Alumnos47 Foundation

Alumnos47 Foundation was founded in 2009 by Moisés Coisío, scion of one of Mexico’s richest families. During its existence, Alumnos47 supported a bewildering array of activities, including, but not limited to, publications, concerts, a roving library that brought books, records, and performances to ignored neighborhoods throughout Mexico City, and a series of truly exciting pedagogical initiatives. Its mission was to use the problems that contemporary art presents, both the good and the bad, as lenses to view and interact with daily life. Alumnos47 provided an exciting alternative to the often hermetic and endlessly-self-referencing practice and reception of contemporary art. Until suddenly it didn’t.

In late November of 2018, just before an Alumnos47 project, Empathetic Pedagogies—a remarkably clear-eyed radical pedagogy project that actually took into account the limited financial and emotional resources of overworked and underpaid educators—was about to have its second conference at the Rufino Tamayo Museum, Alumnos47 closed. All employees of Alumnos47—“even the gardeners!” protested a disgusted friend I ran into that week—were fired in grossly intimidating circumstances, forced to sit in a room with lawyers employed by the founder and sign threatening non-disclosure statements. All employees, regardless of how long they had been with Alumnos47, were given just three month’s salary as severance. We can imagine the episode of Made in Mexico, where Coisío, behaving in the way he thinks people who feel tortured behave, maybe his head in his hands, maybe dramatically smoking a cigarette while looking over the breathtaking view from his balcony or terrace, tells the camera or his maid that he “just can’t.”

The irony of an art institution dedicated to investigating the contemporary world using the tools of contemporary art closing due to quick and nasty decision by its rich founder is compelling. The contemporary world is increasingly dominated by a capricious oligarchy, whose increasingly absurd accumulation of wealth can only be maintained in an anti-democratic world. These people are so insulated from the actual world that their only recourse on how to live, it would seem, is by watching themselves and people like them on tv. Contemporary art, like more or less all art at least since the Enlightenment, depends on and is associated with—in many ways, exists for and always has existed for—this oligarchy. Perhaps it should not.