Neighbors of 180º SHOP: Javier Marín Foundation
Andrea Villiers, coordinator of the Educational Program of the Javier Marín Foundation, talks with 180º Blog about the effort they carry out to professionalize the art medium in Mexico City, through programs that seek to link emerging artists with the world of work artistic, always changing and growing. The work of the Foundation has also revealed a series of challenges and difficulties to overcome for the Mexican art world, that and more, in the interview below.
180º: How did the Javier Marín Foundation begin?
Andrea Villiers: The Foundation started because of Javier's interest in supporting artists in training. He decided to find a formal way to do it, in a designated space, with a program designed for that purpose. A team of anthropologists and sociologists was then commissioned to conduct research on the needs and challenges of artists upon leaving college. From this research, which yielded very interesting data, we saw that one of the gaps within artistic training is the link between emerging artists and professionals, and the lack of the necessary tools to move within the workplace. Based on this research, an educational program was put together where we invited art professionals, be they artists, critics, curators, academics, gallery owners, even lawyers specializing in copyright, or those in charge of grants for artists, to come to talk to a small group of emerging artists. We call these talks Encounters, which have a “let's have a coffee and talk” format. They are not conferences because it is not a formal education program, attendees do not have to complete hours and they are not given a certificate or diploma with curricular value. We make a monthly calendar and whoever is interested signs up, the meetings have limited space, you can come to one or you can come to all of them if you want.
180º What are the other programs you have? Do you have a program that links you directly with selected artists or projects?
AV: Not really, within this program we try to make it very clear that our line of action is to provide this space for dialogue and connection. What comes after that is no longer our concern. We believe that artists have to go their own way, based on the information and dialogues that can happen here, but we no longer accompany them, for example, to make exhibitions or in their production.
What we are preparing is an artistic residency program, at Plantel Matilde, a space near Mérida, Yucatán. It is a project that we are still developing, there has not been a call for proposals. But it would be more direct and specific support for some small artistic projects.
We also have the Exhibitions Program, which is dedicated to managing, together with a larger team, part of Javier Marín's exhibitions.
180º: How long have you been working at the Foundation?
AV: We have been there for two years. We hold approximately eight meetings a month, two a week. In these two years, that adds up to more or less 180 Encounters. It is important to say that all this has worked thanks to the support of the professionals that we invited and who come to collaborate and share their experience and knowledge in a totally generous way. As a non-profit civil association, all of the Foundation's activities are free.
180º: Under what criteria do you invite a professional to hold a Meeting?
AV: It is a broad criterion, it is about talking about the professional medium of art so the invitations are very varied. The artists we invite to give meetings, for example, are people who already have a notable career and experience that they can share with those who are just starting out. Then we have art critics, who must also have an important career; The Academy itself legitimizes academics, so teachers come, doctors in Art History. We also invite professionals from museums and running spaces or projects that we find interesting, not only institutional, but also independent spaces. I think the most important criterion is to invite people who are very professional. Because the whole idea of the meetings is to professionalize the environment, therefore we invite professionals to share their experience and the kids can see that to get there there was always a beginning, and see them as references, that there is a professional path and the people we invited have taken that path.
180º: So the audience to which the Meetings are directed is exclusively artists?
AV: Yes, especially artists, that is our focus and we did this for them. Some of them are still studying. Kids from 20 years old come, even some 18 years old who are just about to start studying Visual Arts, and also some who have already finished their degree and are seeing what happens. People of all ages come but ultimately they are artists in training. Almost all of them are artists, although not only because some kids are starting to come more interested in management or curatorship; A lawyer has even come who, from his practice, wants to know the artistic medium because he works with copyright. Our selection criterion, because they have to go through a selection, is that they dedicate themselves or want to dedicate themselves to this professionally. It is a space that, because it is so limited in space and format, we want to reserve it for artists or people who want to dedicate themselves professionally to the medium: art historians, communication specialists or designers, who, although they did not study Visual Arts, are working or want to work. with this, from writing, management, etc.
180º: Based on the research you did, what other difficulties did you find that artists experience?
AV: Basically, and it sounds very strong, we saw that emerging artists can be considered a vulnerable population. They receive very little support from home or in the professional environment. There are many barriers, for example the economic one in the sense that to produce your work, or to send your work to biennials, awards and so on, there is a significant expense. You have to invest in materials, in shipping, and for someone who has just graduated from college, it is difficult. So the artists are debating “I start working on something else and I continue half working on my production, but how do I make a living only from my production, when I am not yet selling or exhibiting?” We are talking about La Esmeralda, the FAD, the INBA, no more, we have not investigated beyond the DF. According to those interviewed, for example, nothing is studied about the art market or copyright, nor is there any talk about scholarships and other options, in addition to sales, to continue producing. Simply writing a project to send it to a scholarship, writing your own personal statement as an artist, your resume, putting together your portfolio, all that is basic to send to galleries, to awards, to present yourself to any professional, all of this, I don't do it. They teach at school. So here we have held several meetings that deal with those topics. Or to defend their work, we hold a meeting called Where the professional is you , where they themselves present their work to other attendees. There the idea is that they know how to talk about their work, that they know how to defend it. That they also know how to receive criticism from others and their comments, other points of view. And above all, if they bring a presentation, it should be professional, and it should not look like someone from high school did it. From that, to how to approach galleries, other professionals, someone you want to write about your work, a curator, public relations. They must be aware of what is happening today in Mexico in the professional environment, the spaces and platforms that exist. There is not only the museum and the gallery, there are many more possibilities. They need to know which are the agents that move all this: what implications does the curator have with the artist, what does art criticism represent for current production... All those agents that are working in the medium, there is a large network and many implications .
We also continue doing research. At all meetings we distribute questionnaires that attendees must fill out, including invited professionals. We continue working with specialists, who carry out evaluations for us. So everything is a great investigation that continues to be built and allows us to see how we are doing, how we can improve, what our failures are, and I think that is something unique in spaces like this, that they are taken so professionally, because if we want to talk about professionalism , the first ones who have to act as such are us.
180º: Based on the information you collect, what type of meetings are the most successful?
AV: The most successful are those who talk about the art market: auction houses, galleries, specialists who come to talk about collecting or the market, it is what we see that attracts the most attention. Also what has to do with very practical tools. Because, on the one hand, we hold meetings that are more theoretical, and on the other, the most practical ones on how to make a statement, how to put together your portfolio. Those are the most full. Like when those in charge of the Treasury's in-kind payment program came, those types of things that benefit them directly, immediately, are what interest them most. And we believe that it is not only about that, because of course, the theoretical part, they may not see an immediate benefit, but it is basic; Little by little you understand the environment, you get to know more. And well, also when very well-known artists come, it fills up.
180º: What position do you think the Mexican art medium occupies on a global level?
AV We are getting better and better, we are growing on many levels. The medium is being professionalized, which is something that was greatly lacking, and continues to be lacking, but we are not the only ones; There is a general interest in professionalizing the medium, in taking things more seriously. From the artist, to the curator, to the administrator behind it, they are doing the work in a more serious way. The importance it has at the global economy level is also being understood, since art represents a substantial part. In all the meetings we have seen that, when galleries that are already 20, 30 years old come to speak, when at the beginning there were only three galleries. Now there is much more diversity, more variety. There is of course more competition, it is much more difficult for artists. But there are also more options, different paths. We are still far behind, surely, but we are moving forward. And Mexico is increasingly represented in fairs, international biennials, we are turning to see it, and not only nationalist Mexico, the Mexico of Frida Kahlo. It is understood that we are inserted in a global world where there is much more diversity, and we enter the same as other countries with many things that are not folklorisms.
180º: It must also remain very centralized, only in the concentration of galleries and spaces in the Roma-Condesa area
AV: Yes, and at the country level, a lot. Mexico City is where almost everything is moving. There are other states, such as Jalisco or Nuevo León, where an active artistic environment has existed for a long time. There are also interesting things in Guanajuato and Morelos. Or for example in Mérida, a very interesting place for Art. It is beginning to be seen that Mexico City is not the only place to study Art in the country, in other states great things are being done. There are also others where the lag is very noticeable.
Regarding the concentration of art in Roma-Condesa, that has changed. Artists can't live here anymore, it's very expensive, so artists are elsewhere. Here there are galleries, spaces and so on. But for a long time there have been very interesting things in the Center, in San Rafael, Santa María, in Juárez, which is still the Central Zone, but independent spaces are also expanding towards the south, or towards San Pedro de los Pinos , the Escandón. Little by little, I believe that for several years, not everything happens here. But there are still many spaces of visibility here, with the Corridors, the Gallery Weekend, and so on.
180º: What spaces for art in the city could you recommend?
AV: In terms of independent spaces, I think great things are happening, there are several young artists working in a very interesting way. Like Bikini Wax in Escandón or Casa Maauad in San Rafael. Today we went to a meeting at EPAC (Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo), a non-profit association that works on a collection of contemporary art from the 80s and 90s, and they are presenting very good exhibitions in their space in Las Lomas. There are even the more institutional spaces, like this week when the director of Casa del Lago, Julieta Giménez Cacho, came and talked about a number of projects and activities happening there that are highly recommended. That's the good thing about Mexico, there is so much to see, so many proposals and activities, that sometimes it is too much.
The Javier Marín Foundation is located at Orizaba 190, in the Roma neighborhood. To register for the Meeting cycles or to learn more about the Foundation, visit its website: