Mexican art exhibitions in New York as cultural diplomacy, 1928-1932



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In the aftermath of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, the postrevolutionary state launched an innovative campaign that exported the country’s emerging art and culture, which glorified its indigenous roots. The strategy of expanding its nation-building project abroad helped remake its image and radically improved U.S.-Mexican relations. This project investigates the first standalone exhibitions of Mexican modern and popular arts in the U.S.—the Art Center’s 1928 Exhibition of Mexican Art and the American Federation of Arts’ 1930-32 “Mexican Arts”—as cultural diplomatic efforts. Using empirical evidence, this project reveals the confluence of wealthy patrons, corporate sponsors, government officials, local artists, and museums and galleries in Mexico and the U.S. that made these exhibitions, both debuting in New York, possible. It argues that the success of the exhibitions, measured in public and critical reception, relied on the vision of Mexico curators offered and the access organizers had to established museum circulation networks.