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This fine example of Mexican mayolica, by Manuel Rugerio of Puebla, is one


By Bob Alvarado

Most of the world, consumed by such names as Tommy Hillfiger, Paco Venutti, and Paloma Picasso (as Pablo turns in his grave)-- names which the likes of Madison Avenue have so shrewdly campaigned and sold-- will know very few of the names appearing in this year's final issue.

Our millennarian edition takes us on an exciting trip to some of Mexico's most talented artists-- champions, who for years have been crafting great pieces of art from the very mud that has been trampled on, bled upon and excavated for centuries. Santos Lucano, Adrian Luis Gonzalez, Capelo, Jose Bernabe, Gorky Gonzalez, Ventura Martinez, Avigail Lopez (pronounced ah-vee-gah-eel) and Otilia Elias may sound like pretty catchy names, but more than likely will never appear on a fancy watch made in Taiwan. However, many of these names do make up important parts of both private and public collections around the world. The ninety plus artists mentioned in this issue are only a random few of a large cross-section of those who have truly "ensouled the clay."

WER DEN TON BESEELT, (He Who Ensouls The Clay or Quien Da Su Alma Al Barro), is the title of a book published in German, and the subject of our lead feature. This is one book I can't say I bought only for the articles (Sprechen Sie Deutsch?) but rather for the abundant photographs (328 color plates) of Mexico's finest examples of low-temperature ceramics from every major region-- and the artists who make them. The samplings are exquisite, to say the least.

About a year after finding this publication in a used book store in Ajijic, Jalisco, I visited a recently opened art gallery just steps away from our Guadalajara offices. Much to my surprise, the gallery owners were none other than father-and-son team Helmut and Christian Köhl. Helmut, who along with Gilberto Ramos, Theodor Riedl, Wolfgang Sackmann and Richard Burns, spearheaded this remarkable project of historical importance. And, as it turns out, they actually commissioned the pieces and cataloged the exhibit for the ten-year "European tour" of Mexican pottery which ran from 1986 to 1996. Regretfully, the exhibit was not shown in Mexico or the U.S., but its documentation still exists and we are very proud to present it to you. Hopefully enough interest can be garnered to find a sponsor to publish it in English and Spanish so that we "New Worlders" are not left in the dark.

In the dark? "Not hardly!" A great many of these potters will be familiar to veteran collectors and lovers of Mexican folk art. But, to answer the questions from some of the "entry level" collectors in Mexican arts -- should one invest in some of these works? -- well, listen... I'm no Malcolm Berko, investment consultant, but so has the clay ensouled my spirit that, if a museum wants to buy one of my pieces, it will have to deposit into a Swiss numbered account. Just a tip. But seriously-- most of these artists are young and still actively producing; and the majority of them have work commissioned well into the next year. If you're interested in investing, come early, get in line and, no, they don't even take Visa. But yes, it is worth the wait.

In this issue we also visit the Banco Nacional de Mexico's exhibit, Grandes Maestros Del Arte Popular De Mexico, at the Museo Regional de Guadalajara. Here too, one will find a few of the great potters mentioned in Helmut's catalog. Unfortunately, I feel that this exhibit was too general in scope and that the mix and variation of folk art and artesanía presented overshadowed the real "Masters." Kudos to BANAMEX are in order anyway, they've got to do something with that 55% interest rate they get from credit card holders.

>From our Mexico City news office we have some great reporting, including on the fabulous "Los Maya" exhibit that's scheduled to travel the world over. Lovers of ancient pottery should not miss it and if you aren't planning to be in the big city soon, just be on the look out for it's arrival somewhere near you.

About 25 years ago, during my scholarly period, I found myself volunteering to chauffeur
a very eccentric and highly touted professor of anthropology. It was back and forth from Mexico City to the Instituto Allende, about "00 hundred miles round trip in a rickety jeep, every weekend. He would only lecture one class. Besides his class, I sat in on various others, thereby getting my well-rounded education a-la Dobie Gillis. After classes we would tour the local haunts, eateries and spectacles. Professor Gordon Kelley and I truly made bonds with this magical town and with many of the young scholar-etts that flocked to the colonial village to follow their artistic pursuits.

San Miguel Allende, with all my fond recollections of it, hasn't changed much in twenty-five years. It does have a lot of new antiques shops, galleries and many new hotels-- from posadas, to modern grand turismo suites-- which helps explain why many of our colleagues in the antiques schtick frequent this town. Its proximity to so many places to find goodies: Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo, Penjamo, Acambaro, Apaseo El Alto and Yuriria-- just to name a few-- is another good reason. The cat is out of the bag.

This issue of El antiQuario kicks off a brand new section dedicated to El Bajio-- the lowlands of Guanajuato, and particularly to San Miguel Allende. Our new correspondents-- Lou Christine, Barbara Mauldin and Maria Eugenia Paulin-- have already gone to work, bringing us some stimulating dispatch. Don't miss this new section. We are also pleased to announce that the very famous Instituto Allende is the proud sponsor of the soon-to-be-renowned Festival Del Anticuario scheduled for November.

I hope this number brings you as much pleasure as it did us putting it together.
Feliz Milenio 2000, y muchos mas.

The Museo Regional de Guadalajara's recent display of popular arts from the

Besides a lot of new antiques shops, galleries and first-class hotels, San

 

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