Latin America at International Art Exhibitions

The representation of Latin American countries at art fairs and other international art exhibitions has grown steadily over the years. Latin American art is hugely important at an international level and prominent figures in the art world are finally beginning to taking notice of it. Are there organizations or groups responsible for representing Latin America’s identity in galleries, world fairs, and biennials? Yes.

The Americas Society strives to raise public awareness of the rich cultural heritage of Latin America through a variety of programs and exhibits.1 Additionally, the Organization of American States was created to help participating countries defend their sovereignty by promoting their economic, social and cultural development.2 Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA) is another organization based in San Jose, California which advocates “new visual, literary and performance art in order to engage people in civic dialogue and community transformation.”3 Aside from specific organizations, many prominent galleries and museums in countries outside Latin America have entire collections or departments devoted to the art and culture of Latin America. Among these are: The Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C., Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California, Museo de las Americas in Denver, Colorado and El Museo del Barrio, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. These museums show their support by exhibiting Latin American artists in a conscious effort to raise awareness for their work and their contributions to the international art market.

An exhibition is a “display of art or artifacts for temporary, public viewing.”4 Exhibitions that feature Latin American art have historically categorized the artworks as a group separated from mainstream art historical tradition. This raises two fundamental questions: What is the purpose of such art exhibitions? Is it solely to look inwards, generate national awareness? And, if the answer is No, then why isn’t more Latin American art included in the art historical canon? Images from Latin America help us to define art and whom we define as important to art.

In 1965, the Organization of the Americas started putting on exhibitions at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C. in order to support member countries’ fine arts and craft and to generate awareness for the art of Latin America as a whole. At the Museum of Modern Art, an exhibition titled New Perspectives in Latin American Art, presented works by artists that have been added to the museums’ collection in the past ten years. Another notable exhibition was Space of Time: Contemporary Art from the Americas which looked at the way in which “artists of disparate ethnic, cultural and geographic backgrounds participated in artistic dialogues in the major art centers of the United States and Europe.”5 Taken together these exhibitions, among many others, shared the common goal of representing and promoting art from a somewhat neglected, ‘forgotten,’6 artistic nation. Despite their support, Latin American countries still face many difficulties in the unpredictable art market.

An art fair is a commercial exhibition where art gallerists and the artists they represent in their galleries are on public display. There are many art fairs that exclusively represent Latin American art. Pinta is a modern and contemporary Latin American art show. Its first exhibition was hosted in New York City in 2007 and has since moved to London, England. The fair includes galleries from the United States, Latin America and Europe coinciding with Christie’s and Sotheby’s Latin American art auctions. ArteBA in Buenos Aries (established in 1991), Zsona Maco Mexico Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City (established in 2004) and CIRCA in San Juan, Puerto Rico (established in 2006) and Arteamericas in Miami (established in 2006) are four additional art fairs that foster the arts in Latin American countries. The issue with having primary art fairs within Latin American countries is that the art remains local. Despite this, Pinta and Arteamericas have gained international recognition, raising awareness for the Latin American art.

Art biennials are held bi-annually in an effort to promote established and emerging artists from around the world. South America is host to the second oldest biennial in the world. At the Venice Biennial, which is the world’s oldest art biennial, countries such as Argentina (1954), Uruguay (1954), Brazil (1958), Spain (1958) and Venezuela (1964) have their own pavilions where national representatives are showcased.7  Founded in 1895, the Venice Biennial also served as a model for the São Paolo Biennial in Brazil.

The São Paolo Biennial takes place at Ciccillo Matarazzo pavilion in the Parque do Ibirapuera. It was founded in 1951 with the aim to make “contemporary art known in Brazil, push the country’s access to the art scene in other metropolises and further establish São Paulo as an international art center. The biennial serves to bring Brazilian art closer to an international audience, and vice-versa. The international exhibitions are held under the direction of rotating chief curators.”8

The Havana Biennial (Cuba) was established in 1984 and the first edition was dedicated exclusively to Caribbean and Latin American art. This was a political gesture on the part of the exhibition organizers, and the Biennial has since become a key venue for all ‘non-Western art.’

Although the situation is slowly improving, is undeniable that Latin America lacks the global representation it deserves. Latin American artists play a significant part in the history of art. It is important that we embrace Latin American art.

Mark Ferkul


  1. Americas Society, Space of Time: Contemporary Art from the Americas (New York: Americas Society, 1993), 6-7.
  2. “Our Purpose,” Organization of American States, accessed November 1, 2011,
  3. “About Us,” Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, accessed November 10, 2011,
  4. This definition was taken from The University of Chicago’s keyword glossary definition of ‘exhibition’.
  5. “Space of Time: Contemporary Artists of the Americas,” Americas Society, accessed November 1, 2011,
  6. The term ‘forgotten’ was used to reference Latin American art by Annick Sanjurjo in the introductory notes in the catalog for the “Exhibitions at the Organization of American States 1965-1985”.
  7. The years in this sentence represent when the first artist exhibited from that country.
  8. “Biennial Foundation,” Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, accessed November 14, 2011,

Works Cited

Americas Society. Space of Time: Contemporary Art from the Americas. New York: Americas Society, 1993.

Americas Society. “Space of Time: Contemporary Artists of the Americas.” Americas Society. Accessed November 1, 2011.

Fundação Bienal de São Paulo. “Biennial Foundation.” Fundação Bienal de São Paulo. Accessed November 14, 2011.

Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana. “About Us.” Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana. Accessed November 10, 2011.

Museum of Modern Art. “Exhibitions: New Perspectives in Latin American Art, 1930–2006: Selections from a Decade of Acquisitions.” Museum of Modern Art. Accessed November 19, 2011.

Organization of American States. “Our Purpose.” Organization of American States. Accessed November 1, 2011.

Ramirez, Mari Carmen. “Beyond “the Fantastic”: Framing Identity in U.S. Exhibitions of Latin American Art.” Art Journal 51, no. 4 (1992): 60-68.

Sanjurjo, Annick. Contemporary Latin American Artists: Exhibitions at the Organization of American States 1965-1985. United States of America: The Scarecrow Press, 1993.

Serviddio, Fabiana. “Exhibiting Identity: Latin America between the imaginary and the real.” Journal of Social History 44, no. 2 (2010): 481-498.

This entry was posted in Art Biennials, Art Fairs, Arteamericas, ArteBA, CIRCA, Havana Biennial (Cuba), Sao Paolo Biennial (Brazil), Zsona. Bookmark the permalink.

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