Orientation trips
The Mondriaan Fund organises orientation trips for visual artists and mediators to Asia, Latin America and Africa since 2004. The trips are aimed at exchange and cooperation between visual art professionals.

When someone in the contemporary Chilean art world wants to bring over that curator of the Sao Paolo Biennale for a research trip and the Ministry of Culture does not have any budget to provide for the visit, people call on Pedro Montes. There’s a big chance Montes will foot the bill for that important visit. In the past five years Montes has become a central figure in the Santiago scene as a promotor, sponsor and above all focused collector of art produced in Chile during 1969 to 1989, roughly the art being made during the dicatorship of Pinochet (1973-90).

Being trained as a lawyer, Montes decided to become an artist himself and worked as an assistant in the studio of Eugenio Dittborn, who became internationally known by his ‘airmail paintings’ during the dictatorship (political collages on light paper, which he packaged in large airmail envelopes which were sent off to foreign museums and institutions, distributing politically charged ‘messages’ to the world outside Chile).

Pedro Montes is no longer an artist but since 2010 has started his art collection which no serious contemporary art researcher or collector fails to get acquainted to when visiting Chile. In a short time he has amassed around 600 pieces with large core groups of works by amongst others Dittborn and other artists who were operating outside of the government controlled institutions in that specific period. According to Montes, during the regime the artists were showing their work in off and private spaces often employing performance and conceptual strategies. A small scene of about 300 people were in the know of contemporary developments. Operating rather undisturbed by the military, as the collector states, as it was perhaps too small for the regime to be bothered with?

Montes sees it as his task to put the art of this period into the public eye and be an intermediary between the Chilean art world and foreign curators, collectors and critics. He makes his collection accessible through exhibitions in his D21 Proyectos De Arte space in Departemento 21, where he has made more than 40 exhibitions of works by artists related to his collection, but not necessary of work he owns himself. The current exhibition by Francisco Smythe (1952-1998) for example is based on the collection of the widow of the artist. Smythe belongs to the same generation of conceptual artists as Dittborn, Alfredo Jaar and Carlos Leppe. According to Montes the work on paper, which subtly refers to the ‘forced disappearances’ during the military government, was stored for many decades and is now on view for the first time.

Montes says he has no conceptually defined program for his space, but just follows his own taste. He has a large network of artist friends which tip him off when coming accross work that might possibly fit his collection. He says he hardly has competition and is glad a younger friend recently began to collect as well and is now often prying on the same work he is after. Montes’ exhibitions are more and more recognized by the national press and shows which are written up by the large daily El Mercurio get around 1000 visitors.

Montes is also an avid collector of poetry and documentation (photos, letters, printed matter) relating to the Chilean art of the seventies, eighties and nineties. He publishes books on and by poets and on artists like the photographer Paz Errazuriz, which are distributed by Metales Pesados, the art book shop and gallery in Santiago.

Pedro Montes, Local 5

Our third day in Santiago began with a visit to Local 5 at Diagonal Paraguary, where the Pedro Montes collection is stored in a sort of ‘Schaulager’. A place which is a storage but where also small exhibitions are made. The current presentation focuses on the work by Carlos Leppe and Juan Pablo Langlois, an artist who is now in his eighties and also operating under the alias of Vicuna. Montez is, again, the main collector of the work of both these artists. During our visit Montes’ role as mediator between the Chilean and the international art world was underlined by the arrival of another visit of a group of artists and collectors affiliated with the New York Guggenheim Museum, under the guidance of Pablo Leon de la Barra.

Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen