Mexico City, a sprawling megalopolis of more than 20 million inhabitants, is a small market place on a global scale, but the vitality of Mexican art is played out on other fronts, starting with creations in the heart of cities. , capable of profoundly transforming the social fabric.
Mexican creation is chaotic and bubbling in the image of this complex and superlative country. A creation that expresses itself wherever it can, starting with the skin of the walls. By hiding the greyness under color, Mexican painters profoundly transformed the appearance of cities. The extent of the phenomenon is incomparable, so deep are the roots of mural painting in Mexico. The Toltecs and Aztecs already painted frescoes to honor their gods. Then the Mexican Revolution arrived and, with it, a new public painting at the service of social demands, carried by “los tres grandes” of muralist painting: Diego RIVERA, David Alfaro SIQUEIROS and Jose Clemente OROZCO. The walls of official buildings were covered with frescoes dedicated to the country’s history and criticism of capitalism during the 1920s and 1930s, with the support of the government. A militant practice served by realistic painting of great constructive vigour. Even today, the painter is an essential social actor in Mexico, acting in all towns and villages, not only painting political frescoes or religious scenes, but unleashing subjects and styles in improbable crossbreeding. The Mexican government still uses these painters with the aim of regenerating the social fabric. The craziest project is that of “the rainbow of Pachuca” (2012-2015) in a disadvantaged neighborhood, undermined by gang clashes, located about a hundred kilometers northeast of Mexico City. The government released 5 million pesos and called on the artist collective Germen Crew to repaint, over 20,000 m2, the facades and roofs of Pachuca in the colors of an immense rainbow. More than 1,800 residents have pitched in to carry out this project… and crime has dropped drastically in the neighborhood.
The actions of social prevention framed by the government pass by this reappropriation of the public space. But with or without the financial support of the government, mural painting is part of the DNA of Mexicans who spontaneously call on more or less professional graffiti artists to repaint their facades. A viral phenomenon that transforms cities into open-air museums. And naive drawings rub shoulders with well-made frescoes in the cities of Mexico, Monterrey, Juarez and Querétaro, the best known for the diversity of their graffiti and other tags. Marked by the worst wave of feminicides of the XXe century and by terrible waves of violence between cartels (between 2008 and 2012), the city of Juarez on the border with the United States, was once considered the most dangerous city in the world. This is no longer the case today, but the non-places of this once cursed city – wastelands or abandoned villas – have been covered in frescoes over the years. The feared city has become the painted city. And his story with painting is not over… Juarez is indeed on the way to the project of the largest mural fresco in the world aimed at embellishing, on the Mexican side, the wall separating Mexico from the United States. Here again, thousands of inhabitants spontaneously mobilized around an artist, Enrique Chiu, to engage in a peaceful and poetic resistance.
The popularity of this street art is spreading among collectors. The best muralists naturally hold a place of first choice on the Art Market in Mexico, as elsewhere. The most famous of the muralists, Diego Riverahas also passed a new milestone last year with a result at the threshold of 10 million dollars (The Rivals, 1931, Christie’s New York May 9, 2018). It is now the most highly rated work for a mural artist. The new generation of artists involved in street art could emerge on the market if they managed to express themselves both on canvas and in the street. Few of them are still officially listed at auction, but it won’t be long for an artist such as Flavio Martinezbetter known as Curiot, which already benefits from exhibitions in international galleries.
Among the few thirty-somethings slowly emerging at auction, several are returning to Aztec imagery, in particular Smithe (his drawings sell for less than $500 in France) and Saner, one of which sold for over $10,000 at Louis C. Morton in Mexico City. The domestic market values this seductive New Mexicanism for local buyers proud of their culture, as well as for foreigners attracted by a “local” style. But this limiting vision of the market should not hide the socio-political commitments of a large number of young Mexican artists, who have not yet found their true resonance in the field of auctions.
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