Second Cisneros Seminar: Folk Art and Craft in Latin America, 1950-2000

Folk Art and Craft in Latin America, 1950-2000, the second edition of the “Cisneros Seminar in the Material Cultures of the Ibero-American World at the Bard Graduate Center,” will take place on May 18 from 5 pm to 8 pm at the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture located at 38 West 86 St. between Central Park West and Columbus Avenues in New York. This seminar, created in conjunction with the Fundación Cisneros/Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, was established to advance scholarship on the cultures of the Ibero-American world through the study of the material artifacts of this region across space, time, media, and methodology.

In the United States, Folk Art has been a subject traditionally linked to Latin American art. Notable examples include the 1929-30 exhibit of Mexican fine and applied arts organized by Rene d'Harnoncourt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art, the famous 1940 exhibition presented at the Museum of Modern Art, which devoted a large section to folk art. What was the continuation of this story in the second half of the twentieth century? How did folk art and craft from Latin America fit into the narratives of folk art and craft in North America, and where are things now? These are questions posed by Folk Art and Craft in Latin America, 1950-2000.

Paul J. Smith, director emeritus of the American Craft Museum (now the Museum of Arts and Design) and active in the American Craft Council since the late 1950s, will open the seminar discussing a forgotten chapter of craft history never before presented to the public. Smith, who organized the Latin American craft council meetings in Peru and Mexico in the late 1950s and 1960s and also organized a very important show of Venezuelan potters in 1963 at the American Craft Museum, sponsored by the Venezuelan industrialist and collector Hans Neuman, will speak about how they exhibited, and talked about, studio craft and traditional craft at those events.

The second speaker, Calogero Salvo, is a New York City film maker and director of the award-winning 1982 documentary on Juan Felix Sanchez, the most important Venezuelan folk artist of the twentieth century. In the film, which will be screened at the event, Salvo presents a moment in the 1980s when Latin American folk art and artists became prominent in their own countries. The filmmaker will discuss his experience, the process of framing and recording the world of a living folk artist, and his views on the film today.

Cándida Fernández de Calderón, director of Fomento Cultural Banamex, Mexico City, will be the final speaker. Mrs. Fernandez has been involved with folk art for several decades. In the 1990s she co-created the program “Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular,” [Great Masters of Popular Art] to record and promote excellence in folk art. She has also edited several books on the subject including Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular en Mexico and, most recently, Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular en Latinoamérica. She will speak about these initiatives and the current state of Latin American folk art.

The evening’s commentator is Francesco Pellizzi. Pellizzi studied Classics and Comparative Religions at the University of Rome, and Anthropology at the E.P.H.E.S.S., in Paris. He wrote a dissertation on the "Jurupari" ritual-mythological complex of the North-West Amazon Basin under the direction of Claude Lévi-Strauss. He joined the Harvard Chiapas Project, carrying out fieldwork among the Maya people of the Chiapas Highlands, in Southern Mexico (1969-74). Since 1974, he has been an associate in Middle American Ethnology at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. In 1981, he co-founded the journal RES - Anthropology and Aesthetics, dedicated to the multidisciplinary study of art and cult objects, which he has edited since 1983.

Folk Art and Craft in Latin America, 1950-2000 is open to the public; however, rsvp is required. For more information, please click here or e-mail:

About the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

Founded in the 1970s by Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Gustavo A. Cisneros, the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC) is one of the core cultural and educational initiatives of the Fundación Cisneros.

Based in New York City and Caracas, the CPPC’s mission is to enhance appreciation of the diversity, sophistication, and range of art from Latin America, advance scholarship of Latin American art, and promote excellence in visual-arts education. The CPPC achieves these goals through the preservation, presentation, and study of the material culture of the Ibero-American world—ranging from the ethnographic to the contemporary.

CPPC activities include exhibitions, publications, grants for scholarly research and artistic production, and the internationally-recognized education initiative Piensa en arte/Think Art.

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