Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 through Oct. 15) has helped promote interest. But as numerous culture watchers observe, the story is much deeper than that. As Mr. Townsend points out, the market began to take off in the 1980s, when prices for many big names, such as Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and fellow Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, began to soar.
Now, social and economic pressures are pushing the US and Latin American countries ever closer, says Lyman Allyn guest curator Gail Gelburd. "The shifting demographics of today are making it more important than ever that we find ways to understand other cultures, and art is a vital tool for that," she adds.
As cultures grow increasingly global, artists are reaching across boundaries to frame the global human experience for all nations. Witness Colombian Fernando Botero's response to news of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. "This generation will understand the Abu Ghraib reference," says Berkeley curator Lucinda Barnes, "but this art transcends this moment and place to become timeless works for all people…."