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Curatorial Practices
Caracas: Art on the Edge
by José Antonio Navarrete

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In terms of the visual arts alone and the art galleries that have opened during the past year and a half, perhaps the La Cuadra gallery is a good example of the interest shown by commercial galleries in establishing more effective, better structured links with contemporary local art practices; whereas since its opening on December 11, 2005, under the general management of curator Jesus Fuenmayor, Periférico Caracas has been progressively turning into an ever-growing and still unfinished exhibition "complex." It houses Galpón 0, also directed by Fuenmayor; Oficina no 1, run by artists Luis Romero and Suwon Lee, was already in operation prior to moving to Periférico Caracas in August 2006. The Fernando Zubillaga Gallery, and Estudio T (the latter run by Teresa Mulet ), focuses on the processes involved in contemporary design. As an independent project whose development has also drawn on other forms of financing apart from Tulia de Gonzálezí­s ongoing support, Periférico Caracas has rapidly become a key location for disseminating contemporary visual arts in Venezuela.

To this list one should include Espacio Maat, run by architect Jaime Mendoza and directed towards the visual arts, architecture and design in general; similarly, despite its short span of life, La Carnicerí­a: Arte Actual, directed by Carmen Araujo, has already shown potential as a place to become acquainted with current aesthetic trends in Venezuela. This gallery is characterized by its diversity, since among other creative practices it also incorporates design, fashion, music and dance (3).

There are a number of reasons for the contrast between the proliferation of such initiatives during the past few years and their scarcity in the history of Venezuelan art, but here I will only consider only two. One lies, in my opinion, on the severing of relations between public museums and the art trends that are currently emerging in Venezuela. This fact is highlighted by the misgivings stemming from political polarization and the lack of attention paid to new forms of art by public-sector museums. This is unusual if we bear in mind that during the last decade —and despite the broadening of the sphere of local artistic practices -- the first presentations of emerging artists were frequently held within the framework of competitive galleries convened by museums, and not just those in Caracas.

In 1997 this led researcher Sandra Pinardi, on conducting an analysis of the relations between Venezuelan museums and the artistic scene at the time, to comment that "(...) the museums (...) have broken down the boundaries of their own cultural legitimacy --and of acting as ceremonious spaces for coronationóand have instead taken charge of the creative pulse and development of contemporary artistic forms of expression, with the risk of aporia that all attempts to define and name contemporary trends carries. Museums —institutionsóhave thus let themselves become spaces for experimentation, for non-institutionalized expressions, for emerging forms of art, and as such have sought to become the expression of work in progress rather than the consolidation of work concluded (...)(4).

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