Tate, Pinta, ESCALA, and Latin American Art

Submitting Institution

University of Essex

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Anthropology
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Art history at Essex has a long tradition of research in Latin American art. Since 1993 this research activity has included academic publications, exhibition curating and catalogue production, and the development of the Essex Collection of Latin American Art (ESCALA). This research has informed the work that Essex art historians have undertaken to raise the profile of the history of Latin American art. The impact of this research has been achieved through collaboration with major art institutions including Tate and Pinta and through exhibitions of work collected by ESCALA. Through these activities Essex art historians have influenced Tate's collections and exhibitions, introduced Latin American artists to the global art market, and taught regional, national, and international publics about the significance of Latin American art.

Underpinning research

For over 30 years art historians at Essex have studied both historical and contemporary Latin American art. One of the aims of this research has been to raise the profile of Latin American art through a range of research activities including not only the publication of academic books and articles but also Latin American exhibition curating, contributions to and editing of exhibition catalogues, and a collection of Latin American art established at the University of Essex. This range of research activities, led by Professors Dawn Ades and Valerie Fraser, has established Essex's research speciality in Latin American art history and its distinct focus on post-war Latin America art. Ades' and Fraser's journal and book publications in the field have covered a wide range of subjects and artists in post-war Latin American art. Fraser's publications include studies of Latin American architecture (2000) and Latin American artists including María Thereza Negreiros (1994). Ades' work has covered inter alia Siron Franco (1996), Francisco Toledo (2000), and José Clemente Orozco (2002).

Fraser and Ades have also worked frequently with galleries and museums to exhibit Latin American work and to publish associated collections of essays. These exhibitions and their catalogues have been integral to promoting the field of Latin American art and its relationship to the art of Europe and the USA, especially in the UK and the Americas. Ades has curated exhibitions addressing the significance of Mexican political art, including work by muralist José Orozco and prints by artists including Diego Rivera. She also organised the first major retrospective of Mexican artist Francisco Toledo. In these exhibitions Ades has offered a new interpretation of the history of artistic activism, emphasising for the first time the links forged by artists with indigenous cultures as a critical response to contemporary culture and politics.

These publications and exhibitions are complemented by a Latin American art collection run by staff within the UoA. In 1993 Ades and Fraser launched the University of Essex Collection of Latin American Art (UECLAA, renamed ESCALA in 2011), which has since become known as `the only public collection in Europe dedicated exclusively to modern and contemporary art from this region' (in the words of the Director of Tate National — see section 5, corroborating source 5). ESCALA works closely with Ades and Fraser and this mutually informative relationship allows the latest research to inform the collection and exhibition activities of ESCALA, and for ESCALA's connections with contemporary Latin American artists and art collectors to inform the underpinning research. ESCALA also provides Essex's Latin American art research with a permanent platform for disseminating the research for the benefit of gallery visitors, ESCALA's gallery and museum partners, Latin American art collectors, and Latin American artists. The activities of the researchers and of ESCALA have been funded by a number of AHRC grants totalling over £400,000.

References to the research

Ades, A. (1996) Figures and likenesses: The painting of Siron Franco Brazil: Art Books Intl. ISBN: 978-8570830463

Ades, A. (2000) `Toledo' in Francisco Toledo London: Whitechapel Art Gallery. ISBN: 9780854881239

Ades, A. (2002) `Orozco and modern (easel) painting' in Jose Clemente Orozco in the United States, 1927-1934 Dartmouth College: Hood Museum of Art. ISBN: 9780393041767

Ades, A. (2010) Revolution on paper: Mexican prints 1910-1960 London: British Museum. ISBN: 9780292722484

Fraser, V. (1994) `A greener modernism: The Amazonian paintings of María Thereza Negreiros' in New art in Latin America: Expanding the continent St. Martin's Press. ISBN: 978-1854902207

Fraser, V. (2000) Building the new world: Studies in the modern architecture of Latin America, 1930-1960 London: Verso. ISBN: 9781859843079

Fraser, V. (2005) `La colección de arte latinoamericano de la Universidad de Essex' Illapa: Revista del Instituto de Investigaciones Museológicas y Artísticas de la Universidad Ricardo Palma, 2, pp. 115-122 [Available from HEI on request]

Research Funding — Total £412,186

Fraser, V. Latin American Art: an on-line research resource, AHRC, 2001 - 2004, £300,238

Fraser, V. Wider UECLAA: extending understanding of the collection as a resource for learning and teaching, AHRC, 2004 - 2005, £30,000

Fraser, V. Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art and the UK, AHRC, 2006 - 2007, £81,948

Details of the impact

Essex research into Latin American art has increased professional and public awareness of the history and significance of this field. This research has been integral to the growing global recognition of Latin American art among artists, curators, art critics, collectors, galleries and museums. Through their collaborations with a variety of influential art institutions, including Tate and Pinta, the researchers have used their expertise in the field to influence the acquisition and exhibition of Latin American art, and have helped to introduce contemporary Latin American artists to global art markets. Essex researchers have also used their research to inform non-specialist audiences, and have educated the general public and schools through a series of public engagement events that highlight the significance and value of Latin American art.

Tate — influencing Latin American art acquisition and exhibition

The University of Essex has a close and on-going collaborative relationship with Tate, and Essex Latin American art researchers continue to influence Tate's acquisition and exhibition of Latin American art. Since 2000 (the opening of the Tate Modern) the Tate Collection has acquired 317 works from Latin America [corroborating source 1]. Ades has been a Tate Trustee and a member of Tate's Collections Committee, and was instrumental in setting up the Tate Latin American Acquisition Committee. In 2011 the mutually influential relationship between Tate and the University of Essex was formalised in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by both institutions, recognising the `strong relationship between UoE and Tate in the field of Latin American art studies' that has been `centred on the sharing and exchanging of information and expertise, on research and on loans of works of art' [corroborating source 2].

The significance of this relationship for Tate has been attested on a number of occasions by senior figures at the institution. The Director of Tate has written of the importance of ESCALA and Essex research in letters to the Essex Vice-Chancellor [corroborating source 3] and spoke of Tate's close relationship with Essex at the launch of ESCALA online:

whatever the Tate does really follows in the footsteps of what the University has already done

Director of Tate [source 4]

The Director's statements are echoed by the Director of Tate National, who has confirmed the `strong relationship with Tate over many years, involving joint research, the exchange of information and loans' [source 5].

Pinta — introducing new Latin American artists to global markets

Essex researchers have also partnered with Pinta: The Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art Show, which takes place in London and New York on an annual basis. Pinta promotes the collecting of Latin American Art internationally by displaying and selling new Latin American work, and by organising a public programme consisting of lectures and discussions in which researchers inform collectors, curators, artists, and museums of their latest research. Ades and Fraser were invited members of the host committee for Pinta London 2012, and Essex researchers curated the 2012 Pinta public programme. The Essex team invited individual artists, especially those who have been the focus of Essex research, to speak as part of that public programme.

This exposure at Pinta, arranged by Essex art historians, has boosted interest in the work of some previously unknown artists. The works of aruma (Sandra de Berduccy) and Cecilia Vicuña have, for instance, received a great deal of attention as a result of Essex involvement in Pinta. ESCALA arranged an exhibition including work by aruma and Vicuña with England & Co. (one of London's leading galleries), while aruma was invited to perform, exhibit, and sell artworks at Pinta 2012 as part of the public programme organised by Essex researchers. The exhibition was so successful that the directors of Pinta invited England & Co. to exhibit the work of aruma and Vicuña in the New York edition of Pinta, where aruma sold all of her artworks. In June 2013, England & Co. exhibited their work at Pinta in London again and, at the same time, mounted a solo show of Vicuña's work in their own gallery. ESCALA's support for emerging artists has been testified by one of those artists, who in communication with ESCALA has stated that `without the support you gave me since the beginning none of the good things that have happened to me would have been possible' [source 6].

The Institutional Director of Pinta, has confirmed `the significant contribution that the University of Essex and the ESCALA Collection does in raising global awareness of Latin-American Art, its artists and history'. Research in Latin American art was one reason why Pinta decided to establish its art fair in London: `Pinta, the Latin American Modern and Contemporary Art Fair in London, has chosen the UK to establish its fair, as we recognize that many institutions are interested in Latin American Art, such as Essex University that strongly contributed to its knowledge' [source 7].

ESCALA's public engagement — exhibiting and teaching about Latin American art

ESCALA also runs an extensive public programme. The ESCALA website hosts research publications by Essex Latin American art researchers; publicises ESCALA news, activities, and exhibitions; facilitates online browsing of ESCALA's art collection; and solicits donations from members of the public to fund ESCALA's activity. The website receives approximately 750,000 visitors annually from over 60 different countries, and received a total of £197,142 in artwork donations and £138,806 in financial donations during the impact period January 2008 — July 2013 [all records of ESCALA public engagement on file as corroborating source 8]

Many ESCALA exhibitions are organised in collaboration with a local gallery. Art historians at Essex have worked for many years in close partnership with firstsite, a contemporary visual arts organisation in Colchester, in the programming of Latin American art in a dedicated ESCALA exhibition space. Firstsite foregrounds Latin American art in recognition of the research culture that can underpin its programming in this area, and the distinctive identity for contemporary visual arts programming that can follow. Firstsite was opened in 2011 and has so far hosted four exhibitions from the ESCALA collection along with performances by Latin American artists. The ESCALA exhibitions have had 66,875 visitors in the impact period.

ESCALA's public programme includes frequent educational events for the local community, families, and schools. In the impact period there have been 5 such events with firstsite, Colchester Academy (local sixth form college), and Art Exchange, the University gallery, reaching 22 schools and a total of over 250 participants.

Sources to corroborate the impact

[All sources saved on file with HEI, available on request]

  1. `Tate Modern is 10', Press Release, 11 May 2010 (http://www.tate.org.uk/about/press-office/press-releases/tate-modern-10-tate-reaches-across-world-works-acquired-latin)
  2. Memorandum of understanding between the Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery and the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America
  3. Letters from the Director of Tate to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex, dated 30 July 2010 and 6 June 2008
  4. UECLAA (now named ESCALA) Online Launch, firstsite, Colchester, speech by the Director of Tate
  5. Director, Tate National
  6. An independent artist who has benefitted from ESCALA promotion
  7. Institutional Director, Pinta
  8. Internal ESCALA records