Modern art’s origins have been consistently placed during the rupture with traditional art forms emerging in the late nineteenth century. This has resulted in the fact that European history's inseparability from its colonies, and therefore, centre-periphery relations, has been ignored since the sixteenth century. Principio Potosí a project that rethinks the origins and expansion of modernity based on colonial baroque painting and on colonisation processes. The exhibition establishes a dialogue between the work produced ex profeso various international artists, with numerous colonial baroque art works from between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries that come from mainly Bolivian and Spanish convents, churches, archives and museums.
All dominant groups exercise power not only through control of the means of production, but also through a hegemonic discourse that makes culture and arts fundamental control instruments of the social-imagination. In the seventeenth century Potosí was one of the major cities in the world - with a population greater than that of London or Paris - a financial centre that supported an artistic production linked to work in the mines and the most negative consequences of colonisation. In the area that is now occupied by Peru and Bolivia, in the sixteenth century, there were already artistic schools emerging, such as those of Cuzco and Potosí, with common characteristics regarding European painting, such as the anti-illusionistic representation of space and the integration of local myths in their work. In 1545 the Spanish began to arrive and exploit metals from the Cerro Rico in Potosí through indigenous labour. The overabundance of wealth is made off the backs of slaves, the "mitawhere indigenous people work in inhumane conditions. Silver and other metals mined from Cerro Rico circulate throughout the globe and pay for European wars.
Indigenous art is presented today as an inspiration to modernity and the various parallels that are established between the ideological function of colonial baroque painting and that which contemporary art adopts when legitimising the new elites of globalisation. That is why in the exhibition references derive from the four current centres of economic power: Moscow, Beijing, London and Dubai, along with the four conceptual axes in relation to contemporary art production: Hegemony, Accumulation, Human Rights and Investment.
Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (October 7, 2010 – January 3, 2011); Museo Nacional de Arte and Museo de Etnografía y Folklore, La Paz (February – May, 2011)