The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
This article reports on the Austrian promoter, René d’Harnoncourt, a resident of New York who was then visiting Mexico. It recounts his beginnings in art, prior to his arrival on the American continent, and his subsequent insertion into the local arts scene when d’Harnoncourt worked for the American ambassador to Mexico Dwight W. Morrow and the collector of Mexican art, Frederick Davis. The specialist in folk art recalls his experiences as a museographer and curator.
René d’Harnoncourt (1901-68) played a significant role in Mexico during the 1920s and 1930s, when United States tourism was interested in the arts and local culture. The image of rural life in Mexico, its rich and ancient past seemingly preserved intact, was seen as an enviable refuge from the modern industrialization of its neighbor to the north. This image was appealing to many Americans who believed they recognized the characteristics of a paradisiacal “golden era” in Mexico. It is worth noting that in the report d’Harnoncourt criticizes the distortion that can affect art, manipulating its original meaning through curatorial practices. He declares: “if the exhibition of an object is subjugated to a dramatic effect, this will reflect the personality of the curator, but it will [also] impart different values to the object.” This last criticism is implicitly directed toward the methods used by Fernando Gamboa (1908-90), the creator of a very particular curatorial style—dramatic and mythical—with which he usually presented Mexican art.