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Pacific Standard Time: Latin American art that highlights the complexity of cultural identity

The art extravaganza, Pacific Standard Time, is back with a second edition.

This year’s edition, called Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, is focused on art from Latin America and work made by Latinos in the United States. The region-wide series of exhibitions will take place at more than 60 venues — from Orange County to Santa Barbara, and from Los Angeles to Riverside.

John Horn spoke with James Cuno, president and CEO of The Getty Trust, which is a presenting sponsor of Pacific Standard Time.

How the Pacific Standard Time event has evolved over the years:

In the first instance [2011], Pacific Standard Time was the result of years of archival research and conservation of archives, because it was looking at a period of time, the birth of contemporary art in Los Angeles — a period of time in which artists, dealers, collectors, critics were retiring, dying. Archives were at risk, so it began not at all as it turned out to be. It began as a conservation project. The second one became something different, because the first one was so successful it became something that could be broader and bigger and larger — both in the number of participants, but also in the scope of the theme ... to embrace Latin America. It was clearly that was the obvious choice for a theme for PST because of the history of Los Angeles. Once it did that, then it left Los Angeles and embraced the world that is south of us. 

On how he thinks the timing of the event affects how the exhibitions will be received:

Given that we are a border city, a border state, we realized that there would be a political dimension to PST. We didn't anticipate it would be so pointed and so poignant as it is now. But it is something that was always taken into account, and since it is an art celebration that is organized from the ground up — it isn't something imposed by The Getty — we realized that we had no real control over the content of the exhibitions. We only wanted them to be of the highest quality and the greatest importance. The topic developed over the course of time, as the politics have developed over the course of time ... So I think you'll find through the some 80 exhibitions that are part of PST, there will be many that are pointedly political, but there will be others that are not.

On how much was invested in PST and why it's a priority for The Getty:

The number that we use is $16 million over the course of 5-6 years that we've been in development. Why is it important to the Getty? Well, the Getty is a responsible citizen in Los Angeles and a leading institution, representing Los Angeles to the world. Embracing the world and bringing together these cultural institutions is to demonstrate to the world that that is a characteristic of Los Angeles. It is a region from Santa Barbara to San Diego to Palm Springs to Santa Monica that embraces collaboration. That's something you don't find so common in our world ... We have to think that it is unique to Los Angeles. 

On whether there will be more PST events:

Clearly it's in our mind to follow this with another one. The first one was some 6-7 years in the making, this one was 5-6 years in the making. Between now and 2028, when L.A. gets the Olympic Games, there's time to have a Pacific Standard Time, and then probably to have one at the time of the Games. So we say every 5-6 years is the appropriate time to plan these things and I don't see any reason why we wouldn't follow this with another one. The success of these things is building and the recognition of its quality is building as well. 

On what he hopes people who experience Pacific Standard Time take away: 

The obvious one, border relations, but also conversations about the complexity of cultural identity. It is too reductive that we know precisely what is Latin American cultural identity, or Latino cultural identity of Los Angeles. It's constantly in development and changing all the time. We need to embrace that diversity and that mobility of identity and recognize the complexity of it.