Chile's 10 Unmissable Contemporary Art Galleries & Spaces
The birthplace of Pablo Neruda, Claudio Bravo and Carlos Catasse, Chile has a rich cultural heritage and is often at the top of art-loving backpackers itineraries as they tour South America. From the street-art filled streets of Valparaiso to the gallery-rich city of Santiago, culture seekers really are spoilt for choice in this beautiful country, known to many as the ‘England’ of South America. We update our guide to the ten best contemporary art spaces in Chile.
Housed within the University of Concepcion Fine Arts Academy, the Casa del Arte gallery first began as an ambitious project to create a beautiful collection of art within the city of Concepcion. Completed in 1965, the Casa del Arte now welcomes visitors with a gigantic mural entitled ‘Presence in Latin America’ painted by Jorge Gonzalez Camarena, a Mexican artist. Other artists whose works can be appreciated in the space include Gabriela Mistral, Tina Mondotti, Mario Toral, Picasso and Roberto Matta. The gallery is split between several different rooms, each of which are dedicated to a particular period in art-history or a sole artist. This lay-out is perfect for those visitors looking to see works by a specific artist who perhaps don’t have time to appreciate the gallery in its entirety.
A former prison, Ex Carcel Art Gallery is now one of Valparaiso’s most eclectic exhibition spaces. As well as housing works of famous artists, many of the pieces on display were actually created by the former inmates – some of whom work at the gallery today. When visiting, be sure to set aside some time to take a stroll around the exterior of the gallery as there are many incredible street-art murals to be enjoyed on the walls of the former prison. Now a community space as well as a tourist hotspot, Ex Carcel often hosts a selection of art workshops, seminars, concerts and other cultural events alongside its continuous rotation of exhibitions.
Since opening in 1996, around two million people have passed through the doors of the Fundacion Telefonica Art Gallery in the Chilean capital city of Santiago. Providing the public with a number of artistically and intellectually stimulating visual art exhibitions, the gallery seeks to supply locals and tourists with free and indiscriminate access to culture. All of the exhibitions that the gallery hosts annually have a focus on new technologies. From displays that detail the history of telecommunications to those highlighting the beautiful photography of Virxilio Vieitez. A space in which to learn and to challenge artistic expression, the Fundacion Telefonica Art Gallery is unlike any other art space in Santiago and is well worth a visit.
The oldest art gallery in Santiago, the Galeria Isabel Aninat dates back to 1983. With a roster of exhibitions that rotate monthly, the gallery displays works of both local and international artists but has a primary focus on Latin American art. Despite its relatively small size, Galeria Isabel Aninat is divided into three different exhibition spaces, ensuring that there is always a new collection of works on show for its regular visitors to enjoy. Just a few of the many brilliant artists who have had the opportunity to exhibit their works here previously include Ivan Contreras Brunet, Magdalena Correa, Voluspa Jarpa and, of course, Isabel Aninat herself.
A beautifully designed art space, the Galeria Patricia Ready is the work of architects Luis Izquierdo and Antonia Lehmann. One of the locals favourite art galleries, Patricia Ready also features a cinema and seminar rooms as well as adequate space for an impressive variety of exhibitions. Displaying works by both established and emerging artists, the gallery is dedicated to promoting the arts and as part of its efforts to do this, provides a number of young talents with scholarships to help them fulfil their dreams. Take a stroll around the Galeria Patricia Ready to witness masterpieces by Christy Gast, Carolina Illanes, Lika Mutal and Pablo Serra amongst many others.
Focusing on contemporary Chilean painting styles, the Marpau Art Gallery is located within the pretty coastal town of Vina del Mar, not far from the better known Valparaiso. The gallery displays a selection of vibrant, colourful works created by a number of the country’s most promising and most acclaimed artists. Mauricio Ojeda, Ramon Levil and Isidoro Molleda are just three of the artists whose works can be enjoyed at Marpau Art Gallery and who also have a significant following abroad either in Europe, the USA or in the UAE. Alongside the contemporary Chilean paintings on display, visitors can also enjoy a selection of intricate neo-batiks and religious artworks.
Palacio Baburizza, Valparaíso | Courtesy Museo de Bellas Artes Valparaiso
Situated within the beautiful Baburizza building, the Museo de Bellas Artes in Valparaiso is most people’s first port of call when seeking out art exhibitions in the city. The gallery houses the four most important collections of art in the whole of Chile, including pieces by internationally famed artists such as Pedro Lira, Giovanni Mochi, Juan Francisco Gonzalez and Nemesio Antunez. A number of the prestigious artworks on display were donated to the gallery by Pascual Baburizza in 1941. Today around 240 separate pieces of art are displayed in the gallery at any one time and the building’s beautiful architecture itself is reason alone to pay a visit to the museum.
One of the first museums of its kind to exist in Southern Chile, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Valdivia was founded in 1994 on the site upon which the Andwanter Brewery once stood. With a vision of decentralizing cultural activity and expression, MAC began as an opportunity to bring the appreciation of art in all its forms to a new region of Chile. Focusing on contemporary artworks created by local, regional, national and international artists, the gallery boasts a fantastic array of paintings and prints for locals and tourists alike to enjoy. Set on the banks of the Calle-Calle River, visitors can enjoy both the stunning scenery which surrounds the gallery as well as the brilliant exhibitions of paintings, sculptures and multimedia installations that take place inside.
Known as both the Open Air Museum and as Walls Watching the Sea, this gallery is set entirely outside and is located near Recreo in the coastal city of Vina del Mar. The gallery concentrates primarily on reproductions of artworks by Chilean modern artist Claudio Francia Willms. The outdoor, urban and street art scene is very alive in Chile and especially in the Vina del Mar and Valparaiso districts. The Open Air Museum is an extension of this popular art scene but is supported by the local council and government and is curated by Myriam Parra Vasquez.
A gallery to bring out the child in all of us, PLOP! in Santiago is dedicated exclusively to illustrations, cartoons and graphics. Visitors to PLOP! can enjoy the variety of fantastic exhibitions on offer as well as having a browse of PLOP!’s signature shop and book store. An absolute must-visit for cartoon and graphic novel fans, this gallery focuses on one of the most commercial, popular and inclusive art forms that is generally overlooked by the majority of art galleries around the world. Fun for children and adults alike, a visit to PLOP! is the perfect way to spent a morning in this fantastic city.
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