By Lily Jiménez-Dabdoub, MSc | April 2016
The show is composed by 124 art pieces from across the globe. Works by Baldessari, Puig, Duchamp, Cage, Dalí, Kandinsky, Matisse, Corot, Böcklin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, De Chirico, Orozco, Mérida, Tamayo to Rulfo amongst many other grace the halls of the museum. A collaborative project between the San Diego Museum of Art and Bellas Artes from Mexico. Indeed, as you pass by the entrance gates, you are welcomed by Baldessari’s ‘Bethoven’s Trumpet’, an exquisite contemporary piece, unique and playful.
Is El Arte de la Música contemporary enough due to an introductory piece from Baldessari? This exhibition certainly presents a challenge to the public. The challenge is to walk into a non-chronological tour, using the ‘new traditional’ thematic way. As Miguel Fernández, Bellas Artes Museum director states, “we took on the task of uniting our eyes with the ear, as a primary unit where plastic and music share ideas, concepts and symbols” leading the public into a new dialogue with the plastic works.
The first theme is Motives. According to Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, Mexico’s Minister of Culture, during his opening speech citing elegantly the Greek’s mythology “the muses were the daughters of the father of all the Gods -Zeus- and -Mnemosyne- the mother of memory, the praise for the remembrance of the gods, the cultures, the arts, never to be passed by oblivion”.
Motives also boards pre-Hispanic (Mesoamerican) instruments as pieces of both art and music. Here is a curious reminder: there is no record of written music from ancient pre-Hispanic cultures, so if you have heard some “pre-Hispanic music”, is just contemporary interpretations of ancient instruments.
The next theme is Social, where the presence of music in public and private festivities is portrayed as an entertainment and as a spiritual part of rituals and traditions. The connective tissue here is so vast that the curatorial guidance goes so smoothly without having the observer question the theme from Juan Rulfo’s beautiful photograph of some instruments in the desert all the way to Toulouse Lautrec's’ cabaret dancers poster.
The last section is Musical Forms, thus forms is already implying a more abstract though about music. The theme magnetically links from Kandinsky to Cage’s art with all the 60’s rock poster’s, rhythms, new tones, new accepted colors become part of the culture.
Velazquez has praised and raised cross-cultural collaborations early on from her career at all cultural institutions she has stepped in from Museo Nacional de San Carlos, MUNAL, Bellas Artes and now the San Diego Museum of Art. Velazquez’s pointed out that The Art of Music (how the exhibit was originally called) has represented three years of research guided by a single conducting threat: music and its’ deep roots within other artistic expressions. Velazquez has been the key to opening the use of new technologies in museums. The proposal at Bellas Artes was to have musicians create playlists on Spotify (mbellasartes) inspired by the exhibition, some of the invited musicians are: Julieta Venegas, El Cha, Alondra de la Parra and Horacio Franco.
Will the use of Spotify will promote a more engaged public? Hopefully yes, although from the couple of times I have been to the exhibition, few people notice and read the sign invitation to connect to Spotify and walk around the rooms while listening to this playlist. My recommendations for a calm and sensible experience is to follow Alondra de la Parra’s playlist, from a classic Carlo Monteverdi, passing through a romantic impressionist Debussy, to an experimental Cage all the way through the orchestral psychedelic from Pink Floyd, de la Parra’s playlist guides you through a unique trip actually yes, creating synesthetic feelings as her playlists name “Te escuchó color, te veo sonido” (I hear you color, I see you sound).
The exhibit’s agenda is to promote the interaction with different institutions and audiences, to host special concerts at Museum Nights, to screen a selection of films at Cineteca Nacional, and to create a discussion table alongside guided tours with specialists. The accompanying catalogue has been published in limited release (three thousand copies), and is sold exclusively at the Museum (Spanish only edition) with essay texts from Simon Shaw-Miller, Richard Leppert, James Grebl, Sandra Benito and Patrick Coleman. Tovar y de Teresa’s remarks claimed that El Arte de la Música is an exhibition that demonstrates an aesthetic expression of the musical phenomena.
On display from March 11 to June 5th.