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Valparaiso is Chile’s art capital, as a walk through the city’s cultured streets will demonstrate. What distinguishes Valparaiso’s contemporary art scene from elsewhere, however, is its strong political undercurrent. Valpo’s artists are fiery, engaged, and articulate, and the walls of its various exhibition spaces bear witness to their nature. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a thriving and opinionated art underworld.
If you’re in the mood for something less sleek and more subversive, Worm is the place to go. Set in a rough and ready part of town, it prides itself on being an independent platform, far from the commercial art world. The gallery considers applications from artists who have not necessarily received academic training, but articulate clear, and usually dissident views on the world through an artistic medium. Much of the work that you’ll see here will have a political message, but in a very refreshing, well-thought out and surprisingly poetic way. This is one place in which form and content really do mirror each other.
Housed in a touristy part of town, Wenteche is ideally located to attract attention to local Chilean and Latin American art. Composed of a collective of about 30 independent artists specializing in fine arts, Wenteche continually overflows with new projects. Originally set up as a workshop by the founding artist Patricio Pena Oltra, the gallery moved from Vina del Mar to Valparaiso four years later to offer a platform and meeting place for artists from the region. One of its most popular ventures is the Supermercado de Arte Contemporaneo de Valparaiso, which has been taking place every year since 2006.
Wenteche,Templeman N° 523, Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Chile, +56 9 921 298 64
Galeria Andreo is an exhibition space and workshop open to the public. Go there to see artists working live, and get the rare chance to talk to them about their creative process. As well as being probably one of the most colorful and lively spots in Valparaiso – which is certainly an achievement in itself – Andreo boasts a relaxing café. Radoslav Rakela, Claudio Miranda, Fabian Zamorano, Omar Piñol are some of the young artists who exhibit here.
The name of this gallery is inspired by Clarissa Pinkola Estes‘ book, Women who Run with Wolves. Galeria y Tienda Loba is run by Maria Jose Puga with a focus on illustration, cartoon strips, and photography. As well as organizing exhibitions, Loba also offers workshops and has a boutique where artists’ works can be bought. Every full moon is celebrated with extended opening hours and other activities. One of the most recent exhibitions, Aborto, invited 17 illustrators to tackle the theme of abortion, a thorny issue in Chile, where abortion is still illegal. Exhibitions at Loba regularly involve live music.
Renzo Pecchenino, born in Italy in 1934, moved to Valparaiso at the age of one. He studied architecture for four years but was forced to give it up when his father passed away. He started working as a lyricist, cartoonist, and window decorator, before becoming famous for his caricatures of Chilean society which appeared in the biggest publications of his day, both in Chile and throughout Latin America, and which he published under the name Lukas. His work is interesting not only because of his exquisite draftsmanship, but also because of his keen, subtle sense of humor through which he managed to describe Chilean idiosyncrasies. His drawings provide a quirky shortcut to understanding the Chilean psyche, and they are on show at Museo Lukas.
Museo Lukas, Paseo Gervasoni 448, Cerro Concepcion, Valparaiso, Chile, +56 32 222 13 44
Galeria Bahia Utopica is a must visit if you’re interested in contemporary art in Valparaiso. It represents artists from Valparaiso, Chile, and abroad. Some of its most notable artists are Gonzalo Ilabaca, Eduardo Mena, Salvador Amenabar, and the illustrious Loro Coiron. This French-born artist produces hugely popular black and white wood engravings, in a style which is perhaps best described as Magritte-meets-Picasso-meets-Munch.