Twenty-twelve marked the Silver Anniversary of the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA), which spirited an ambitious appeal for notable art donations. The Permanent Collection was established concurrently at the museum’s outset in 1987 with a modest purchase of Mexican Masters prints. Soon, Chicago artists, talents from Mexico and private collectors began donating works-on-paper, thus establishing the principal means of acquisition for the young museum. These items were easily stored on-site in a few compact drawers. The following year, the museum extended its collecting efforts to accept photography and folk art and by 1990, hired a collection manager, formalized the collection process and began accessioning paintings and then sculpture and textiles. It quickly became apparent that the museum would need to expand its gallery spaces to showcase its collection and build state-of the-art storage vaults if it were to continue to amass a sizable and significant Permanent Collection. The museum sought and achieved accreditation from the prestigious American Association of Museums in 1997 and by 1999 acquired its first pre-Cuauhtémoc (ancient Mesoamerican) artifacts along with a core collection of vintage chromolithographs, thus establishing the category of ephemera. In 2001 the museum tripled its space, attaining its current size.
Nonetheless, while most areas of the collection flourished (prints, drawings, photography, folk art, textiles and ephemera), others (paintings, sculpture and ancient Mexican materials) needed to grow. Seeking to fill these voids, in 2011 the museum embarked on a two-year art donation solicitation campaign to commemorate its 25th Anniversary. Members of the curatorial team spent many days visiting artists’ studios and meeting with private collectors in Chicago, across the US and in Mexico. In a culmination of the effort, this exhibition showcases major works by distinguished and emerging artists from both sides of the border and proudly debuts a selection of significant pre-Cuauhtémoc acquisitions from the Louis and Annette Kaufman Trust.
The museum is deeply indebted to the exceptionally generous donors of signature works, many of whom are artists, who made this exhibition possible. They opened their studios, homes, hearts and minds to affirm NMMA’s uninterrupted, 25-year history. As in the profound and prophetic title of Ernesto Yerena’s serigraph within the exhibit, the National Museum of Mexican Art can exclaim “Aquí estoy y no me voy / I’m Here and I’m Not Leaving.”