edited by Edward J. Sullivan, The Frick Collection and Penn State University Press, June 2018. 224 p. ill. ISBN 9780271079523 (h/c), $69.95.
Reviewed November 2018
The fourth in The Frick Collection Studies in the History of Art Collecting in America, this is the first in the series to focus on Latin American art. It provides an overview on all periods of Latin American art from ancient cultures to contemporary art. The book begins with an excellent introduction to the history of collecting Latin American art in the United States. Ten essays follow, each by a different scholar, addressing different aspects of patronage and collecting in the field of Latin American art.
The essays outline how different collectors and curators focused on various aspects of Latin American art to develop collections at museums across the country, and how political agendas played a role. For example, in the essay “Hot Styles and Cold War,” Delia Solomon provides a fascinating look at how in the Cold War climate of the 1960s, MOMA positioned itself as a “cultural powerhouse,” highlighting it’s Latin American collection in the 1967 exhibition Latin American Art, 1931-1966 and highlighting Latin American artists such as Marisol Escobar and Mathias Goeritz in the 1961 exhibition The Art of Assemblage.
It was also informative to read accounts of how some curators, like Robert de Forest at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, turned away from ancient art and artifacts offered for sale illegally, recognizing the rights of indigenous people to their cultural heritage. The complex issues around collecting art from different Latin American countries are explored in greater depth in essays such as Suzanne Stratton-Pruitt’s “Roberta and Richard Huber’s Adventures in Collecting.”
Some essays address the larger impetuses behind these collections, such as Nelson Rockefeller’s financial support for Latin American art at MOMA, which quietly aided his political mission as Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs in the 1940s. In contrast, Vanessa Davidson’s essay looks at the Phoenix Museum of Art’s collection, which lacked funds and patronage until Mr. and Mrs. Orme Lewis begin donating portions of their collection in 1957, including Frida Kahlo’s iconic, The Suicide of Dorothy Hale, in 1960. Elsewhere, the impact of the art of the Mexican Muralists is also touched on as is the diversity and challenges of collecting contemporary artists.
This volume is wonderful starting point for the history and trends in Latin American art collecting in the United States. A helpful index and endnotes are included. The Americas Revealed will be of use to scholars; it would also fit in general art collections.