El Dorado: Myths of Gold at Americas Society

By Luisa Leme

Watch the exhibition's curatorial team explain how artists are subverting Latin America's foundational narrative today.

"All myths are part of our own reality. You don't have a reality without your own mythology." That is how Edward J. Sullivan, one of the curators of El Dorado: Myths of Gold, explained the power of the myth of a golden king in Latin America's history. In this video Sullivan and co-curators Aimé Iglesias Lukin and Tie Jojima, we learn about this creating the two-part exhibition, which had its first part  on show in 2023. Part II opens January 24 in New York and will be on view until May 18, 2024.  

The myth of El Dorado was foundational to the European conquest of Latin America. "El Dorado has defined territory, has defined peoples, has defined labor, has influenced immigration of people, the amount of travel inside the Americas and also forced labor," says Jojima. The exhibition—created as part of a large multidisciplinary research effort in partnership with Fundación PROA in Buenos Aires, Argentina and the Museo Amparo in Puebla, Mexico—shows the work of over 60 artists  from the Western Hemisphere, including pieces spanning from the pre-Hispanic period to the contemporary era. The contemporary artists on view, Jojima says, are retelling stories that have been told but focusing on "another aspect," a new angle.

For curator Iglesias Lukin, the myth is still relevant to today's world. "We want to take El Dorado as a metaphor to try to understand the way that we think about territory, land, and how we think about ourselves throughout the continent," she says. The co-curator gave examples throughout both history and modern times of how promises of fortune led to the taking of resources, including in the Potosí mines in Bolivia, rubber in Brazil, oil in Venezuela, and most recently lithium in South America. Iglesias Lukin explains the curatorial research encountered a large number of contemporary artists in the region rethinking this framework for the region today. 

"Perhaps our new El Dorado contemporary society should be seeking for is nature. But it's not about extraction, but it's about preservation. It's about cultivation," says Jojima.

Funders and sponsors 

El Dorado: A Reader was made possible with the major support of Rio Tinto.

The presentation of the exhibition El Dorado: Myths of Gold and related programming has been made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Additional support was provided by Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund. Since 2020, Americas Society, Fundación PROA, and Museo Amparo have been joining efforts to conceptualize and bring to life the Project El Dorado, resulting in a convening, as well as a series of publications and exhibitions different for each institution (Proa 2023, Amparo 2024).