33 missing paintings return to Los Pinos
The inauguration of the exposition will be on August 28 – Photo: Diego Simón Sánchez/EL UNIVERSAL

33 missing paintings return to Los Pinos

Sonia Sierra
Mexico City
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The pieces of the collection “Presidencia de la República” were ordered by then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari to 33 established painters and young promises

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For the second time in their history, the 33 pieces of the collection “Presidencia de la República” - which were ordered by Carlos Salinas de Gortari to 33 painters in 1993 – are back again in Los Pinos for their display. The first time they were showcased was on November 5th, 1993; they were distributed in the walls of the room Adolfo López Mateos and 27 of the painters attended the inauguration.

Contrary to that occasion – or to when they were in the National Palance in early 2019 – the public will be able to see them. They will be displayed in the residence Miguel Alémán, which was the main house of many Mexican presidents, particularly those from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Vicente Rojo, Manuel Felguérez, Irma Palacios, Miguel Castro Leñero, Beatriz Exbán, and more from the 16 alive artists who created pieces for the collection (as well as relatives of some of the deceased), will gather next Wednesday, August 28th, for the inauguration of the exposition “From the lost, what is found” (De lo perdido lo que aparezca), the first presented by the Cultural Complex Los Pinos from the Federal Culture Ministry.

Yesterday, eight members of the National Center for Conservation and Preservation of the Artistic Heritage (Cencropam) of the National Institute of Fine Arts, Los Pinos, and the Defense Ministry, worked together to move the paintings, some of them of more than 3 meters wide, and so heavy that it was hard for them to move on the stairs.

“The idea is that the public sees the 33 pieces in the same space. Although the house is very big – those who have visited it will know what we’re talking about – they don’t fit in a room...” says the curator Rodolfo Rodríguez Castañeda.

“We ignore the criteria that make up this collection. Evidently, they looked for established painters and some young promises of the visual arts who with time showed their talent was real, to make up this collection that was never exhibited complete, besides the day it was presented in the room López Mateos.”

In the ground floor, which was the presidential office of practically all the presidents since the house was built, between dark wooden furniture and encyclopedias, the painting that identifies the collection was installed: “Bat” (Murciélago), by Francisco Toledo, a painting that, as told by its author, was made with the intention of putting a joke in it so that people would smile, so he made the bat with huge ears, which many associated with the then President.

Although the criteria of the curator and the museography were linked mainly by the measures and which walls were more adequate for their display, another gesture that stands out is in the paintings located in the presidential bedroom: “Violence and Intolerance” (Violencia e intolerancia) by Rafael Coronel, “Ghost” or “Ghost of Los Pinos” (Fantasma o Fantasma de Los Pinos), by Alejandro Colunga; and a painting with no name by José Luis Cuevas are displayed there.

On that same floor, by the end of the hallways, are two of the most outstanding paintings from the whole collection: “Sofía wearing a china poblana dress” (Sofía vestida como china poblana) by Julio Galán, and “Huizo” by Gunther Gerzso.

In the ground floor, besides Toledo’s painting, is “Volcanoes” (Volcanes) by Luis Nishizawa, which is now in the ante-room of the library (the room where it was before will be one of the hosts of the Ceramics exposition, one of the next that will open in Los Pinos): “Volcanoes” was one of the paintings that were in Los Pinos when it was opened to the public on December 1st, just as those by Beatriz Ezbán, Rafael Cauduro, and Humberto Urbán.

Also displayed in the hallways of that floor are the paintings by Vicente Rojo, Manuel Felguérez, Luis López Loza, Sergio Hernández, Irma Palacios and Ezbán. The rest is up, distributed in which were the bedrooms, hallways, and entrances of the bedrooms.

A criterion followed by museography was the measure of both spaces and paintings; the biggest are those by Nishizawa, Soriano, Chávez Morado, and Cauduruo.


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“It is really hard to find which was the common thread; the idea is for people to appreciate [the paintings] in the spaces. We don’t have many available spaces on the ground floor, the huge collection will be on the upper floor,” details the curator.

Cencropam performed the cleaning and maintenance of the pieces, and there were only damages in the frame of Ezban's painting and in Nishizawa's.

More plans for the site. Homero Fernández, administrative director of Cultural Complex Los Pinos, explains in an interview that even though there has been a wide cultural offer, they had not been able to offer an exposition like this.

“It is a collection that was though in its moment for Los Pinos, little to nothing was known about it, and now visitors will have the opportunity to see it completely and closely.”

He adds that this exposition and the spaces themselves have led them to conceive a program around the topics of art and power. He then comments that Casa Lázaro Cárdenas will be a site museum, with a program related to the legacy of the former president, and that, for that purpose, they are in communication of the Cárdenas family.

Another of the upcoming expositions is the one on Ceramics, which will offer a tour among different stages of its elaboration in Mexico. In addition, there will be an exposition about October 2, in the room Miguel de la Madrid. Fernández clarifies that the exposition “De lo perdido, lo que aparezca” will not be permanent. “It is an exposition of the Presidency; the cultural complex is of the Culture Ministry.”

The 33 pieces will be part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, as announced by the minister of Culture, Alejandra Frausto, during the opening of the exposition.

Vicente Rojo, Manuel Felguérez, Beatriz  Ezbán, Rafael Cauduro, Miguel Castro Leñero, Luis López Losa, Germán Venegas , Roberto Cortázar, and Eduardo Tamariz were the painters who attended the opening.

Besides them were the relatives of some of the artists that could not attend, like Natalia Toledo, who represented her father, Francisco Toledo; or relatives of deceased painters, like Juan Coronel, son of painter Rafael Coronel.

Manuel Felguérez expressed his gratitude for the exposition because he said that creating pieces is the most natural for the painter, but that the hard part is communication with society: “The problem we have is always public,” he said, and thanked that through this space the paintings will be seen.

Frausto thanked Francisco Toledo, who, she reminded, wrote her a letter months ago in which he asked her about the location of his painting in the collection, and told that from then the search started until Presidency found the rest of the paintings in a storage unit in Constituyentes – some of them were in Los Pinos -. She said that after telling the painter about the finding, he was the one who proposed the name for the exhibition.


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