Claudio Engel Collection, the south as reality

We are facing a unique occasion: the possibility of seeing the widest art show of Chile that has been presented so far outside the country of origin. The exhibition brings together almost a hundred pieces, dated between 1979 and 2018, the last four decades, which gives us a broad panorama of Chilean contemporary art and its deep consistency.

All of them are part of the Engel Foundation’s collection, named after a Chilean family of German origin. The foundation had its beginnings in 2015 and at the moment, according to its director, María Píes Ortúzar, has about 1,000 works by Chilean artists and with more than 160 artists from Latin America, a line that seems to be going to Increase from now on. It is also important to note that the Engel Foundation has assumed in 2019 the commitment to build and organize an art museum in the Bicentennial Park of Santiago de Chile.

Here in Madrid almost a hundred pieces of thirteen women, twenty-one men and three groups have gathered, with all kinds of techniques and supports: paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations, videos, textiles and graphic works. This diversity, which also characterizes the intense plurality of the artistic lines of each proposal, would be one of the features that the curator of the exhibition intends to place in the foreground. As he points out, in a historical period brimming with nationalisms, «cultural difference and artistic diversity are emphasized as points of excellence and, paradoxically, of unity».

Historical avatars
This approach is certainly relevant and places our approach to the art of Chile in a plane of correspondence with what has been lived there from 1970 to 1973, with the process of democratic socialism under the presidency of Salvador Allende, from 1973 to 1990, with the coup d’etat of Augusto Pinochet and his dictatorship of almost 17 years, and from that last date until now, where the democratic route has been following different avatars until reaching the very recent mass revolts of October 2019.

After the Pinochet dictatorship, in Chile an attempt was made to reorganize society with the neoliberal proposals of the “Chicago Boys,” a group of economists who trained at the University of Chicago. And so, measures such as the privatization of state industries, the removal of trade barriers, and government budget cuts, which could hardly be applied in the north, in the United States, were carried out in what was considered the great ‘laboratory »From the south, in Chile.

The title of the exhibition: Gran Sur, name of an installation by Fernando Prats that was presented at the Venice Biennale of 2011 and is among the pieces gathered; it referred to the announcement of a possible expedition to the South Pole never made. The title thus acquires a critical tonality, indicating how the Chilean artistic and cultural space flows from a self-awareness of the difficulties that the political and global domain of the “north”, understood as a metaphor for capitalism, sets foot for the development of freedom and of democracy in the “south”, also understood as a metaphor in this case of oppressed nations and societies.

All this ethical and political background unfolds in a set of works of great aesthetic consistency, with innovations of relevant scope from an expressive and conceptual point of view. The crossing of different media in a multimedia synthesis that allows us to see, appreciate more deeply, the complex horizon of human life in recent decades is decisive. From north to south, and from south to north.

Claudio Engel

Great South Chilean contemporary art in the Engel collection
. Collective Sala Alcalá 31. Madrid. C / Alcala, 31. Commissioner: C. Viveros-Fauné. Until April 26. .

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