If Cheverismo Is Not the Answer, What Is the Question?June 10, 2015
Cheverismo is situated within a broad tradition of the economy of friendship, one that introduces collaborative networks based on professional affinities—and often personal ones as well—to the field of art. Historically, nepotism has long been a familiar part of the arts, for better and for worse. The advantage of Cheverismo is that it does not claim and never has claimed to make up for any deficiency, but rather emerges directly from the affinities between people as a response to specific personal and professional circumstances––a simple alliance between friends that has continued to grow. In this sense, and as a spontaneous reaction, it is difficult to judge whether or not it is useful or detrimental to a given scene (and even more so in this case, which extends beyond their particular context), but it is possible to analyze their experiences to date and speculate upon their possible consequences.
Cheverismo––if you will excuse my stating the obvious––takes as its premise being 'chévere,' which, one assumes, means advocating for fair, respectful, and friendly practices among a wide and vaguely defined group of "partisans;" a right that is usually exercised rather than chosen. From the outset this benefits a field that, as is clearly stated in the initial question, presents "compromises in the form of socialization, closed circles of mutual support, and exclusions and intrigues," all of which are unfair and based on arbitrary criteria. With this in mind, the endless opportunities for networking and the importance accorded to art fairs come as no surprise. I am not trying to vilify, only to analyze the priorities and tendencies of the field. By which I mean, if we know that these types of alliances are inevitable given the subjective nature of artistic and cultural production, one has no choice but to endorse those that promote constructive and "friendly" actions and strategies over those seeking power and benefits that contribute nothing to artistic production.
On the other hand, Cheverismo has certainly fostered (and in some cases made possible) the circulation of ideas and recognition for artistic production that, due precisely to the failings of official channels, have been difficult to implement in certain parts of Latin America. I doubt this phenomenon in particular is the answer to those failings, but it has opened alternative channels of production, circulation, and thought that have definitely had an effect on the artistic scene in Latin America today. If a potential "lack of professionalism" can plague the development of Latin American institutions, one must evaluate the context and the institutions themselves––whether or not we agree with their modus operandi or particular configurations––before examining the reactions to that lack or its consequences.
At the very least Cheverismo has fostered practices based on collaboration and affinity, values that, it seems to me, as a maker of art but also as a person, represent an unquestionably ethical position. In the best case scenario it can generate profound connections between artists, curators, gallerists and other figures in the field of art; these will undoubtedly contribute to greater coordination among the region's atomized cultural circuits, which will in turn result in a scene that is better organized, one with many such networks and, it is to be hoped, more professionalism. The latter will depend not so much on Cheverismo, but on consistent and responsible effort from multiple directions.