In less than two weeks, a major exhibition, "Magnificent Mexico: 20th Century Modern Masterworks" opens to the public at the El Paso Museum of Art.
Museum director Michael Tomor says he is especially excited that the landmark exhibit, which opens Jan. 28, brings together a trio of amazing exhibitions: "Magnitud Mexicana: Visions of Art from Mexican Collections;" "Dibujos Divinos: 20th Century Drawings" from the Museo Nacional de Arte; and "Diego Rivera and the Cubist Vision," from the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil.
Together these collections include more than 90 original masterworks, a number of which have never been exhibited outside of Mexico. It will be the largest gathering of Mexican art ever exhibited in El Paso.
Tomor is even more pleased to be partnering with a new philanthropic group, CommUNITY en Accion, called CEA. Just over a year old, CEA might still be thought of as the new kid on the block. But this fledgling organization is already exerting a strong leadership presence as the presenting sponsor of the blockbuster "Magnificent Mexico" exhibition.
Board president Richard Castro explains that CEA was founded by individual Hispanic businessmen and other professionals whose mission is to "instill Hispanic pride, unity and leadership and make a positive impact on El Paso and the surrounding area."
"We held membership in CEA to around 60 members during our organizational period, but now we are finding extreme interest in making this type of commitment so we are expanding our horizons," Castro said. "Education issues are also very important to us because education levels and economic development go hand in hand. The higher the education and income level, the more individuals become interested in assisting efforts to raise the quality of life in their community."
One of the group's major focal points right now is culture and the arts.
"When we learned that Michael Tomor wanted to bring this exhibition to the area, our board voted to become the sponsoring organization," Castro said. "One of the things that really drew us to this decision was learning that much of the art had never been displayed outside of Mexico, and the El Paso Museum of Art would be the first U.S. museum to show this work. Additionally, it was the importance of the work being shown which included pieces by Mexican masters such as Siqueiros, Rivera, Orozco and Tamayo."
A year in the works
Tomor explained why "Magnificent Mexico" is vital in helping to fulfill the museum's mission to educate the public about the art of Mexico.
"In the beginning, we addressed this mission through our permanent collection of Mexican Art - 17th to 19th Spanish Colonial Art in Mexico in the Dorrance and Olga Roderick Gallery, and in 2006 we expanded our efforts by bringing in the ‘Mexican Modern' exhibition from the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno," Tomor said.
That was the first time the El Paso Museum of Art exhibited original works by well-known Mexican modernists.
"Hosting exhibitions of Mexican art is of great significance both to residents of the Borderland and to the El Paso Museum of Art because approximately 86 percent of the area's population are American nationals of Mexican descent. We are fortunate that our demographics of attendance reflect the demographics of El Paso, and that is why we are pleased to bring in art that helps these citizens understand the culture from which they came, even indirectly," Tomor said.
The show had its inception over a year ago, Tomor added, when curator Christian Gerstheimer began talking with the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil about borrowing paintings by Diego Rivera from the period of 1910, all cubist works inspired by his time with Picasso in Paris.
Rivera, who had already received his academic training in Mexico and was introduced to Modernism in Europe, then brought took the concept back to Mexico.
"The seven pieces in this exhibit are not just beautiful cubist works, but they also provide us with the opportunity to talk about the Modernist movement as it spread from Western Europe to North America." Tomor said.
The timing of the exhibition is also significant.
"All the art of Mexico belongs to the government," Tomor said, "so whenever a change of leadership occurs, before the current president leaves office, the rules say that all cultural assets must be inventoried. This means that any works on loan outside the country must be returned to Mexico."
The museum had to cut its 2006 Mexican modern exhibition short because of that requirement, and it dawned on Tomor that if they were to borrow any additional works, it had to be done before the summer elections.
"The institutions we would be working with such as the Museo Nacional de Arte and the Museo de Arte Carillo Gil are much like our National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Modern Art in New York," he said. "Therefore, I might be looking at 2014 before we had another opportunity to get art on loan due to the time it takes to reorganize all their departments."
In addition to the cubist exhibit, Tomor said they obtained a commitment from the National Museum of Art in Mexico City, MUNAL, for the loan of 40 drawings by the same major artists included in the "Mexican Modern" show.
"Entitled ‘Dibujos Divinos: 20th Century Drawings,' it gives us an opportunity to talk about drawing as an art form, how these artists used this medium, both in the working process and as a final product," he said. "These works are just stunning."
Tomor is especially gratified to be able to obtain these works, which debuted in Paris in 2009, and were immediately returned to Mexico, and will be exhibited in the United States for the first time in El Paso.
"Magnitud Mexicana: Visions of Art from Mexican Collections" rounds out the exhibition and focuses on Modern Mexican art. There will be original paintings by the same masters showcased in the drawing exhibition. Landscapes by Siquerios, and portraits and still lifes by Modernists such as Rivera, Tamayo and Toledo have been added. Curated by the National Institute of Fine Art in Mexico City, this show debuts at the El Paso Museum of Art.
Magnificent Mexico: 20th Century Modern Masterworks
El Paso Museum of Art
1 Arts Festival Plaza
Jan. 28-May 27
Admission $10 for non-members age 13 and up, $5 for members age 13 and up.
Free admission for children 12 and under and active military personnel and their families with ID.
For more information, call (915) 532-1707 or www.elpasoartmuseum.org
Presented by CommUNITY en Acción
Also sponsored by Bravo Cadillac, Enrique Moreno, MEXUS Communications, Castro Enterprises, Hector and Debbie Gutierrez, Dan Olivas and Associates, Boy Scouts of America Yucca Council and Strategic Financial Advisors.