Latin American orientation trip culture sector uncovers contrasts

April 2009 -

"Our orientation trips help stimulate professional internationalisation in the culture sector. This improves institutions' right to exist," says Els van der Plas, director of the Prince Claus Fund. In March 2009 the PCF organised a trip for cultural institutions and art experts from Europe, Africa and Asia to three Latin American capitals: São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Lima. "The visit to São Paulo clearly demonstrated how this enormous city opens its arms to art and culture, including with funding. I believe that is the most outstanding contrast seen during this trip: the excellent cultural infrastructure on the top levels of society in Brazil as compared to the poor but brave conditions in Buenos Aires and especially in Lima."

Indonesian conservator and artist Agoeng Koerniawan was one of the trip participants. "The Latin American region is terra incognita for Indonesia, well actually for most South Asian countries. It was interesting to see that government policy for culture is also virtually non-existent in Latin America. Unlike in Indonesia, however, this role is partially assumed by the private sector in Latin America."

Bisi Silva, art reviewer and director of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, also indicated that despite globalisation, Latin America is very distant for her. "I accepted the PCF's invitation to promote cultural South-South relations. The trip gave me the chance to get to know the infrastructure of cultural institutions, which proved to be more developed than in Nigeria. The art I saw was also less politically-tinted than what you normally see in Africa: more existential and personal. Although I understood that funding is also a considerable problem in Latin America, I hope that in 2010 at least two African artists will be able to participate in one of the Artist in Residence programmes we visited. What is more: the trip opened a channel of communication among the participants," says Silva.

By contrast, Koerniawan believes that for the time being he will remain independent of cultural intermediaries who are closer to the South American continent. "It is a culture that is not exactly next door. We will continue to need other countries as a stepping stone to South America," he says.