MOA opens a Portal to Surreal Vistas and Fantastical Amalgamations in The Marvellous Real. In 1949, the Cuban writer and ethno-musicologist, Alejo Carpentier (1904 – 1980), coined the term the “marvellous real” to describe a particular kind of magic realism that is manifest in the arts and everyday life of Latin America. Eluding the expected through bizarre amalgamations, improbable juxtapositions, and fantastic correlations, the marvellous real is, as Carpentier said, “neither beautiful nor ugly; rather, it is amazing because it is strange.”

This exhibition features 54 artworks from Mexico that capture the idea of the marvellous real. Drawn from the FEMSA Collection in Mexico, the exhibition includes works by Dr. Atl, Leonora Carrington, Jean Charlot, Juan O’Gorman, Alice Rahon, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Juan Soriano, and Rufino Tamayo, as well as a younger generation of visual artists like Carlos Amorales, Sandra Cabriada, Claudia Fernández, Adela Goldbard, Yishai Jusidman, Alejandro Santiago and Francisco Toledo. Curated by Dr. Nicola Levell (Assistant Professor, Anthropology, UBC).The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the FEMSA Collection, the Agencia Mexicana de Cooperación International Para el Desarrollo, the Consulado General de México en Vancouver, the Ollin Mexican Canadian Association for Arts, Culture and Education, and the Fundación Alejo Carpentier.

To create an immersive experience, MOA has assembled an extensive collection of artworks in a diverse array of media including painting, sculpture, mixed media, photography, video, and more. The far-ranging aesthetic is explored through everything from familiar formats that defy expectation and perception, such as luminary artist Frida Kahlo’s oil and collage work Mi vestido cuelga aqui (1933, My Dress Hangs Here), to daring creations that challenge artistic definitions, such as Betsabeé Romero’s Serpiente (2004, Serpent) – a group of four engraved tractor tires.

The summation of the exhibition – which will be offered in both English and Spanish – is a dazzling, kaleidoscopic view of not only an artistic expression, but of a vibrant place and people.

To complement the exhibition, MOA has programmed a series of enriching and immersive experiences, including:

Sunday, October 27, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm.  Free with Museum Admission.
Curator Nicola Levell and MOA Director Anthony Shelton will give a tour of the exhibition, and discuss their unique approach to the display of 20th and 21st-century art from Mexico.

Saturday, November 2, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm.  Free with Museum Admission.
For many traditional Mesoamerican cultures, dying represents a continuation of this life in a different, parallel realm. Every year, these two realms connect in a celebration commonly known as the Day of the Dead. On November 2, MOA creates its own Day of the Dead Celebration.  Ofrendas or offerings and altars for the deceased will be erected in the Haida house by local community members. Music will be provided by Mariachi del Sol, while storytellers and stilt walkers will contribute to the celebration.

Saturday, November 30, 10:00 am1:00pm; Saturday, December 7, 10:00 am1:00 pm
Strongly identified with Mexico, the piñata is one of several objects made from cardboard, cloth, or clay that have been used in cultures throughout the world in celebrations and ceremonies.  Come to this workshop and learn how to make a traditional Mexican piñata, and then join us for a Posada Navidena on December 14.  The workshop fee includes supplies, excluding treats for the inside of the piñata, as well as free MOA admission on December 7 and December 14. Workshop price is $30 per person or one parent and one child; $25 for MOA members. Tickets at:

Saturday, December 14, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. Free with Museum Admission.
Posadas are a cultural tradition rooted in the blending of Christianity with Mesoamerican cultures. The word posada means shelter or lodging, and refers to the place Jesus Christ was born. With roots in Spain and Catholicism, the posada has been practiced in Mexico since the 16th century. The Posada Navidena at MOA will feature a procession with musicians signing the letania and culminate in the breaking of a traditional piñata in MOA’s Great Hall.

This exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the FEMSA Collection, the Agencia Mexicana de Cooperación International Para el Desarrollo, the Consulado General de México en Vancouver, the Ollin Mexican Canadian Association for Arts, Culture and Education, and the Fundación Alejo Carpentier.

The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) is world-renowned for its collections, research, teaching, public programs, and community connections.  Founded in 1949 in the basement of the Main Library at UBC, its mission is to inspire understanding of and respect for world arts and cultures. Today, Canada’s largest teaching museum is located in a spectacular building overlooking mountains and sea. MOA houses more than 38,000 ethnographic objects and 535,000 archaeological objects, including many, which originate from the Northwest Coast of British Columbia. The Koerner Gallery features one of Canada’s most important European ceramics collections, while MOA’s recently opened Multiversity Galleries provide public access to more than 10,000 objects from around the world. The Audain Gallery and the O’Brian Gallery, MOA’s temporary exhibition spaces showcase travelling exhibits as well as those developed in-house.

ABOUT DR. NICOLA LEVELL (Assistant Professor, Anthropology, UBC)
Nicola Levell is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on museums, art and anthropology. She is the author of Oriental Visions: Exhibitions, Travel and Collecting in the Victorian Age (2000) and has written numerous articles on collections and exhibitions, artists and critical curatorial practice. She has held curatorial positions at the Horniman Museum (London, UK) and the Brighton Art Gallery and Museums (Brighton, UK) where she curated temporary and long-term major exhibitions. She is curator of The Marvellous Real: Art from Mexico, 1926-2011and editor of the accompanying catalogue.

Dates:  October 25, 2013 – March 30, 2014
Venue:  Museum of Anthropology UBC – The Audain Gallery
6393 NW Marine Drive Vancouver, BC

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