Luis Márquez in the World of Tomorrow
Mexican Identity and the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair

In 1940, Luis Marquez (1899-1978) was invited to be the artistic adviser for the Mexican Pavilion at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. In the 20 years prior to his arrival in the States, Marquez travelled throughout Mexico, compiling a remarkable record of Mexico’s diverse population, traditional attire, and handicrafts. These trips informed Marquez’s photographic style, which evolved from semi-ethnographic documents into staged productions—creating a refined, albeit artificial, depiction of the indigenous way of life.

Marquez spent approximately five months in New York, where The Museum of Modern Art’s 1940 exhibition Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art triggered a wave of enthusiasm for all things Mexican. It was in this auspicious climate that Marquez, with a small group of dancers, a trunk full of traditional Mexican clothing and his camera, injected his unique vision of Mexico into the Fair–with one face to the future, the other toward the aboriginal past.

Marquez made a comprehensive photographic account of his time at the Fair and in New York City. Of particular interest are the portraits of his models wearing Tehuana, China Poblana, or Mariachi costumes against the background of the iconic Trylon and Perisphere. Though these images may now seem anachronistic or out of place, Marquez established an uncanny yet amusing aesthetic relationship with this out-scale architecture of the future.

This exhibition, the result of ten years of research in Mexico and the United States, features over 100 of these photographs and selections from Marquez’s personal collection of 3,000 Mexican folk costumes. Also on view are archival materials from the 1939-40 World’s Fair to provide broader historical context to Marquez’s visit to “the World of Tomorrow”.

– Itala Schmelz and Ernesto Penaloza, Curators