The rebirth of modern and contemporary art in El Salvador

In the heart of El Salvador, where contemporary art spaces are scarce, Laberinto Projects is a beacon of creativity and change, spearheading the renaissance of modern and contemporary Salvadoran art.

As an art residency program, Laberinto Projects not only provides a dedicated space for conversations about contemporary art but also shines a light on the hidden histories and untapped potential of the artistic production in El Salvador. Caroline Lacey, assistant director of Laberinto Projects, sheds light on their mission and the importance of integrating Salvadorian artwork into known histories.

According to Caroline Lacey, "There are not a lot of spaces in El Salvador that are thinking or talking about contemporary work." Laberinto Projects fills this void by providing a platform for dedicated conversations about contemporary art. Caroline Lacey adds, "The work of Laberinto Projects has illuminated new histories, and shown that maybe contemporary art in El Salvador actually started before people think it does." She emphasizes the significance of Laberinto's archives, stating, "In the archives of Laberinto, we have these records that obviously, no one could have known about before, but slowly we're revealing these histories.”

Actually, these records and archives, as well as a huge collection of art, come from the Laberinto Gallery, a historical gallery in San Salvador that was run by Janine Janowski from 1977 to 2001. Her home in El Congo, a small village on top of the volcanic lake of Coatepeque, is now the residency space of Laberinto Projects. Caroline Lacey explains that the inception of Laberinto Projects was driven by the idea that art, and particularly the collection, could aid in post-war healing, both in the diaspora and in El Salvador itself. Caroline Lacey states, "We wanted to take these images and give them a new life, to give them historical context, but to also open up new ideas about what El Salvador is." She highlights the limitations of mainstream narratives, notably when you’re from the United States point of view. She explains, “We don't see Salvadorian artwork in museums, you don't see it represented in history books." It is why Laberinto Projects aims to integrate Salvadorian art into known histories, challenging stereotypes and fostering a more nuanced understanding of the country's cultural and artistic identity.

Furthermore, Caroline Lacey acknowledges the increasing demand for Salvadorian art, particularly among the Central American population in the United States. She states, "The Central American population in the United States is the fastest growing right now. So, yes, there is definitely a hunger for this kind of work there." Lacey mentions a young scholar's experience that did her thesis project on not being able to find any information in the United States about Central American artwork. “People are looking for it, they want it, and we just have to bridge that gap,” concludes Caroline Lacey.

Laberinto Projects is playing a pivotal role in the resurgence of modern and contemporary art in El Salvador. By shedding light on hidden art and histories, integrating Salvadorian artwork into known narratives, and addressing the growing demand for authentic representations of Central American culture, Laberinto Projects is spearheading the rebirth of the artistic landscape in El Salvador.

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