Neither Latin nor American, Latinx (or Latin) art asks for passage

Neither Latin nor American, Latinx (or Latin) art asks for passage

Numerous initiatives seek to promote the works of artists of Latin descent who reside within the United States and who have always suffered a lack of support and marginalization.

More and more collectors, curators and gallery owners are beginning to find in Latinx or Latin art an opportunity to approach new creative and suggestive perspectives on current contemporary art. Artists from this group are gaining more and more prominence in the United States and, therefore, in the rest of the world. An example of this is the selection of works for the 60th edition of the Venice Biennale, considered the largest art biennial in the world, which opened last April and can be seen until November. Brazilian Adriano Pedrosa, the first Latin American to curate it, describes it as a very political proposal that celebrates “immigrants, foreigners, queer people and indigenous people,” focused on decolonizing the history of culture (mostly focused on white men) and empowering those who have been excluded from it.

Unlike Latin American art, which also refers to art produced in Latin America, Latinx art (gender-neutral as an alternative to “Latino” or “Latina”) comprises the works of artists of Latin descent who reside within the United States. At first this group was called “Latinx”, but it is becoming “Latine”, which according to surveys is a better received word because it is easier to pronounce.

The trend toward making a more inclusive genealogy of art has begun to accelerate in recent years. This is a sustained complaint that demands more ethnic diversity and greater gender pluralism to create a representative canon. Regarding Latin artists, already in 2021, the United States Latinx Art Forum (USLAF) launched its most powerful and largest initiative: 15 annual grants of $50,000 in financial support for artists . This addressed the false system of support and marginalization in the history of American art that Latinos have suffered despite representing almost 20% of the country's population.

But financially supporting invisible artists does not contribute to the national art scene becoming inclusive and plural. It was necessary to go to the root of the problem and begin to correct the defects of a flawed system, investing in the professionals behind the programming of the most influential artistic platforms in the country having a heterogeneous and truly inclusive perspective. In this sense, in the 2022 edition of Art Basel in Miami more than half of the participating galleries were of Latin American origin. And in early 2023, the Mellon, Ford, Getty, and Terra foundations announced a groundbreaking initiative in the art world Promoting Latinx Art in Museums (ALAM). The project started with a first collective annual grant of $5 million divided into ten grants with the aim of creating permanent jobs for curators with experience in Latin art and for others who are beginning their professional careers.
“We need to invest more if we want Latinx art to be more represented in our museums, with curatorial professionals who can dedicate themselves exclusively to building and managing these collections,” explained the director of the Getty Foundation, Joan Weinstein, in the press release where the winners were announced. Of the 48 cultural institutions and visual arts organizations in the United States and Puerto Rico invited to participate, part of the ten that received funding aid are dedicated exclusively to the promotion of Latin American art, such as the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago or the Museo del Barrio, in New York. But among the winners are also other general museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego or the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

In addition to the famous Museo del Barrio in New York, which since it opened its doors in 1969 has become the great national reference, and the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA, for its acronym in English) founded in Los Angeles in 1996, there are also art galleries outside the commercial circuit that are gaining prominence by marketing the work of Latin artists. An example of this are the two led by Charlie James and located in the Chinatown of Los Angeles (CJG2 and Charlie James Gallery), where the work of artists such as Patrick Martinez, Lucía Hierro, Narsiso Martinez or Lee Quiñones can be seen.

Group exhibitions have also been organized such as There is no post-hurricane world: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria, curated by Marcela Guerrero for the Whitney Museum in New York (2022); Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990, Today, by curator Carla Acevedo-Yates for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2023); or Chosen Memories, the exhibition curated by Inés Katzenstein for MoMA, which collects the postcolonial narrative of 40 of the most representative artists of the region (2023).

However, there is still much work to do. In this sense, the multidisciplinary artist of Cuban origin Yali Romagoza performed a performance in 2021 at the doors of MoMA Ps1 where she asked the museum a question written on a poster: ”How many Latinx artists have had an individual exhibition in this museum?” . Followed by the response “Zero”.