Arte San Miguel regularly invites paceños and tourists alike to exhibition openings, hosted up to once a month, and also opens its doors to local children who want to learn how to pick up a paintbrush. Renovation work in mid-2013 enlarged the artistic playground for up-and-coming Bolivian artists who have been stifled by the industry’s elitist attitudes. From collective exhibitions on street art, to the abstract works of Jaime Calizaya, Arte San Miguel welcomes a wide range of artists and media, making it a cultural orientation point in a country with 38 official languages.
Museo Nacional de Arte Contemporánea Plaza
A little bit of Paris in La Paz may be surprising for this indigenous, mountainous enclave, but it is certainly an architectural feature in this centrally located gallery. Two floors of exhibition space filled with contemporary Bolivian pieces and one floor dedicated to the permanent collection, nestle in the splendid 19th century mansion designed by Gustave Eiffel. It may not be pioneering forward-thinking modern art, but the museum’s aim is to ferment a pedagogic atmosphere for the study and propagation of Bolivian art from the past 500 years. The Museo therefore displays a marked penchant for colonial studies and hybrid cultures, as opposed to untainted Amerindian artistry.
Centro de Artes Mamani Mamani
Mamani Mamani is one of the most celebrated Bolivian artists, with at least 3,000 colorful, textured paintings to his name. His work draws inspiration from the ubiquitous woven blankets sold en masse further down the street, from Amerindian cosmic beliefs to the image of the mother. A distinct sense of geometry, Bolivian imagery and an audacious take on color render the artist’s work absolutely hypnotizing. This gallery, the first to be opened by Mamani Mamani, is a recent addition to the buzzing museum hub at Calle Jaén. The exhibitions, workshops and cultural manifestations organised in the Centro de Artes bring an exciting splash of color to the local art scene.
Museo de Textiles Andinos Bolivianos (Museum Of Bolivian Textiles Of The Andes)
While it contains no stark spaces or minimalist tableaux, this museum is a must-see for any keen art explorer; to exclude first-hand experience of the Bolivian weaving industry is comparable to going to Italy and avoiding pizzerias. The museum offers an insight into both the history and current state of Bolivia’s vibrant, creative textiles scene. Indeed, it actively supports the industry as the money it receives from purchased products is sent directly to the local weavers who made them. In addition to exhibiting an array of mesmerising textiles, the space enables visitors to try their hand at the art of the loom and finger the fruits of the locals’ looms.
Salon Cecilio Guzman de Rojas
A small gallery with constantly changing exhibitions, ranging from watercolors to oil painting to mixed media, Salon Cecilio Guzman de Rojas showcases the current trends and tastes of Bolivian art. The gallery bears the name of a popular 1950s artist whose life and style still permeate contemporary art with an accent on indigenous ideas and colors.
Salon Cecilio Guzman de Rojas, Calle Colón Nº 279, La Paz, Bolivia
When asked what they know about Bolivia, most people are likely to say ‘salt plains’. The dazzling stretches of crystal-white plains and bright blue skies are a permanent feature of the country’s landscape. Now imagine that same clean, experimental and stimulating aesthetic transplanted into central La Paz, and revolving around open-space galleries and modern photography. Expect works by Gastón Ugalde, Scarlett Hooft Graafland and Sonia Falcone.
Salar, Avenida Ecuador No. 2534, La Paz, Bolivia, +591 6557 1749
This non-profit gallery and art foundation located in the southern, affluent area of the city, aims to make enough noise about artists currently living and working in Bolivia to make them household names in foreign lands. To do this, they encourage visitors to walk around the gallery, lapping up examples of what young Bolivian artists are capable of to decide what they make of the ‘proto-pop art capital’.
Fundacion esART, Avenida Montenegro Esq. Claudio Aliaga No 810 San Miguel, La Paz, Bolivia, +59 2214 5911
Mérida Romero – Espacio de Arte
One of the most popular galleries in La Paz, Mérida Romero has a constant run of top-quality exhibitions from local artists of all disciplines; from sculptures, to paintings, and even a choir to liven up the Christmas openings. Exhibitions aren’t particularly long-running (ranging from two weeks to a month) but attract large crowds and alternate between single artist interventions, such as Angeles Fabbri and Leon Saavedra, and collections of local artists or themed exhibitions. A recent example includes a selection of the greatest photos from recent times taken at the famous salt plains.
Mérida Romero – Espacio de Arte, Calle René Moreno No 1223, Bloque E, San Miguel, La Paz, Bolivia, +591 2 279 8580
This espacio is a truly multi-purpose cultural space with constant exhibitions, projects and events sure to tickle anyone’s art-buds. An entire section is dedicated to animation and illustration, an art form which is under-represented in Bolivia. The Espacio Patiño aims to bring this exciting, fresh art to the foreground with workshops and swathes of comic strips, books and magazines, primarily in Spanish but also in French, Portuguese and English.