Latin America’s contemporary art scene has always been a thriving palate of bustling creativity – a plethora of artistic traditions, interwoven into a colourful tapestry, as vibrant as the historical and natural landscape that has shaped it.
The Colombian Connection
I have always had a profound interest in the unique visual culture of Latin America – something that I am now increasingly trying to explore through my Gallery’s work. This autumn – coinciding with the President of Colombia’ State visit to the UK – we are delighted to be exhibiting the works of the renowned Colombian artist Mario Vélez. Based in Medellin, Mario’s art has been showcased extensively across four continents, though this has been his first exhibition in the UK. Drawing on Colombia’s distinctive artistic heritage, Mario’s flair for the abstract presents us with a perfect world of serene harmony, where time and space elide and nature is so near.
In recent years, Colombia has become an increasingly prominent standard-bearer of Latin American art on the world stage – an abundant haven of fresh ideas and innovative techniques. This week, in fact, my Gallery will be hosting a lecture by the art historian and curator Rodrigo Orrantia, specifically focussed on the role of painting in the contemporary art of Colombia. However, aside from Colombia, at least two other centres of gravity have traditionally dominated Latin American visual culture – namely Mexico and Brazil. Even between these three countries, the wealth of colourful idiosyncrasies that inspire their respective artistic traditions should be an endless subject of wonder for any art aficionado.
Promoting Latin American Art in London and the UK
Having co-authored definitive books on the contemporary art scenes of all three countries, Catherine Petitgas is an ideal person to turn to for guidance in this field. As a collector and academic, Catherine has been at the forefront of promoting contemporary Latin American art in the UK for the last twenty years. Earlier in the summer, I had the pleasure of attending an exclusive private view at her home in London. It was fascinating to hear Catherine’s perspective on the modern masters of Brazil, as she guided us around her personal collection of Helio Oiticica, Lygia Clark and Beatriz Milhazes.
For Catherine, her deep-seated passion for Latin American art draws her back to a particular place and moment in her life: Mexico City in the 1980s. Disparity at every corner, the wealthy and the poor, the luxurious and the precarious: noise, music, colour and darkness – a myriad contradictions, all set against the endless panorama of a sweltering, restless metropolis.
The Power of Art
This sort of experience should remind us all of the purpose and power of art, as a bridging point between real life and imagination. From time to time, we all come across a defining moment in our lives, when a unique and circumstantial way of interpreting our surroundings suddenly becomes second nature to us, and, from then on, forever changes the way we see the world.