Exhibition | Enchanted: Visual Histories of the Central Andes

Posted in catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on August 5, 2021

Now on view at the Menil Collection:

Enchanted: Visual Histories of the Central Andes
Menil Collection, Houston, 30 July — 14 November 2021

Waisted Cup (Kero) Depicting Two Musicians and Floral Elements, late 15th–18th century, Quechua, Colonial Period, Peru; wood, natural resin, and pigments, 6 × 5 × 5 inches (Houston: The Menil Collection, photo by Paul Hester).

Running along the western side of South America, the Andean Mountains have supported a rich, interconnected series of civilizations and empires for more than 3,000 years. Surveying this captivating, multifaceted world, the Menil Collection presents Enchanted: Visual Histories of the Central Andes from July 30 through November 14, 2021. The exhibition showcases works from the museum’s collection and loans from the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

More than forty objects from different historical moments of Andean history are on view—including polychrome ceramic vessels of the Nazca culture (ca. 100 BCE–800 CE), important textiles from the Wari (ca. 600–1000 CE) and Chimú (ca. 1150–1450) civilizations, and 20th–21st century examples of elaborately embroidered esclavinas (short capes) and monteras (hats) worn during religious festivals in Peru. Complementing these objects is a selection of gelatin silver photographic prints by Pierre Verger, also known as Fátúmbí (1902–1996). Verger’s images of religious festivals in the Andes, taken between 1939 and 1945, highlight the costumes, dances, and dramatic moments of these annual events.

Rebecca Rabinow, Director of the Menil Collection, said, “Photographer Pierre Verger’s travels through the Andes in the 1940s were made possible, in part, thanks to the financial support of John and Dominique de Menil. The two portfolios of gelatin silver prints that he gave the couple at the time have never before been exhibited, which prompted Menil Curator of Collections Paul R. Davis to study the photographs along with related material in the collection. The resulting exhibition and online publication celebrating Andean visual cultures coincides with the 200th anniversary of Peru’s independence.”

Unidentified artist, Cuzco School, Virgin of Bethlehem (Virgen de Belén), 18th century, oil on canvas, 56 × 32 inches (Houston: The Menil Collection, Bequest of Jermayne MacAgy, 1964-142 McA).

Paul Davis, said, “This project led me to explore the museum’s permanent collection of Andean art more deeply and how it connects to the Menil’s rich institutional history. After meeting Verger by chance in 1941 while visiting Buenos Aires, Argentina, John and Dominique de Menil formed relationships with some of the leading scholars on the Andes and assembled a unique collection of objects from that area. The Menil is pleased to share these artworks in Enchanted, accompanied by a robust online publication.”

Highlights of the artworks on view include:
• Three blue-and-yellow macaw feather panels from the Wari culture, an imperial power during the Middle Horizon in Peru (ca. 600–1000 CE)
• Textile fragments from the 10th–15th century, including a large two-panel section of the so-called ‘Prisoner Textile’ from the Late Intermediate Period Chimú culture
• Polychrome ceramic vessels attributed to the Early Intermediate (ca. 100 BCE–800 CE) Nazca and Moche cultures
• A group of colonial–era painted keros (wood cups) from the 16th–18th centuries that were used consume to chicha (maize beer) and other ceremonial drinks
• An 18th-century painting of the Virgin of Bethlehem (Virgen de Belén), one of the patron saints of Cuzco, Peru.

Enchanted: Visual Histories of the Central Andes will be accompanied by an online publication with multimedia features and essays by Paul R. Davis, Curator of Collections, the Menil Collection; Susan E. Bergh, Chair of the Art of Africa and the Americas and Curator of PreColumbian and Native North American Art, Cleveland Museum of Art; Kari Dodson, Associate Objects Conservator, the Menil Collection; Zoila S. Mendoza, Professor and Chair, Native American Studies, University of California, Davis; Amy Groleau, Curator, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the American Indian; Heidi King, Independent Scholar; and Ana Girard, University of Houston Fellow at the Menil Collection.

Contextualizing the artworks in the museum’s permanent collection, the publication will be available in both English and Spanish. Paul R. Davis surveys the ancient history of the region and the formation of this aspect of the de Menils’ collection during the mid20th century. Essays by Susan E. Bergh, Heidi King, and Kari Dodson examine the two historically enigmatic textiles in the museum’s permanent collection—the Chimú ‘Prisoner Textile’ and iconic Wari blue-and-yellow macaw feathered panels. Ana Girard writes about colonial works. In their essays, Zoila S. Mendoza and Amy Groleau emphasize the importance of festivals as spaces to perform, celebrate, contest, or reinvent the Andean culture.

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