Capital of culture: With economic growth, Lima’s art scene flourishes

Peru’s continent-leading growth over the last several years has caused Lima’s art scene to flourish. As the art market has expanded and public interest in contemporary art has grown, the capital’s art institutions have made an effort to elevate the city’s status in the global art world. Lima’s leading galleries now show local and international artists at the world’s most prominent art fairs. A major contemporary art museum opened in June 2013 in Barranco, the trendy district that is also home to many galleries. Also in 2013, the inaugural editions of two art fairs in the capital attracted galleries from around the world.

Growing Scene

“The art scene is growing hand-in-hand with economic development,” Gastón Deleau, co-director of Perú Arte Contemporáneo (Peru Contemporary Art, PArC), one of Lima’s new international art fairs, told OBG. He sees the evolution of Lima’s art scene as the latest step in a broad process of cultural modernisation in Peru’s capital. To date, the most notable development in this process has been the emergence of contemporary Peruvian cuisine. It is now an important part of the country’s identity and may soon become a cultural export. Now, alongside this culinary trend, Lima’s art scene is also making strides towards gaining international relevance. Mónica Manrique, press director at gallery Lucía de la Puente told OBG: “Peru has had very positive economic circumstances the last few years and people are increasingly interested in investing in art.”

Galleries In Miraflores & Barranco

Lima’s art galleries are concentrated in the Barranco and Miraflores districts, the city’s most culturally significant areas. The districts are contiguous, but quite different in character. Barranco is known to be bohemian and grungy but romantic, whereas Miraflores is moneyed and manicured.

Despite the notable differences, individual galleries seem to have picked one district or the other indiscriminately. One can find staid, refined galleries in Barranco and trendy, edgy galleries in Miraflores. The result is a diverse art scene spread all along Lima’s southern coast.

There are not yet many commercial galleries – fewer than 20 by one arts reporter’s count – but several have distinguished themselves. Galería Lucía de la Puente, housed in a mansion on a tree-lined boulevard in Barranco district, is Lima’s blue-chip gallery. It represents some of Peru’s most established living artists and has, perhaps, the greatest presence at international art fairs of any Peruvian gallery. The gallery has shown its artists at the Armoury show in New York, Art Basel in Miami, and ARCO in Madrid.

Up the road in Miraflores, Galería Forum, another pillar of Lima’s art scene, will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2014. Like Lucía de la Puente, Galería Forum represents a varied roster of contemporary Peruvian artists, including older established names and new talents. Both galleries have seen their base of clients grow dramatically since their founding, especially in the last several years.

Enlace Arte Contemporáneo, a notable Miraflores gallery, offers visitors a museum-like experience in its vast multi-room exhibition space. It represents a small number of artists exclusively and hosts one-off solo exhibitions with other artists from across South America. Wu Galería in Barranco represents a roster of promising young Peruvian painters, sculptors and photographers.

Most of these galleries hold monthly cocktail parties the night before an exhibition’s scheduled start date. Though many of these opening events are not technically open to the public, all it takes to secure an invitation is an email or phone call expressing interest. Galleries post schedules of shows and contact information on their websites.

Expansion

The market’s expansion has paved the way for the establishment of new, edgy galleries. Revolver Gallery, founded in 2008 by musician Renzo Gianella and artist Giancarlo Scaglia, represents trendy, young Peruvians like the conceptual artist José Carlos Martinat. The fact that Revolver is fashion photographer Mario Testino’s favourite gallery in Lima enhances its swagger. Another relative newcomer, 80m2 Gallery also shows young but recognised Peruvian artists. The artists of 80m2 – or Ochenta (80), as its known in Lima – tend to produce politically or socially conscious work. Some of them live abroad in Germany, Spain and Mexico, among others. Revolver and Ochenta both show their artists at the major South American art fairs – arteBA in Buenos Aires, artBo in Bogotá and ArtRio – as well as Art Basel Miami and Pinta in New York.

Museums & Public Galleries

Until summer 2013, the Lima Art Museum was the only major facility in the city. It covers the entire history of Peruvian art from pre-Columbian times through the 20th century, giving it a partial focus on contemporary art within a wider collection. The Pancho Fierro municipal art gallery, an exhibition hall without a collection of its own, was thus the only non-commercial institution in the city dedicated to contemporary art. The municipal gallery has worked with leading curators and artists and is likely to continue to be a valuable part of Lima’s growing art scene.

But the city needed a more significant contemporary art institution if it was to become relevant as a regional or global centre for the arts. After 10 years of construction, in June 2013, the Lima Contemporary Art Museum (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Lima, MAC-Lima), opened in a modern space in Barranco. It now serves as the institutional centre for contemporary art in Lima, with a permanent collection that includes the work of some of Peru’s top living artists, like Ramiro Llona, and dedicated exhibition spaces for showcasing emerging trends and artists. The museum has had a busy first year, acquiring works for its permanent collection and hosting half a dozen temporary exhibitions of the work of young Peruvian artists.

Fairs

The highest profile event the new museum hosted was PArC, which was one of two international art fairs in Lima to hold its inaugural editions in 2013. The other is called ArtLima. PArC is, perhaps, the more ambitious of the two and, after its first year, it appears to be Lima’s answer to South America’s top fairs in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Bogotá. In 2014 it will be held in the contemporary art museum once again from April 23 to 27.

PArC was organised by two prominent figures from the Latin American art world, Deleau and Diego Costa. Deleau and Costa co-direct several art events in Argentina and Uruguay, and Costa is the director of Pinta, a Latin American art fair in New York. The two are also the force behind Lima Photo, an annual photography fair that has been held every August for several years. Lima Photo’s success inspired the two curators to create PArC.

They partnered with the Lima Contemporary Art Museum as host and tapped their contacts to bring in galleries from the Americas and as far afield as Europe. A number of Lima’s leading galleries also participated in PArC. The result was an event that was taken seriously from the start and that attracted local and foreign collectors to Lima.

ArtLima, which coincided with PArC at the end of April, complemented PArC and drew further attention to the city. It was held in the Chorrillos War College, a noteworthy choice of venue in a country that has experienced several periods of military dictatorship. ArtLima’s director, Rochi del Castillo, a magazine editor and public relations veteran, was able to take advantage of the unique space, creating an aesthetically striking installation. Like PArC, ArtLima featured galleries from throughout Latin America and several from Europe and the US. In contrast to PArC, ArtLima placed a greater focus on curated museum-type exhibits. The result of these efforts was a more mainstream event. Efraín Bedoya at 80m2 Gallery told OBG that ArtLima was more accessible to the average person whereas PArC was geared towards the art world’s elite. In 2014 ArtLima will take place a month earlier than PArC, from March 20 to 24.

On The Map

In 2013 the two fairs succeeded in putting Lima on the art world’s map. A columnist for Argentina’s La Nación newspaper wrote: “If somebody had said it five years ago, no one would have believed it. Lima has turned into the new destination for Latin and European collectors. It’s an effervescent market with serious, growing fairs. … The transformation of the art scene in Peru has everything to do with the economic bonanza, after almost 40 months of constant growth.”

The expanding activity in Lima’s art scene is engaging the populace at large, as well. Manrique of Galería Lucía de la Puente told OBG that the fairs in particular had a “great influence on the public, as people consumed a kind of art they were not accustomed to”. She added that Peruvian artists “are now much better known by a much wider public”, which can only help the scene to grow as more people with more money may now look to invest in Peruvian art.

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