Tuesday night the museum had the opening of a new exhibit: la Acuarela en Bolivia (Watercolor paintings in Bolivia). It’s been a really neat experience for me to see and hear museum staff working on new exhibitions, and then to see the final product when they open to the public!
There is one very specific thing I have noticed about art that is featured, and exhibit conceptions that are constructed here in Bolivia. Where in the states, art, acquisitions, and displays are always centered around the prestige of a particular artist or their work, here MNA is much more interested in creating exhibits that validate the community that makes the museum possible. What I mean by this, is that rather than focusing on building a collection of pieces with well-established international reputations, the museum would rather have a mediocre, or less accepted artist’s work featured, in the case that they evoke a sense of pride, community gathering, or social engagement. Here, the entire town of La Paz might understand the themes & motifs in a painting crafted by someone who is completely anonymous in international aesthetics, whereas a Picasso could be (and probably is) completely meaningless. ‘Art for art’s sake’ is not the focus of our work at MNA. They are concerned with constructing an identity and an understanding of the cultures that exist here, and bringing recognition to the accomplishments of Bolivians. Although there are both pros and cons to this approach (there is definitely an alternate argument to be made for great art), I think the United States could learn something from this example, and aspire to find new & innovative ways to uniquely integrate both local and national fronts within cultural institutions.
just my two cents.