief curator of the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Jesús Fuenmayor

The 2013 Nova section, as in previous editions of Art Basel in Miami Beach, allows galleries to present two or three artists showing recent, often never-before-seen works. The Venezuelan curator Jesús Fuenmayor, who has been the director and chief curator of the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation since 2012, speaks to The Art Newspaper about some of the Latin American artists showing at Nova.

The Art Newspaper: What can you tell me about Teresa Margolles and Pedro Reyes—the two artists from Mexico City’s Labor gallery (N21) who are showing in the Nova section?

Jesús Fuenmayor: Both of them are among the best known contemporary artists from Mexico. Outside Mexico, Pedro Reyes, whose approach is focused on research, is one of the most visible artists of his generation. He is one of the most radical artists in Mexico. He always tries to bring art into a conversation about violence, for example. His musical instruments made out of guns had a great impact on the Mexican public.

Teresa Margolles was part of an artists’ group called Semefo (an acronym for Mexico’s forensic medical service) that began to work with issues of violence in the early 1990s. She is well known for an installation of casts [of] dead bodies. Her work is polemical and explores ethical issues about how we deal with violent death in Latin America.

Johanna Calle, showing at Casas Riegner (N17), is known for highly technical, beautiful drawings.

Casas Riegner is definitely the best gallery in Colombia, and Johanna is part of a younger generation of artists who, in the early 2000s, began to do something new out of the old traditions in Colombia—a very conservative country, with an old-fashioned art educational system in which everybody learns drawing. The artists from her group have found a way to remain connected to the drawing tradition, but reawaken the practice as well. Calle is interested in protocols: she reconstructs existing shapes, accounting books, notebooks and letter formats; she transforms something that is part of our daily life into a new and extraordinary experience.

The Peruvian artist Daniela Ortiz, who is being presented by 80M2 Livia Benavides gallery (N22), is very conceptual. She mostly works with photography and mixed media to comment on Latin America’s divided societies.

Ortiz is an extremely interesting intellectual who often addresses social contexts. Most of her work focuses on a particular problem—labour. She often examines issues [around] the division between the classes. In one piece, for example, she studied the floor plans of homes belonging to the upper class. She compared the proportion of the space reserved for the homeowners with that given to domestic employees. She does not avoid difficult issues. For example, her works have market value, and if that affects or is part of what she is criticising, she is not going to be naive about it. She knows that nothing is outside the market. For Daniela, it is important to bring those problems into the discussion.

There are some good artists coming out of Peru right now, such as José Carlos Martinat [presented by Revolver gallery, N15]. He is also making political work, but is conscious that they are being shown in an institutional context. There are emerging private collectors in Peru who are giving a lot of support to the arts. It’s amazing what is happening there.

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