In terms of size, scope and ambition it’s hard to imagine a festival of the visual arts (and to a lesser extent music) on quite the scale of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.
Launched on 15 September and running till late January 2018, it’s a four-month celebration of Latin American and Latino culture. There will be works by 1,100 artists from 45 countries across more than 70 museums, galleries and performance venues in southern California – from Santa Barbara, 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles airport, to San Diego (125 miles south) and Palm Springs (about the same distance east). As a reason to visit the Golden State, it’s a compelling one.
Avenue de Mayo, 1914. Unknown photographer. Gelatin silver print in Travel Albums from Paul Fleury’s Trips to Switzerland, the Middle East, India, Asia, and South America, 1896-1918 CREDIT: THE GETTY CENTER THE METROPOLIS IN LATIN AMERICA, 1830-1930/COURTESY OF THE GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE
Perhaps not surprisingly the place to start is LA itself. Its major institutions: the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (where Alejandro Iñárritu’s virtual-reality installation Carne y Arena, which vividly conveys what it’s like to try and cross the US-Mexico border illegally, is a hot ticket, even though it’s not strictly part of the festival); the Getty Center (the Getty Foundation is funding the initiative to the tune of $16 million); the Institute of Contemporary Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art; the Hammer Museum; the Broad; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; the UCLA Film & Television Archive; Los Angeles Filmforum are all involved, as are many others, public and commercial.
David Lamelas: A Life of Their Own; David Lamelas, Signaling of Three Objects, 1968 CREDIT: UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM, CSU LONG BEACH/COURTESY OF THE ARTIST, JAN MOT, SPRÜTH MAGERS, AND MACCARONE, NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES.
The eminent dealer Sprüth Magers, for example, has an exhibition devoted to the Argentinian conceptual artist David Lamelas to complement a survey of his work at the University Art Museum in Long Beach. While the LA outpost of Gagosian is showing huge abstract canvases and tile paintings by the Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão; and Hauser & Wirth has an exhibition of work by her compatriot, the late great Mira Schendel, subject of a revelatory retrospective at Tate Modern in 2013.
Ferdinand Deppe, San Gabriel Mission. Oil on canvas, c. 1832 CREDIT: LAGUNA ART MUSEUM CALIFORNIA MEXICANA: MISSIONS TO MURALS, 1820–1930
Hire a car and head south along the coast down Interstate 405, and you’ll find further shows in Laguna Beach in Orange County (55 miles south), where an exhibition, California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820-1930, featuring Mexico’s most famous artist Frida Kahlo and her husband, the great muralist Diego Rivera, and exploring how part of Mexico became California, runs at the Laguna Art Museum.
Male and Female Ancestor Figures. Mexico, Nayarit, 300 BCE– 300 CE. Painted ceramic. CREDIT: COLLECTION OF MINGEI INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM, GIFT OF FRED AND BARBARA MEIERS.
Press on and in a couple of hours, you’ll reach San Diego. Here there are half a dozen further exhibitions to justify the drive, ranging from Art of the Americas: Mesoamerican and Pre-Columbian Art at the Mingei International Museum, a survey of objects from the ancient Olmec and Maya civilizations; to unDocumenta at the Oceanside Museum of Art, which examines what it is to live without papers for those who make it across the border illegally.
Omar Pimienta, Lady Libertad V1, 2007 CREDIT: OCEANSIDE MUSEUM OF ART/OMAR PIMIENTA
The highlight, however, is arguably Modern Masters from Latin America, featuring works from the early 1800s to the present that belong to the Spanish-born, Mexico-based telecoms tycoon and collector Juan Antonio Perez Simón, who – perhaps unexpectedly – also has one of the largest collections of British Victorian painting in existence, rich in pre-Raphaelites and works by Lord Leighton and Alma Tadema.
Ricardo Martínez de Hoyos, Figure with Blue Background (Figura con fondo azul), 1985 CREDIT: SAN DIEGO MUSEUM OF ART MODERN MASTERS FROM LATIN AMERICA: THE PÉREZ SIMÓN COLLECTION/ARTURO PIERA. COLECCIÓN PÉREZ SIMÓN, MEXICO.
With exhibitions ranging from 18th-century landscapes and portraits painted by colonisers and settlers in Mexico during the 18th century (Painted in Mexico: Pinxit Mexici, 1700-1790, at LACMA from 19 November), to Circles and Circuits II: Contemporary Chinese Caribbean Art, which focuses on the work of artists descended from Chinese indentured workers who settled in Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, there is surely something to interest everyone. A holiday is just never going to be long enough to see it all.
Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz, Portrait of Doña Tomasa Durán López de Cárdenas, c.1762, private collection, Mexico City CREDIT: RAFAEL DONIZ/LACMA (LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART) PAINTED IN MEXICO, 1700-1790: PINXIT MEXICI