The hardships of Venezuela’s art scene

Posted on September - 27 - 2016

What comes to mind when asked about Venezuelan art? For those versed in 20th-century art history, the first artists to pop would probably relate to Kinetic art, such as Jesús Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Alfredo Otero or Gego (German-born Gertrude Goldschmidt) and with right reasons since their contributions offered a new way of making art and influenced countless artists come. Since the 50s kinetic art’s lasting impact can be identified in later artists as well as the new generations to emerge from Venezuela, however, new artists have also drifted from the style to create new and engaging works such as Yucef Mehri and Javier Téllerez.

The second thing that may come to someone’s mind when mentioned about Venezuela is its turbulent political and social instability caused by the Hugo Chávez rise to power in the late 1900s. Before his accession, oil money was flowing, and Venezuelan artist and galleries enjoyed a surging art scene and many willing patrons ready to spend real money on art. Impressive collections were amassed, and gallerists had a decade-long field day. The Museum of Contemporary Art was soaring, and private collections included the likes of Alberto Giacometti, Paul Klee, Francis Bacon and more.


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Venezuela was an example of its neighboring countries, but soon political policies started favoring a more government-oriented artistic production. The lack of incentives made many curators, artists and gallerists migrate to better lands, free of foreign currency holdings and allocations. The remaining galleries who tried to carry the pressure and responsibility of infusing the art scenes with private funding filled the void left by the incompetence of the state-owned institutions.

Many gallerists and private collections moved to Miami, such as Oscar Ascanio, Jorge Hulian, Ella Fontanals Cisneros and Milagros Maldonado, created a vibrant diaspora and enriched the local art scene, and others moved to New York, such as Henrique Farias, whose gallery aims at promoting Venezuelan and Latin-American artists. Some of the ones who were left behind clustered to form centers such as Centro de Arte Los Galpones where galleries like Oficina #1, Espacio Monitor and D’Museo are located. They are at a loss compared to other galleries that can attend many international art fairs.

Since the head of state passed away a few years ago, many expatriates consider the possibility of returning to Venezuela and reconstructing what was put to a halt for almost two decades. But it will take some time for the situation back home to settle down and create a fertile environment for artistic and creation. Only time will tell.

By: Gabriela Martínez de la Hoz


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