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Curatorial Practices
Interview with Carmen Alemán: Art in Panama
by Mercedes Lizcano

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Julio Zachrisson, 2000

Julio Zachrisson, 2000

Ricardo Raúl Ceville, 1999

Ricardo Raúl Ceville, 1999

Antonio Alvarado, 1997

Brooke Alfaro, 1999

LIZCANO: A general view on Panamanian Art by one of its most important curators and promoters, Carmen Alemán. We talk about the latest tendencies, as well as the big and emerging names in art in Panama. We also talk about the unique fact that the art has been funded by private companies, while the state, most of the time, has omitted it's normal contribution. The Panamanian artistic production has a big quality and variety. We hope the Government will realize the artistic treasure they have. We also hope that galleries and foundations will keep financially supporting the art, as well as its exportation. As such, we, as readers and art lovers, will continue enjoying the sensorial pleasure of looking at a piece of art.

Carmen, what type of work does your gallery present for Panamanian Art?

ALEMÁN: We are two entities: foundation and gallery. We work most of the non-profit projects of the Fernández Pirla Foundation. This foundation was created by one of our clients, who became more interested in promoting Panamanian Art outside of Panama. We have worked together in the Central American Biennial. As a gallery we organized shows abroad, especially with one of our most international artists, Guillermo Trujillo. We have organized shows for him in the Rufino Tamayo Museum in Mexico City and MOLAA (Museum of Latin American Art of Los Angeles). At the present, we are working on some projects with the Department of Foreign Affairs of Panama, as we presented the show "Panama Contemporario" in Casa de las Américas, in Madrid, Spain. Lately, we have started a series of projects with Spain. We are very enthusiastic about it!

LIZCANO: Is the Spanish government helping you to finance Panamanian Art exhibitions as well?

ALEMÁN: Yes, Cooperación Espanola is helping us. We are doing lots of projects, for example a retrospective on Julio Zachrisson, a Panamanian Artist who lives in Madrid since the 1960s and won the Engraving Goya award three years ago. The embassies of Mexico, Argentina and Spain have been supporting us, not only promoting their artists, but also in promoting ours within their countries. It was an extremely nice surprise to find out that what we cannot do with the Panama Cultural Institute; we can do at a diplomatic level with the different embassies.

LIZCANO: Biennials are another source of promoting Panamanian Art. Your gallery and foundation, ARTCONSULT, has helped with some Biennials, as you mentioned earlier.

ALEMÁN: The Bienal de Cuenca, Lima and the Central American, which took place last year in Costa Rica, have helped us to introduce, support, and network for the best of our country's art. At the same time, they have offered us the opportunity to meet new talented artists. Basically there are three entities that have helped to organize these Biennials: Monica Kupfer, art critic and the curator, the Contemporary Museum of Art of Panama, and Fundación ARPA de Adrienne Samos. Our museum has thirty years of surviving with only private funds.

LIZCANO: Please talk to us about the tendencies in Panamanian art

ALEMÁN: Abstraction is not the strongest tendency. Just Tabo Toral, Ana Elena Garuz, Ricardo Raul Ceville and Antonio Alvarado are abstractionists at some point in their career. Panama is more of a figurative country.

Related to Surrealism I would also mention, with no doubt, Brooke Alfaro. He has an impeccable technique and beautifully distorts the perspective of the human figure and paints characters from the Casco Viejo of Panama City. Another abstractionist would be Silfrido Ibarra. All of his figurative work has a dramatic surrealist influence. In the 70s and 80s, Alicia Viteri also developed surreal and fantastic work with a very personal view; introspective with many self-portraits.

Landscape painting plays an important role in Panamanian artists' works. Most of our artists have been, or are, landscape painters, Trujillo and Sinclair are good examples.

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