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What kind of art would best represent a rapidly developing country coming out of the social upheaval of a violent revolution — especially when it had, only a century before that, just thrown off the yoke of colonial rule? Twentieth-century Mexico faced just this question — how it attempted to answer it can be seen in the exhibition “Camino A La Modernidad (The Road to Modernism)” at the Setagaya Art Museum. Staged to commemorate the 400th anniversary of relations between Mexico and Japan, the exhibition brings together 70 works, the largest-ever collection of modern Mexican art to be shown in Japan.

The Spanish conquests of the early 16th century led to Spain suppressing Mexico’s indigenous peoples and imposing its cultural as well as political authority. As a result, art in the “New Spain” was strongly European-led, with a predominant hybrid Mexican-Baroque style that persisted even after the country became independent in 1810. By the turn of the 20th century, however, many Mexican artists had set out to discover or create a national artistic identity.

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