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Purely Mexican:
Artes de Mexico

by Charles Bleil & Josefina Orozco

Artes de Mexico is a distinguished publication on Mexican art with a rich past. Much of the editorial style and philosophy that shapes the magazine to this day can be traced to the publication's founder, Miguel Salas Anzures.
In 1953, Salas Anzures released the first issue of Artes de Mexico, subtitled "Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art," to coincide with a large general exposition in Palacio de Bellas Artes, providing the magazine with a certain utilitarian beginning. Miguel Salas Anzures, who also founded the Modern Art Museum in Mexico City, together with design director Vicente Rojo, who became one of the most notable Mexican artists in the second half of the twentieth century, were able to convert the magazine, dedicated to covering artistic traditions, into a tradition itself. The magazine benefited from the support and contribution of a number of renowned artists, including Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Dolores Alvarez Bravo, Salvador Novo and many more, until it folded in 1980.
Since its first edition, Artes de Mexico has been a bilingual publication. Some editions were translated into French and German as well, revealing the world wide interest in Mexican arts. The magazine earned international recognition within its first year in print.
Artes de Mexico was founded with a dedication to openly and passionately express every aspect relating to Mexican culture. Despite its upscale image, the publication has always been open to diversity-- for example by taking folk art as seriously as contemporary painting. The editorial policy is to use Mexican arts as a lens for examining culture.
Miguel Salas led the magazine until his death in, after which time a group of editors and promoters kept the tradition alive. Despite numerous ownership changes in the post-Salas years, the magazine maintained the interest of a diverse readership, including collectors, historians, artists, craftsmen and people simply curious about Mexican culture and crafts. During its first 28 years, 202 editions were published.
After an eight-year recess, Artes de Mexico was reborn following the initiative of a group of readers led by Francisco Chávez Roa. The new management conserved and built upon the best of the magazine's traditions. More stringent editorial policy with regard to content, design and printing was implemented, resulting in a new standard of quality that was immediately acknowledged in Mexico and abroad. In 1998, Artes de Mexico was granted the Art Editorial Prize by the National Mexican Publishing Chamber.
In keeping with the magazine's custom, each edition covers a single theme, with various reports and articles on that topic. This aspect adds to the magazine's collectability-- back issues are popular keepsakes, especially as the publication borders closer to being a book rather than a magazine.
The new Artes de Mexico also takes a slightly different angle on Mexican culture. According to the magazine's editor, Alberto Ruy Sánchez, the goal is not to create a journal of art history, nor a magazine offering reviews and criticism of current exhibitions. Rather, their ambition is to explore the arts in a larger social context, as the tip of a massive iceberg which makes up Mexican culture. This editorial policy has led to serious treatment of such diverse topics as the Virgin of Guadalupe to the cultural significance of tequila. This latter edition explores the historical and cultural forces behind the beverage, which is produced in a small geographic area around the village of Tequila, Jalisco. The issue examines why the drink has become a symbol of Mexican national identity.
To date, Artes de Mexico offers 43 back issues, six books, three art guides (edited jointly with the Franz Mayer museum), among other publications. The publisher offers 73 books in all.
At its headquarters in the historic Colonia Roma neighborhood in Mexico City, Artes de Mexico has a small but nifty store offering the publications mentioned above as well as a small selection of artesanias from around the country and a number of gift items. While there are certainly more economical places to acquire artesanías in Mexico City (such as La Ciudadela market on Balderas), the Artes de Mexico store is a worthwhile stop for art lovers.
It is clear to us that the magazine lives not because it produces enormous profits but because of the dedication of its numerous contributors and employees as well as the commitment of its partners, which now number twenty. This support, which has produced the magazine we see today, seems more than sufficient to give us many more years of Artes de Mexico. According to assistant editor Margarita de Orellana, the magazine now has approximately 2,500 subscribers. Of this number, 500 subscribers are outside of Mexico, including such faraway places as Japan, England and South Africa. However, the vast majority of foreign subscribers reside in the United States. Ms. De Orellana noted that despite the high cost of shipping the magazine to other continents, the publication enjoys no government support.