Skip to content
Melanie Smith in Las Paradojas del Internacionalismo Parte II at Museo Tamayo

Melanie Smith [right], Selva, 2010, Digital impression on cotton paper, 135 x 111 cm next to a painting by Max Ernst [left]

The Paradoxes of Internationalism (As Narrated by the Museo Tamayo Collection) celebrates the 125th anniversary of Rufino Tamayo by exploring his legacy in creating Mexico's first international art museum and collection. Opening in 1981, it established a place where international perspectives can be experienced through art. Highlighting works from the Museo Tamayo collection, this show reveals the contradictions and betrayals of internationalism that have spurred artists—including Tamayo himself—to question the social, political, and cultural constructs through which our notions of the ‘world’ are continuously reconfigured. In his seventies, after living in New York and Paris and traveling extensively, Tamayo reflected on what it is to be an international artist: “It is impossible in this time, when communications are so open, to set out deliberately to make an art which is Mexican, or American, or Chinese, or Russian. I think in terms of universality.”

Presenting a range of works produced during and after the Second World War up to the present day, this story centers on how artists convey an evolution of responses, from a romance with Modernism’s universalizing emancipatory processes—a belief in rupture and progress, in anticipation and freedom—to the current disaffection brought on by shared ‘global’ crises such as climate change and migration. In the twenty-first century, focus has moved from the pursuit of ‘one world’ unification—through the declaration of human rights and international laws for example—into the paradox of globalization, through which profound localizations have emerged as societies adapt and metabolize the practices of modernity differently. What perpetuates is less thinking “in terms of universality” as Tamayo did, than taking a ‘long duree’ approach to history, where artists summon ancestral wisdom, create networks of association, confront the contradictory fears and attractions of technology, and build cosmologies that set horizons for new possibilities in motion. 

The Paradoxes of Internationalism is a two-part show that engages the Museum collection alongside key loans of artworks by artists who have had exhibitions at Tamayo. Part I was presented from May 27 to October 1st, 2023. It explored traits of internationalism as mapped through artist’s responses to seismic world events such as the Two World Wars, the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union and the global shifts of the 1990s.

Curated by Kate Fowle in collaboration with Andrea Valencia