Pop Cultured: Art exhibits abroad, at home


Ever wondered what it’s like to visit art museums abroad? In this week’s column, we take a glimpse at free online art exhibitions that’ll leave you in awe. In honor of Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month, I decided to feature a few museums from Latin America.  

Mexico City, Mexico 

Frida Kahlo, one of Latin America’s most famous artists, portrayed Mexican pop culture through her work. Her poor health inspired her to start painting. The Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Blue House, was created in 1958. According to their website, the museum was Kahlo’s own house that she painted blue, and also where she created most of her artwork.  

The front of the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City, Mexico. (Kyle Magnuson/Flickr)

The museum showcases many details about Kahlo’s life—not just her art. According to the museum’s website, Kahlo always embedded her Mexican culture in how she dressed and in her fashion and paintings. The website offers a free 360-degree virtual tour of her house along with other information to learn more about Mexican culture and Kahlo. The house is a piece of beautiful architecture;a variety of colors are used to paint the walls, and many examples of traditional Mexican folk art are displayed throughout.  

Kahlo’s clothing incorporates Mexican culture. For instance, her most iconic portrait is of herself in a Tehuana dress, which defines her identity and cultural heritage, making her well-known beyond her paintings. 

“The main emphasis is on her exploration of identity, which would lead her to complete self- portraits, many of them portentous, doubtless the most vivid and emblematic in Mexican artistic tradition,” Gerardo Ochoa wrote in “Biography of Frida Kahlo” on the museum website. 

Visit the Blue House here

São Paulo, Brazil

The Museum of Art of Sao Paulo (MASP) was founded in 1947. According to its website, the MASP was the first modern museum in the country that had over 11,000 pieces of artwork. The museum’s goal is to create a dialogue about history through visual arts. Through Google Arts & Culture, some exhibitions are free online. Exhibitions include artwork from Brazil, as well as other countries.  

Portrait by Frans Post, a European artist who’s work is featured several times throughout the MASP.

One exhibition titled “Art from Brazil until 1900” shows paintings of daily life and the landscape and architecture of Brazil, in addition to Brazilian portraits. Colonization and despair is a frequent theme in paintings from the 19th century. The use of lighter colors and less detail-oriented strokes was a popular technique. According to captions alongside the artwork, many Brazillian artists of the time traveled to flee war and seek refuge, which is reflected throughout the exhibit. 

There is also a free exhibition that includes artwork by patients in a psychiatric ward. The pieces were donated to the museum in 1974. The exhibition displays a lot of mythical creatures and abstract art. Another interesting exhibition is the “Picture Gallery.” It was reinstalled recently and features historical art from all over the world from different time periods. One artist, Vicente do Rego Monteiro, combined elements of European avant-garde and indigenous Brazilian art which demonstrates a shift toward modernism.  

Visit MASP here.  

Cercado de Lima, Peru

Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), contains over 12,000 works of Peruvian art. The museum was officially inaugurated in 1961. Again, through Google Arts & Culture you can look at some virtual exhibits for free. Unlike MASP, the categories are listed by mediums of art instead of by theme.  

Inside the MALI. The museum contains over 12,000 works of Peruvian art. (VasenkaPhotography/Flickr)

According to many captions at MALI, during the 18th century, archangels were a common theme for royals in Peruvian paintings. In many paintings, virgins were seen as holy and highly respected. In general, there is a heavy influence of religion in Peruvian art, with common themes of the Virgin Mary being the holy one or Christ and angels overcoming evil. Some artists went to study art in Europe, which had a focus on Christianity. Hence, you can also see the heavy influence of  Europe on Peruvian art techniques.  

One painting created in 1859 depicted three children playing a card game. The painting was titled “The Three Raes or Equality before the Law.” According to the description, one of the girls is of Indian heritage, another girl is Black and the third boy is White. The artist wanted to showcase racism and inequality in Peruvian society.  

During the late 19th century, artists were pretty much forgotten, and many had to stick to commercial painting. Over time, the themes of the paintings seem to change from being simpler portraits and works showcasing religion and daily life to more abstract depictions of Peruvian life.  

Visit MALI here

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