Under ordinary circumstances, the gathering of several dozen artists, U.S. museum leaders and journalists for a news conference at the Museo Jumex, the contemporary art museum in Mexico City's tony Polanco neighborhood, wouldn't be noticed beyond art world insiders interested in upcoming programs and collaborations for this fall's Pacific Standard Time exhibitions to be held all over Southern California. But these days, as tensions grow between the Trump administration and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, hardly any exchange between the United States and Mexico could be qualified as ordinary.
Joan Weinstein, deputy director of the Getty Foundation, which has poured more than $16 million into PST LA/LA, as the project is known, noted Tuesday morning in her opening remarks that in the current political climate, it was important to strengthen the cultural connections between the two countries.
She then played a short video overview of the project, whose voice-over narration (prepared months before Trump assumed office) stated: "It's time to provoke conversations around the relationship between North and South America. It's time to challenge every line, perimeter and border."
On hand to help Weinstein present the series of exhibitions were L.A. County Museum of Art director Michael Govan, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles director Philippe Vergne and Los Angeles Philharmonic chief operating officer Chad Smith — joined by Julieta Gonzalez, acting director at the Museo Jumex, who is collaborating on a PST LA/LA show to be held at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
Govan touched on the issue of the profound cultural connections between the U.S. and Mexico in his remarks. "Forget walls," he said. "There are bridges everywhere."
Though PST LA/LA has been in the works for half a dozen years — before Barack Obama had even been elected for a second term — it is emerging as a cultural salvo against the Trump administration's repeated call for a border wall.
The series will consist of dozens of exhibitions across more than 70 cultural institutions — almost four dozen of which will bear some connection to Mexico or Mexican culture. It will also include a music festival, titled CDMX (an abbreviation for Mexico City), which will feature specially commissioned works by up-and-coming Mexican composers.
Smith says that the L.A. Phil has been at work on CDMX and other related programming for more than 18 months.
"This is just the beginning of a long and involved relationship with this city," he told The Times shortly after the presentation concluded.
It was a sentiment echoed by Weinstein.
"This is a moment to highlight the collaborations across borders," she said. "The Getty has a long tradition of working internationally and connecting institutions."
"We have so much to do to make everyone understand how connected our cultures are — how connected we are," added Govan. "There is no us and them. There is just us and us."