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José Gómez Sicre, Director of the Esso Salons

     José Gómez Sicre was born in Matanzas, Cuba, in 1916.  After attending law school at the University of Havana, he decided to follow his love of art and began writing art reviews and curating small exhibits.  He went on to create the Galeria del Prado, the first commercial gallery of modern art in Cuba.  Here he met Alfred Barr, the renowned director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, who became his mentor and friend.  With his help, Gómez Sicre became the Director of Visual Arts at the Pan American Union in 1948.  Here he curated over 500 exhibitions, often introducing Latin American artists that were previously unknown outside their native countries to a North American public.  He gained a reputation as a starmaker, ‘discovering’ Jose Luis Cuevas, Fernando Botero, Fernando de Szyszlo and  Olga Albizu, amongst others.  Art historian Claire Fox reflected that, “a show at the PAU’s small gallery was a career turning point” for the artists.[i] Gómez Sicre often acted as art dealer and even an agent, of sorts, for the artists, in his efforts to promote them and Latin American art in general.  He juried many art competitions, both in the United States and throughout Latin America, including the majority of the Esso Salons.  He also created the Museum of Contemporary Latin Art at the Organization of American States, providing a larger and more modern space to showcase Latino and Latin American art.  Through these activities and his writings in the PAU magazines Americas and Boletin de Artes Visuales and many other publications, Gomez Sicre became something of a “tastemaker” of Latin American art in the United States.  Peruvian artist Fernando de Szyszlo said that he “created Latin American art.”[ii]  While this is possibly an overstatement, he nevertheless had a great influence on the United States Latin American art scene during his 30 year tenure through his charisma and powerful position at the Pan American Union.[iii]

    Gomez Sicre 2