Contemporary Peruvian art between tradition and innovation
We asked speaking about contemporary Peruvian art to Brenda Ortiz Clarke, founder of BLOC ART, a cultural hub based in Miraflores, one of the trendiest districts of Lima.
Peruvian art moves between tradition and innovation. Of course archeology is the best globally known area, but on the contemporary side something is moving.
How did Art Nomade Milan end up in Peru?!
A few years ago I had begun to investigate the textiles found in the Chachapoyas burials, in the Amazonas region. So I too had started from archeology. However contemporary extra-European art has already jumped to the attention of collectors for some years. From the Italian point of view, we have to mention the in-depth studies held by Galleria Continua and Primo Marella Gallery.
If you focus on the American territory, Mexico hosts one of the best known art fairs, ZONAMACO.
Mexico, Brazil, Colombia … and Peru?!
A geographically and climatically rich nation, it certainly has not been confined to Machu Picchu. News is on the horizon and Brenda will help us discover them.
We travel thanks to digital, since health regulations still allow few trips. Brenda is a “citizen of the world”: born in Scotland and moved to Peru at a very young age.
Girl power and cosmopolitanism: just what Art Nomade Milan likes ?
– Brenda, your academic path is very similar to mine. From a Bachelor degree in Communications to some work experiences in the marketing sector for retail and mass consumer companies. Where does your passion for art come from? CONTEMPORARY PERUVIAN ART
My passion for art comes from my mother’s side. The way she raised me and my sister definitely was the main structure to see life and the world itself in a very different way. We used to have cultural Saturday’s going to Museums, artists’ studios, music classes and even roadtrips inside the country or abroad. I consider this one of the pillars in my personal structure as it really molds emotional intelligence.
– You moved to Perú at an early age and one of BLOC ART main goals is to promote contemporary local artists. Do you think that peruvian ancient art and archeology are more globally known than modern expressions? Why?
Yes, I do. I consider a key part of this is how the ecosystems are organized and how local agents in our art local industry are starting to communicate more fluently but not as effective as it should be. A very good example of it is comparing Peruvian Art market to the Colombian one, they organized quite fast a circular economy solution during the current crisis meanwhile in Peru the Ministry of Culture doesn’t have good communication and it feels slightly divorced.
Even so, it is part of our responsability to stablish a better way to promote Artists. I am a true believer that as we are good in culinary arts, we do have that potential with our talented artists from all over the country, I mean we have Andes, Jungle and Coast, it just evoques a very rich cultural heritage in every single angle. I know with true collaboration we can make art essential to all citizens of this amazing country.
– Does a contemporary art system (art galleries, art institutions and collections, art fairs) already exist in Perú or it is a structure that are currently at its early stages?
The ecosystem exists but it is not well integrated, we do have a ministry of culture, museums, galleries and a couple of art fairs but it is mostly centralized in the capital of our country. It is not yet as Mexico where four cities have developed their cultural activities in a more fluent way, but again, it comes from how we share information and impacts the individuals. I think what we need is a reconstruction taking “advantage” of Covid crisis and reinvent with those that are left.
– Can I define BLOC ART as an art gallery or it is something more? Contemporary Peruvian art
BLOC ART is an amalgam, I personally don’t like labels that is why we are art managers to artists, art gallery to art fairs, embassies amongst other institutions and art dealers or advisors to collectors and potential buyers. We even created an art news during the pandemic. At the end it is a projection of myself but it wouldn’t be possible with no artists, no collectors, no team work. It is a synergystic collaboration between many different agents who are art movers from different parts of the world and truly love and let the power of art work in them.
– Mexican art or Brazilian contemporary art are well known globally. Which are the differences with contemporary Peruvian artistic expressions? How can Peruvian art attract European collectors?
Every country has its own heritage and as I mentioned before we have three different regions in the country which has such rich information. If we travel to the jungle side we will find for example the amazing art of Rember Yahuarcani, a native huitoto artist that participates in asian art fairs and exhibitions. His art pieces have such fine lines representing the ancestral myths from his clan “The White Heron” who were brought by a british man centuries ago and understand the relationship that humankind should have with nature.
Now if we go to the Coast you will be introduced to this world in Claudia Caffarena’s art pieces who although was born in the capital of Lima she is half Italian – half Chiclayana (City with pre-colombian culture legacy) who works ceramics that includes porcelain and golden leaf, also installations that shows a hollistic main concept with words of power from ancient times.
In the Sierra side, there is another batch of tradition that Sandra Cáceres is sharing through her knitting process with organic fibers and such delicate sculptures.
After explaining this I think what would capture the attention is how one country gathers such wide heritage translated into contemporary artwork that no one else has seen before. An absolute “outisde the box” moment.
– In BLOC ART artistic portfolio there are many women artists. How much the female role is important in Peruvian culture?
There are so many talented female Peruvian artists but our culture is still very machista (chauvinist). Lots of them live abroad to make a path in the art field more openly than in their own country. Now according to gender if we want to have a child there is a mínimum of time that you are definitely “off” the market but considering this there should be more support. More than 30% of our portfolio are female artists and a third part of them are mothers, the struggle is real but not imposible to continue promoting their careers worldwide. We can grow faster together than separately by ourselves.
– Perú is also well known for its textile traditions. How does fiber art affect contemporary artistic ways of expression?
I’ve seen in the last 5 years how mostly female artists have studied and included more and more ancient knitting techniques in their projects. A good example is Liliana Ávalos based in the north side of Lima city where lots of immigrants from jungle and sierra side stablished since late 80’s trying to scape from terrorism. She is a multidisciplinary artist who works photography, silk-screen printing, soft sculpture which most of the time incorporates traditional embroidery from Mantaro Valley located in Junin region (Sierra side).
Another great example is Ivet Salazar, who knitts with ceramic, just an unbelievable result on how sculptures gathers such rich baggage but with finesse.
– BLOC ART has taken part in many art fairs, especially in South America. Do you think that fairs are important to strengthen the links with collectors and to increase the visibility of an art gallery? What do you think about online editions?
Most definitely fairs are a special time to nurture knowledge and taste on the field while selling art besides finding new collectors and potential buyers. I’m missing those events because they are super fun and it truly helps to gain exposure. In our first local participation on 2019 we took 80% of the entire line of the young projects section with 3 solo shows and one collective show, it was a total statement and complete strategic move.
Online editions are not enough, even though we are currently selling art thanks to technology, the limitations of connecting in a more personal way are quite not there yet and don’t think it will be posible through a screen… I find it a slightly cold interaction.
– You visited some well-known Italian cities once in your life. What do you like of our country? Do you have a favorite Italian Museum or art gallery?
Oh yes! I remember telling you Elisabetta, that Italy would be the only country I would dare to move for a couple of years; you do have great taste in fashion, also tasty food and above all previous appreciation for art, the beauty of it is everywhere. I remember my visit to Galleria Borghesse, also walking Rome and even visiting Dante Alligheri’s town, tasting one of the most delicious ravioli in my life. I would love to visit again in a near future maybe with an art exhibition connecting both countries through its art, that would be a magical experience!
– COVID-19 pandemic: how is the situation in Perú right now? How does this affect BLOC ART activities and the entire Peruvian art system?
The current pandemic we are experiencing is a very tough situation but it will only make us stronger specially to those that keep up the good fight. Einstein once said: “…In crisis emerges the best of each, because without crisis all winds are only mild breezes.” Not being able to attend fairs or host exhibitions in a regular basis we had to figure out a very fast but effective way to continue promoting peruvian art to the world. This is why I decided to launch an IGTV programming that includes a weekly art news, an architecture program that takes art as the main axis of the different projects, a live show with our curator Daniel G. Alfonso from Cuba where we deconstruct artists with the audience and a live show with our New York ally Rachael N. Clarke explaining the power of art in different times.
The art news as a matter of fact was the way how BLOC ART connected with Art Nomade Milan and thanks to that now we are doing this collaboration. Plus we were contacted by Alejandra Castro Rioseco, Chilean collector who runs the first virtual Museum that promotes female artists under the name Mia Collection.
Our brand new member of the team Helena Herzberg also brought up a project to launch a blog that documents this specific time, I see all of this as an epic experience and how we are re-inventing through true collaboration with people from all parts of the world.
It is not easy for everyone in the country but again it is difficult because there must be a reconstruction of the local system. The regular citizen doesn’t think of art as essencial in his/her life which is very sad but not imposible to change that.
– Now it’s time to think about the future ? Can you tell us some of BLOC ART next projects?
Sure, we are going to start our partnership with Artsy online platform to reach out more international clientele and specific connections from different agents. I personally want to introduce the weekly Art deconstruction program to TV or radio in order to keep democratizing the Arts in the country so that’s this year’s goal, is not an easy one for sure but not impossible. Continue collaboration with international agents is one of the objectives of this year so we can promote Peruvian and Latin American Art across all borders.