Guatemala is one of the cultural hubs of Latin America, and artists have long flocked to Antigua, with its dramatic volcanic landscape and picturesque cobbled streets. For such a small city, Antigua has an unusually long list of museums and art galleries, each one offering something a bit different. With no shortage of celebrated local artists, the galleries here are some of the best in Central America. Here are seven of the best galleries in Antigua.
Founded in 1996, La Antigua Galería de Arte has quickly become the city’s principal art gallery, and today it displays the work of over 60 established artists from Guatemala and Latin America. Located in a beautiful colonial mansion in the heart of the old town, the gallery showcases a wide range of artwork, from modern contemporary work to satirical, religious and abstract pieces, and outdoor sculptures and carvings. With paintings by artists from Puerto Rico, Chile and Colombia as well as Guatemala, this gallery is a great place to get a feel for the contemporary art scene in Latin America.
El Sitio is an arts and cultural centre with a whole repertoire of activities and exhibitions going on, including music, dance, cinema screenings, theatre events (often in English), yoga classes and art exhibition openings. Founded in 1993 by Enrique Matheu Recinos and Scott MacLauchlan, El Sitio aims to promote artistic, cultural and social development in Guatemala, and hosts many art exhibitions displaying the work of emerging local artists. Celebrated contemporary artists such as Ernesto Argueta, Tatiana Salazar and Domingo Peneleu Tuch have previously exhibited their artwork at El Sitio.
Located in the lovely Panza Verde hotel, just a few blocks from Antigua’s Central Park and Cathedral, is the Panza Verde Art Gallery. Though it’s a small gallery, Panza Verde is expertly curated and has carved out a stellar reputation for being one of the best studios for both Guatemalan and international artists to display their work. New exhibitions take place every few months, and artists who have exhibited here include Raul Vasquez, Maria Eskensasy and Lucia Morán, as well as several top photographers including Luis Gonzalez Palma, Julio Zadik and Daniel Cauche.
For many art lovers, the only thing better than an interesting art gallery is one with a restaurant attached. Sobremesa is an art gallery–restaurant hybrid in the centre of Antigua, which blends fine art with fine dining. The gallery is an intimate space dedicated to contemporary Guatemalan art, and some of the paintings displayed are by the restaurant’s chef and owner, Alex Ferrar. Sobremesa’s motto is Degustando el arte (‘tasting art’), and it’s a lovely place to enjoy both these art forms. The restaurant is excellent, with a varied menu influenced by French, Italian and Spanish cuisines.
Centro de Arte Popular, a shop/museum with a focus on art from Guatemala’s Mayan heritage, is handy if you want to do a little shopping along with your art browsing. Located close to Antigua’s main attractions and plaza, Centro de Arte Popular showcases the works of Guatemalan artists from several different Mayan ethnic indigenous groups. The artwork is displayed thematically to illustrate the various aspects of indigenous life, and there are Tz’utujil oil paintings, handmade pottery, religious crafts, traditional masks and wooden sculptures to view and buy.
Maria Eskenasy is a famous Guatemalan artist with over 100 personal and group exhibitions to her name, who has displayed her paintings in 35 collections across four continents. She is also an art critic and gallery owner, and the small Maria Eskenasy Fine Art gallery showcases her colourful and eclectic neo-figurative creations. She is deemed one of the leading modern artists in Central America. A visit to the Maria Eskenasy Fine Art gallery is a great way to gain an understanding of contemporary Guatemalan art; situated just a few minutes from town and surrounded by verdant forest and coffee farms, this studio is a great place to spend an afternoon.
Located across from the ruins of La Iglesia El Carmen, El Carmen Galeria de Arte is one of the newest galleries in Antigua. Founded in 2009 and run by a friendly couple, Consuelo and Luis, this independent gallery exists to promote both Guatemalan and international art, and hosts exhibitions in a range of mixed media. The gallery has two floors: the first exhibits landscape paintings (in oil and watercolour) and paintings that reflect traditional Guatemalan culture; the second showcases more contemporary work from local artists.