Polivalente de Arte, Ushuaia: Arts High School at The End of The World

Mural at Polivalente de Arte, Ushuaia 1


By any measure, Ushuaia, the city at the end of the world, is a fabulous place to land. As you descend between the rugged Andes’ Martial range, which walls off the city to the north, and the Beagle Channel, which forms its perimeter to the south, you also get a very clear sense of just how isolated the capital of Tierra del Fuego actually is.

As a sprawling, steadily growing home to more than 70,000, it’s also a considerably larger municipality than I expected to find 2,352km (1,461mi) south of Buenos Aires and just 1,309km (814mi) north of the Antarctic Circle.

That size, coupled with a rapidly expanding tourism industry that attracts several thousand visitors from dozens of countries each year –more than 71,000 people have visited thus far during the current cruise season, from September through February– lends itself nicely to the worldly and urban sensibility that belies its isolation, and which manifests itself quite appropriately on the exterior walls of the Polivalente de Arte, by default, the planet’s southernmost high school for the arts. I really liked the muscled tango dancers above.

Founded in 1987 as a high school specializing in fine art, music and ceramics, it was expanded in the early part of last decaded to include studies in multimedia communication, graphic arts and design. I met a few of the school’s recent graduates during my visit and found them to be exceptionally well-rounded academically, very well-spoken, insatiably creative and very eager to learn more. By most accounts, that’s a good measure for any school.

Twenty-two photo follow, all taken in January 2013.

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In Quito – Arte en Orbita: an Exhibit Examining the Democratization of Space Exploration

Arte en Orbita, Quito 01

What does documentation of UFO sightings in Ecuador, a proposal to merge Cuba and Quebec into a new political entity and Bolivia’s Tupac Katari telecommunications satellite have in common?

A collective space and voice for starters, at Arte en Orbita, an exhibit at the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo Quito which despite its outward whimsical flair, raises some important questions about the democratization of space exploration, its commercialization and its great north-south / rich-poor divide.

Arte en Órbita
Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, Quito
March 7 – June 6, 2015
admission free

Since man first stared into the night sky, the exhibit’s introduction reminds us, outer space has provided the brain food for humankind’s collective imagination, helped create its mythologies and fostered its scientific research and discovery. With more than 1,100 active satellites orbiting the planet at any given time –along with some 2,500 that no longer function– that relationship remains as true and vital now as ever.

Well before the dawn of colonization, the Ecuadorean capital was already serving as a center of astronomical observation. With the recent launching of Pegaso and Krysaor, the country’s first commercial satellites, the city provides a timely setting from which to attempt to generate a link between the ancient tools used to help understand the cosmos to modern technologies whose proliferation, wide availability and relative low cost can reconnect humankind to space in a more participatory and democratic way.

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The Best 2015 Calendar on the Planet

Playamart.com 2015 Calendar, by Lisa Brunetti

QUITO – Some things take me a while. Like cleaning off my dresser.

Had I been a little more conscientious about tidiness, I wouldn’t have let half of March slip away before finding this beautiful calendar this afternoon that my friend Lisa left for me when she visited a few weeks ago.

As is clearly evident, she’s a fabulous painter. That mighty ceiba is probably my favorite work of hers; here, combined with words from Pablo Neruda, one of my favorite poets, will make moving into June from May very difficult.

Thanks SO much, Z! This will truly brighten each day.

If you’re not familiar with Lisa’s work, check out her website Playamart where she blogs about art and life on the Ecuadorian coast in Manabi where she’s now called home for several years. I’m really looking forward to finally visiting again next month.


Looking for Listings of Major European Art Exhibits in 2015?

Looking for Listings of Major European Art Exhibits in 2015?


Art Weekenders offers a good start.

Traveling art lovers and bon vivants Pal & Lydian begin with a continent-wide selection of ten major exhibits, from Jackson Pollock at the Tate Liverpool to Munch in Madrid. They’ve also compiled a listing closer to home –they’re based in Amsterdam– with a schedule of exhibits in The Netherlands which include a retrospective of photographer Anton Corbijn and the International Sculpture Route Art Zuid biennial.

Finally, more than a dozen options from Paris, (nearly) everybody’s favorite city, Jeff Koons at the Centre Pompidou, a visual celebration of David Bowie at the Philharmonie de Paris, and an exhibit by South African photographer Pieter Hugo among them.

If you’ll be bouncing around Europe this year, check it out and take note.


A Mission to Correct Grammar and Punctuation on Quito’s Graffiti

A Mission to Correct Grammar and Punctuation on Quito’s Graffiti

Here’s someone I’d like to meet. From a story in today’s Guardian, ‘Ecuador’s radical grammar pedants on a mission to correctly punctuate graffiti‘:

In the dead of night, two men steal through the streets of Quito armed with spray cans and a zeal for reform. They are not political activists or revolutionaries: they are radical grammar pedants on a mission to correctly punctuate Ecuador’s graffiti.

Using stencils cut from pizza boxes, the pair add punctuation and accents, correct spelling and grammar, and are now even correcting politicians’ tweets. Said one of said pedants, who goes by the nickname Diéresis:

Graffiti is an act of vandalism. By correcting it, we turn it into something ironic.

And entertaining. I’ll be keeping a sharp eye out.

91 Works From The Museum Of Contemporary Art-Plaza, La Paz, Bolivia

Pueblo de las Alturas by Mamani Mamani, Museum of Contemporary Art-Plaza, La Paz, Bolivia

Below are 91 pieces from the Museum of Contemporary Art-Plaza in La Paz, Bolivia, and above is Pueblo de las Alturas by noted Aymaran painter Mamani Mamani. If you’re looking for the planet’s largest online collection of works from this museum, you’ve come to the right place.

Situated in a restored 19th-century mansion on the Avenida 16 de Julio, or Prado, it’s worth visiting just to experience the building –according to Lonely Planet, the house is just one of four originals that remain on the Bolivian administrative capital’s main thoroughfare. Its stained glass panels and glass roof were designed by Gustave Eiffel.

The collection, spread out over two floors, is an eclectic mix of mostly contemporary work, primarily by Bolivian artists, and extensive enough to offer a good starting point and even some valuable insight into the country’s art scene of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The collection is strongest in reflecting and conveying the recent experience of the country’s indigenous population as it continues to be redefined by subsequent waves of post-colonial and contemporary history. That’s a common theme throughout much of the world, whose interpretations are only limited by the number of artists choosing to share those stories. Some of those told here are utterly fascinating.

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The Irresistible Creepiness Of Urs Fischer’s Lamp Bear

Urs Fischer's Lamp Bear in the Duty-free hall at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar

Urs Fischer’s Lamp Bear in the Duty-free hall at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar

The first thing you’ll notice after clearing immigration in the recently-opened Hamad International Airport in Doha is Lamp Bear, a 23-foot (7m) high canary yellow bronze sculpture that takes pride of place in the center of the massive duty-free hall.

Tipping the scales at about 35,000 pounds (15,875 kg), it was bought at a Christie’s auction last year by a member of the Qatari royal family for a cool $6.8 million (€6 million) and placed here, according to rumors that will never be substantiated, because the contemporary art-hoarding Al-Thani family simply didn’t have room for it elsewhere.

Urs Fischer's Lamp Bear in Doha's Hamad International Airport

Urs Fischer’s Lamp Bear in Doha’s Hamad International Airport

According to the piece’s caretakers, Qatar Museums:

It’s a playful piece that humanises the space around it and reminds travellers of childhood or precious objects from home.

Christie’s meanwhile describes the piece as one that

brightly celebrates the objects that define a young child’s life. Fischer realized this striking sculpture on a monumental scale, combining a canary yellow teddy bear, everyone’s cherished childhood keepsake, with a bedroom desk lamp. The lamp neatly bisects the bear, casting a shadow over its face, while a forlorn black button eye peers out from underneath. The bear’s inanimate body flops forward, lovingly care worn, resting against the support of the lamp stand.

Its creepiness has also terrified small children who refuse to go near it.

Urs Fischer's Lamp Bear in Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar

Urs Fischer’s Lamp Bear in Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar

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GrossStadt by Otto Dix, detail 3

A Brief Look at Otto Dix’s GrossStadt (Metropolis)

Otto Dix would have been 123 today. Some are taken from us much too soon.

These are three detail shots of his 1927 triptych GrossStadt/ Metroplis, one of favorite works by Dix —and one of his most famous— which I had the privilege to enjoy at the exhibit, Drei. Das Triptychon in der Moderne, at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart in February 2009.

Dix created his finest work between the wars, using his experiences from the battlefields of the first world war and his later experimentation with Dada to produce depictions of the dark underbelly of Germany inter-war society. GrossStadt is a critique of the Weimar Republic, where the wealthy reveled while war veterans, disfigured and forgotten, walked the streets.

It’s a timeless theme that keeps repeating in every corner of the planet.

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Puerto Varas, Chile, March 2013

SURDICO: Primera Bienal de Arte Contemporáneo Puerto Varas – a Nine-Photo Tour

Facebook reminded me today that SURDICO: The Second Biennial of Contemporary Art in Puerto Varas, Chile, will be held next Spring. That provided the perfect opportunity to finally publish this small gallery of images snapped when I stumbled up the venue –almost literally– for the first edition when I passed through Puerto Varas in March 2013.

Held in a what is apparently a reclaimed warehouse on the grounds of the local train station, it was a modest set up as many such first time efforts are. Nonetheless there were several interesting pieces and installations, starting with the Trojan horse-like sculpture outside the front door, and this toilet paper-wielding sculpture just to the inside of the entrance.

It took place from December through the end of February and featured the works of forty invited artists presented in three cycles. I caught the tail end of the third. Enjoy!  [Website][Facebook page]

SURDICO IBAC 08 First Bienale of Contemporary Art, Puerto Varas, Chile

Metal horse sculpture, Puerto Varas, Chile, 2013

Metal horse, Puerto Varas, Chile, 2013


Mani-obras para la fauna y flora de Chile, Painting/ installation/ videoart, by Pablo Bustos Casillo

Mani-obras para la fauna y flora de Chile, Painting/ installation/ videoart, by Pablo Bustos Casillo

From Mani-obras para la fauna y flora de Chile, by Pablo Bustos Casillo

From Mani-obras para la fauna y flora de Chile, by Pablo Bustos Casillo

Fiction. Cerveza Volcanes del Sur, Chile

Photos snapped on 06-Mar-2013

Metelkova monster

The Metelkova City Monsters

No, that’s not a band. They’re hanging sculptures in Ljubljana’s Metelkova City cultural center that resemble fairly closely what I look like after answering a few too many election season robocalls. They’re also the most Halloween-y critters I could come up at the moment. I got the impression that the one above is the head of the clan.

This extended family takes pride of place in the sprawling Metelkova complex, a former Yugoslav army barracks near the Slovenian capital’s center which for the past two decades has been home to several studios, galleries, live music venues and the Celica hostel. A self-proclaimed ‘autonomous cultural center’, Metelkova sits at the fringe of Ljubljana’s newish museum quarter next to The Museum of Contemporary Art which opened in 2011.

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