Guggenheim curator Pablo Léon de la Barra on how he was influenced by Wallpaper *
Pablo Léon de la Barra, Wallpaper editor for Latin America and curator of the Guggenheim, explains how the magazine helped him during his student years. De la Barra’s memories are featured in the ’25 Years of Wallpaper * ‘series, published in our October 2021 issue, 25th anniversary
I bought my first copy of Wallpaper in September 1997, at the age of 25, when I moved to London to do my Masters in Architecture. Coming from Mexico, what struck me from the start was the magazine’s commitment to reassess non-European and non-American modernities. It opened up a world where multiple modernities were presented in a non-condescending way and where a horizontal dialogue between different geographies and cultures was possible. In this way, Wallpaper * was truly global.
Acapulco to Xilitla
In the early 2000s I was back in the UK to do a PhD at the Architectural Association and had to find a way to support myself in very expensive London. I wrote an email to Tyler Brûlé offering my services and knowledge and offering some ideas and surprisingly two weeks later I was on a plane to Mexico to write my first article on architecture. modern in Acapulco (W * 40).
A few months later, I was back writing a story about Edward James’ surreal concrete jungle in Xilitla in the jungles of Mexico (W * 45). Many other stories followed: articles on the post-Barragán architectural scene of Guadalajara (W * 62); on the upcoming art and design scene of Colonia Roma in Mexico City (W * 46) – years ago Rome the film made it fashionable; on the architect Agustín Hernández (W * 64); the Wallpaper * City Guide of Mexico; and many other contributions showcasing the best of Latin American art, design and architecture.
Twenty-five years later, my love affair and admiration for Wallpaper * (and its current publisher) continues, as does my undying gratitude to the magazine for helping me survive the economic hardships of these student years!