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The Arts and Crafts of Mexico, Past and Present

Chloe Sayer

Wednesday 20th April 2022

 

The Arts and Crafts of Mexico, Past and Present

Few countries in the world offer such a rich and varied cultural heritage as Mexico. Before the Spanish Conquest of 1519, numerous civilisations rose and fell. The great cities of the Maya, the Aztecs, the Zapotec and the Mixtec were peopled by muralists, sculptors in stone, ceramic artists, feather- and gold-workers, jewellers, weavers, and painters of sacred books.

Throughout the twentieth century, painters such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo helped to set a new value on Mexico’s popular traditions. The arts and crafts of Mexico remain an essential part of life. They are a living force, not a nostalgic evocation of a vanished past.

Fine ceramics, shimmering work in gold and silver, rich textiles, imaginative toys and festive dance-masks are some of the many art forms that combine Aztec, Maya and Spanish traditions. Enriched by the fusion of Old and New World materials and techniques, Mexican folk art is sought after by private collectors and major institutions.

Although most folk-artists are anonymous creators, many now sign their work. Papier-mâché figures by the celebrated Linares family, gigantic pottery ‘trees of life’ by the Sotenos of Metepec, colourful yarn pictures by Huichol artists are a valued part of the British Museum’s modern Mexican collection.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS

In Mexico, arts and crafts remain an essential part of life. Textiles, ceramics, silverwork and other ancient skills combine Aztec, Maya and Spanish traditions. 

Chloë Sayer

Author, Lecturer Curator and Travel Guide

Chloë Sayer is a freelance specialist in the art and culture of Latin America. She is a Research Associate with the Department for World Cultures at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and has made ethnographic collections in Mexico for the British Museum. She has worked on television documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4, and regularly leads cultural tours to Mexico. She has lectured for galleries and cultural institutions in Australia, Canada, Europe, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and Mexico. Her many books include MEXICAN TEXTILES (British Museum Press, 1990), THE ARTS AND CRAFTS OF MEXICO (Thames & Hudson, 1990), and FIESTA: DAYS OF THE DEAD AND OTHER MEXICAN FESTIVALS (British Museum Press, 2009). In 2015-16, she guest-curated the exhibition ¡Viva México! Clothing & Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum, and wrote the accompanying book. In 2016 the Mexican Government awarded her the prestigious Ohtli medal to thank her for her long-standing commitment to Mexican culture.