University of Leicester
2019SantillanMPhD.pdf (4.5 MB)

The Conflicting Relationship between Socially Engaged Art Practice and Museums through the Eyes of Mexico City Artists

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posted on 2020-02-03, 13:52 authored by Martina Santillan
This thesis explores the different implications, both for artists and for art institutions, of the recent development of socially engaged art practice exhibitions in museums of contemporary art in Mexico City. The research is based on the in-depth examination of the case study of the exhibition Changarrito en Acción by Máximo González at the Museo de La Ciudad de México in Mexico City, an overview of four other socially engaged art practice exhibitions in different contemporary art museums in the city, and extensive interviews with artists working in Mexico today whose artistic practice is mainly situated in the socially engaged field. In the study, I predominantly consider the point of view of the artists to determine the conflicts that arise between them and art institutions when these decide to exhibit socially engaged art practice.
Ethical issues both for museums and artists are examined as well as the position of the museum as an agent of legitimacy for artists and their work. Questions about aesthetics and the different views artists and institutions take towards it are considered, taking into account the way in which this affects exhibitions and the work of art itself. The museological difficulties of exhibiting socially engaged art are examined, as are the possibilities for museums of becoming platforms for the dissemination of larger issues proposed by socially engaged artists. Through the examination of these issues, I aim to start a conversation towards a better understanding of socially engaged art practice exhibition in museums in México in relation to audience satisfaction and inclusion.



Simon Knell; Isobel Whitelegg

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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