DMA Insight

South American Art Today

In 1959, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (today the Dallas Museum of Art) held a landmark exhibition featuring the works of seventy-two artists from ten South American countries. Organized and curated by Director Jerry Bywaters and Cuban art critic and writer José Gómez Sicre, South American Art Today marked a significant moment in the Museum’s history and a significant shift in the Museum’s acquisition and exhibiting philosophies.

Following the Cuban Revolution (1953–1959), the United States experienced a revived interest in Latin America. The Museum participated in this spirit of Pan-Americanism with the aim of exposing the public to universal trends in art. These efforts were opposed by conservative patrons who feared Latin America’s Communist associations. This contentious Cold War debate continued as South American Art Today opened on October 10, 1959_._ Bywaters entrusted Sicre with the selection of works both for inclusion in the exhibition and for Museum purchase. Sicre’s expertise on modern and contemporary art from South America and the Caribbean eventually laid the groundwork for the field of Latin American art, thus his consultation on the Museum’s expanding collection proved valuable and prescient.

This seminal exhibition comprised art from a range of mid-20th-century movements and showcased works that entered the permanent collection from that year.

Adapted from

Tower Gallery: Latin American Art, Gallery text [South American Art Today], 2017.

Web Resources

  • Dallas Museum of Art
    Read more about this exhibition on the DMA's Uncrated blog.

  • Khan Academy
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    Watch a video with Curator Chris Stephens as he explores art of the 1930s at the Tate.

  • Khan Academy
    Watch a video with Curator Chris Stephens he explores art of the 1940s at the Tate.

  • Khan Academy
    Watch a video with Curator Chris Stephens as he explores art of the 1950s at the Tate.