‘Payment in Kind’ programme gives Mexico worthy art

February 16th, 2008 - 11:35 am ICT by admin  

Mexico City, Feb 16 (DPA) In 1957, painter David Alfaro Siqueiros proposed that artists in Mexico be allowed to pay taxes with their work. Half a century later, this idea has given rise to one of the world’s most important collections of contemporary art. The unprecedented programme, Pago en Especie (Payment in Kind), went into force in 1975 through a presidential decree, but it received the support of the artists Raul Anguiano, Luis Nishizawa and Adolfo Best Maugard who donated works to get it going.

Diego Rivera also joined the efforts, with three works including the oil painting “Lucila y los judas”.

“As a founder, Diego Rivera contributes but does not pay, because the nation was indebted to him (for earlier donations),” said Angeles Sobrino, deputy director of the collection control department at the Mexican Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP).

Since then, the programme has gathered 5,304 pieces, according to the last inventory carried out in 2006. And it grows every year, with new acquisitions selected by a specialist committee.

” ‘Payment in Kind’ is not about any artist handing in their work. It is a window to represent the work and the calibre of those who have taken part in it,” Jose Ramon San Cristobal told DPA.

San Cristobal is the director general of Cultural Promotion, Public Works and Patrimonial Assets at the SHCP, charged with the custody and diffusion of this treasure.

Leonora Carrington, Vicente Rojo, Rodolfo Morales, Rafael Coronel, Mathias Goeritz, Roger von Gunten and Francisco Toledo are some of the 700 artists - natives, or foreigners with residence in Mexico - who have settled fiscal debts with their artistic production.

Artists like Jose Luis Cuevas have made a habit of the programme, and every year they work on one or several pieces to cover the amount they should pay in tax.

The assets gathered in this way belong to the Mexican people, and they decorate museums and other institutions across Mexico.

Of the total, 4,044 works are held by the SHCP, and many of these have left the Mexican capital and are shown in embassies and official buildings abroad.

“The idea is to diffuse (the works),” San Cristobal explained. “Protocol spaces are important windows to help Mexican fine arts be admired.”

The most representative pieces of this collection have travelled to fairs and museums around the world. Rufino Tamayo’s La Venus fotogenica, for example, travelled to Lille, France, the European Capital of Culture 2004.

Until 2006, Payment in Kind would only take paintings, sculptures and engravings. One year later, photographs were admitted, and in the future installations, performances, literature and poetry may be accepted, the SHCP noted.

What started as an effort by Siqueiros to help a friend with tax debts and to make life easier for artists - “who know little about numbers”, according to the painter - is now a worthy collection of paintings and engravings, 468 sculptures, 65 photographs and 13 tapestries.

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