This weekend, Fundación Alumnos47 will present books from publishers at Printed Matter's LA Art Book Fair in keeping with its mission to promote independent publishing in Mexico. In my interview with Moises Cosio, Alumnos47's founder explains the genesis of the foundation, which has commissioned French architect Didier Faustino to design its future home, and why he chose to focus on a library instead of an art collection.
Bettina Korek: When did you decide to start Alumnos47?
Moises Cosio: There were many triggers, but the most important were probably the architectural tours that I went on with Joseph Grima and David Van de Leer around the world beginning in 2009. I was having all these conversations with amazing people. The experience of meeting artists and architects, and reading more about art and architecture, was changing my perception about so many different subjects--economics, ethics, politics. For me, it was never really about the work of art. It was never an aesthetic interest, like: "I need to have this blue painting in my living room." It was more about getting to know the history of what the artist thought, and what they were doing, and what they were fighting against.
BK: How did you come up with the idea of creating a library?
MC: I grew up with the idea of building a foundation. My mother's side of the family had always been very active in philanthropy, particularly around economic growth and addiction treatment.
As I told friends about the architects and artists I was meeting, I realized there was a lack of access to learning more about them. The books that I was reading couldn't be found in Mexico, either in libraries or in bookstores. Alumnos47 emerged out of this need in the landscape. I hope that by addressing it we can open these conversations up to more people.
BK: Is this desire at the heart of your vision for Alumnos47?
MC: Yes, it's about engagement and social practice. I'm a really bad collector. I see other collectors who know how to pursue special works of art; they know specifics and they cannot stop thinking about them. It's not that way at all for me. If I meet the artist in person, and I really learn something from them, then I want a work of theirs but I don't care which piece. I don't know if it's their most important work, I just want one because I think their way of thinking is really important.
BK: What strikes you most about the contemporary art community in Mexico City?MC: It's not about thinking anymore, it's about selling. Artists are no longer intellectuals--they are kind of like divas or rockstars. A47 Móvil, courtesy of Fundación Alumnos47
BK: You pursue the conversation.
MC: Yes. I hope it's a more democratic way of approaching things. Provided they have access to the right materials, it is easier for people to participate in these conversations. This is something that truly anyone can experience.
BK: One of your first major projects was the mobile library. Was that the thinking behind it? That you wanted to test out how to make this material available to people in different places?MC: It emerged out a conversation with Joseph, David, and Homero Fernandez: how can we start working as a library, but without the library? We had many ideas. One of them was a mobile library, which could begin lending books from the collection in a smaller context. A47 Móvil, courtesy of Fundación Alumnos47
BK: And how has that experience been?
MC: It's amazing for us when people engage with our programs who have never gone to galleries, never gone to museums, or never gone to openings.
We want the foundation to be inclusive. I started collecting really young, and I remember going to galleries by myself in New York where nobody would approach me. They would look at me as if they wanted me to get out of their gallery. The next day I would go to the same gallery with my art advisor, and they would receive me, take me to the back room, give me champagne, and I'm like, "What is this about?"
We also want to encourage collaboration and be great collaborators in return. In Mexico, there is a situation where nobody collaborates. If you have a foundation and I have a foundation, and we're doing something similar, then we'll always be fighting. We hope to be a part of redefining this dynamic. We have the opportunity to experiment and test ideas for new models of arts organizations, and we are constantly evolving.
Someone once asked me: "What's the limit of a collection? What is it that makes a collection great?" The answer is money. The limit is the limit of the collector's funds, and I don't think that's wrong. Anybody can build a collection. It's not about the works themselves, it's just that the biggest collection will belong to the guy that has the most money, period. So I don't think that's profound at all. It's much better to have a place where anyone can go to read about art and architecture, and the many ways they affect our lives.