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South America is a land of vibrant expression, palette and people and the art and culture reflect that beautifully. From the colorful streets of Medellin, Colombia, to the well reputed National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago, Chile, and beyond, walk with me through these 5 amazing cities that beckon to the art enthusiast in us all. The unique and vibrant designs of South American art is sure to add a beautiful charm to any journey in the region. At BTA, we understand the profound impact of arts and culture on one’s travel experience, it truly has a meaningful impact. 

South American art

Medellín, Colombia 

Medellín, known as “the City of Eternal Spring” due to its temperate climate, boasts an incredible street art scene that has been instrumental in transforming the city’s image from that of drugs and violence to one of resilience and healing. Moreover, you will also find quality museums such as The Museum of Antioquia, which has an impressive array of work from Colombia’s world famous artists Fernando Botero and Pedro Nel Gómez, as well as other modern works. Medellin Modern Art Museum (or MAMM) is another venue showcasing renowned art that is well worth the visit. 

I’d like to share a bit more about the street art of a specific barrio called Comuna 13 because, as is usually the case with any kind of art, the story gives it greater meaning. We recommend booking a private Medellin street art tour so you can become familiar with the designs and history behind this South American art style. In short, the Colombian government ousted the cartels and drug lords from the barrio in the early 2000’s, but at great cost to the local community. Afterwards, the locals began using graffiti as an informal means to express both their grief and their hope, but the government recognized the power in the cathartic art and began a formal program of sanctioned graffiti to assist in the rejuvenation of the area. The art represents the memories of sorrow, the beauty of hope and the invitation to life for both those who live there and those who visit. It is a transformational experience to see the art, to ride the Escaleras Electricas that connect the lower and upper areas of Comuna 13, to float above the city in the cable car as you embrace the magical valley that is Medellín. It is a literal interpretation of the saying “if these walls could talk” to walk through the breath-taking street art that represents the heart and soul of a city that has been through so much. Our eyes drink in the rich colors of beautifully meaningful graffiti as our ears listen to the pop up street music and dancing of joy and life. From death and destruction to life and restoration, with its pulse resonating within us, we walk the streets as we relive Comuna 13’s story of life and the enduring power of hope. The South American art experience in Medellín is unlike any other, we suggest visiting Comuna 13 on a private or small group tour in order to get the most out of your experience. 

When you visit a gallery, museum or simply enjoy a walk through the plentiful street art that can be found all over the city (not only in Comuna 13), expect to be delighted and moved by the overflowing array of art that reflects the very soul of Medellín and its people. 

For those eager to delve deeper into Colombia’s wonders, Abercrombie and Kent offers a selection of captivating tours with various options and durations. Among our favorites are the newly curated itinerary “Colombia: Bogotá to Cartagena 2024,” the adventurous “Tailor Made Colombia: From the Mountains to the Sea (Private),” and the culturally rich “Tailor Made Colombia: A Land of Wonders & Cultural Treasures (Private).” Ranging from 9 to 12 days, these tours promise an enriching exploration of Colombia’s diverse landscapes and cultural treasures, ensuring an unforgettable journey with Abercrombie and Kent.

Buenos Aires, Argentina 

Buenos Aires, the cosmopolitan capital of Argentina, is known to many as the “Paris of South America” and is a haven for South American art. It is bursting with world influence in art, architecture and culture and you can find museums, galleries and street art everywhere. Visit the iconic MALBA (Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires) to admire a vast collection of contemporary Latin American art that showcases works from environmental artist Nicolás García Uriburu, who is renowned for dying the canals green in Venice the night before the Biennale back in 1968. We still talk about his infamous act 55 years later! Head to the National Museum of Fine Arts (MNBA) that houses works ranging from Gauguin and Degas to Klee and Modigliana as well as famous Argentine artists such as Pueyrredón, Della Valle and Cándido López. For contemporary art, check out Ruth Benzacar Art Gallery, Braga Menéndez Gallery and Galería Mar Dulce. I could literally go on forever listing museums and galleries, but suffice it to say, Buenos Aires is an art lover’s paradise. To get even more out of a trip to Buenos Aires, be sure to go embark a private city tour.

Street art is another unique South American art style. I always like to talk about street art because I find it fascinating. It gets down to the nitty gritty of our world – politics, public opinion and statements about life in general – and it is reflected in real time. There are works that say something about a specific period of time and others that are about the here and now. Either way, street art is about the heartbeat and life of its domain. 

Did you know that BA is known as one of the world’s top destinations for street art? In fact, it has the longest mural in the world at 2000 square meters by Alfredo “El Pelado” Segatori called “El Regreso de Quinquela“, in the Barracas area. The mural reflects the everyday life of the neighborhood and is a tribute to the beloved local painter, Benito Quinquela Martín (1890-1977). Another famous mural is of Frida Kahlo, which you might be familiar with as it is supposed to be one of the most photographed works of street art in Buenos Aires. It was created by the street art group Campos Jesses. Be sure to notice the 3D effects of her head and earrings, a unique style attributed to the group of artists that creates a very cool and intriguing effect. You can find amazing street art around every bend, but some of the more notable areas are La Boca’s Caminito, Coghlan, Colegiales, Villa Urquiza, Palermo Hollywood/Palermo Soho and San Telmo. Some of the more famous works are left alone, but as is the case of street art, much of it changes as new artists paint over old work. There is a museum called Centro Cultural Recoleta that actually commissions street art on nearly a monthly rotation to align with the nature of the exhibitions. Isn’t that amazing? 

For an exquisite experience on your South American art journey in the Buenos Aires, we recommend staying at Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, where luxury seamlessly blends with the vibrant cultural ambiance. This virtuoso property is at the top of our list.

For the uptime experience, embark on the immersive 12-day Essence of South America journey with Tauck Tours for an unparalleled indulgence into South American culture. With a generous three-night stay in Buenos Aires, art enthusiasts can fully immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Buenos Aires’ art culture, making it an ideal experience for those seeking a deep exploration of the vibrant local art scene and adventure.

South American art

Valparaiso, Chile 

Valparaiso, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and known as the “Jewel of the Pacific,” is a bohemian paradise that will captivate your artistic senses. Its hills are adorned with vibrant street art, transforming the city into an open-air gallery. Take a stroll through the colorful Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion neighborhoods where you will find plentiful street art as well as local artisans, shops and cafes. Every corner reveals a new artistic masterpiece. It is the only city in Chile where street art is legal. Moreover, the artists here respect one another’s work, rarely tag over each other’s creations and local homeowners actually opt to commission work so that they can choose the art rather than simply be tagged. 

While you are there, be sure to go to La Sebastiana Museum House, the converted home of Chile’s most famous poet, Pablo Neruda. You will find old maps, paintings and many other relics from the port and curious pieces, like music boxes and an old merry-go-round horse, carved in wood. It is an eclectic visit into the history of South American art. Valparaiso is a city of over 1 million people but has the feel of a small town. Additionally, if you are a wine lover, Valparaiso is home to an amazing wine valley, consider taking a visit!

The real reason to go for the art lover is the street art and the bohemian vibe… lose yourself as you walk along the avenues and embrace the cultural heritage all around. 

For art enthusiasts heading to Valparaiso in search of southern art, consider extending your journey to Easter Island, Chile, for an awe-inspiring addition to your itinerary. Often overlooked, Easter Island unveils itself as one of the most breathtaking destinations, a hidden gem waiting to captivate the hearts of intrepid travelers. For an immersive and unparalleled experience on your trip to Easter Island, we highly recommend staying at Explora Rapa Nui, where luxury meets the enchanting landscapes of this unique destination.

Lima, Peru 

Lima, the capital of Peru, and known as “the City of the Kings,” is a city where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with contemporary art. Visit the Museo Pedro de Osma, which houses an impressive collection of Spanish Viceroyalty (1534–1820) and simpler indigenous interpretations of the style. The Larco Museum houses an impressive collection of Pre-Columbian art and has a delicious restaurant as well. And, continuing our journey of fantastic street art, Lima does not disappoint. Travel to the Barranco and Callao districts to find local galleries, amazing food and tantalizing graffiti. Lima is filled with all sorts of South American art.

To see local Peruvian art, you might consider going to San Isidro and visiting Vertice Gallery, La Galeria as well as Enlace. Not far away in the Miraflores district, you will find Fórum, El Ojo Ajeno and Revolver Galería. These galleries highlight the best in Peruvian contemporary art. (You may be familiar with The Revolver Galeria in New York.) Revolver’s has an international residence project dedicated to bringing artists together from around the world to give insight into Peru, the world and cultural identity as a whole. 

Contemporary art lovers should not miss the MAC (Lima’s Museum of Contemporary Art). From abstract to conceptual to pop art and beyond, Latin and European art from the last 60 years is beautifully displayed in this minimalistic exhibition space. 

Visit one of Peru’s most famous photographers’ work at the MATE, or Museo Mario Testino, housed in the Mario Mansion. After 30 years of exile, Mario Testino’s showcase of his photographs range from Madonna to Princess Diana to local Peruvians and are a proud testament to the country and the artist. (The Versace gown that Princess Diana wore for Testino’s 1997 Vanity Fair cover is hanging nearby.) 

With an ancient cultural heritage, world renowned gastronomy and an amazing array of art, Lima is a stunning blend of old and new just waiting for you to explore and enjoy. Enhance your South American art journey in Peru by indulging in the luxurious hospitality of either Country Club Lima Hotel or Miraflores Park, A Belmond Hotel, Lima, where refined accommodations complement the cultural richness of your exploration.

Additionally, Peru stands out as an excellent destination for family travel, offering a rich tapestry of cultural experiences, captivating history, and diverse landscapes that create memorable adventures for all ages. We recommend going on this 8-Day Tauck Tour of Peru if your family is truly looking to immerse themselves in the Peruvian culture. If in Peru, would you consider taking on the Inca Trail?

São Paulo, Brazil 

São Paulo, or “Sampa” for short as the locals call it, is the cultural capital of Brazil, a melting pot of creativity and innovation. Start your art journey at Beco do Batman (Batman’s Alley), a narrow street covered in colorful graffiti that has become an iconic symbol of the city’s street art scene. When visiting São Paulo, we highly suggest booking this Graffiti City tour! Explore the vibrant Pinacoteca do Estado, one of Brazil’s oldest art museums, showcasing a diverse collection of Brazilian art. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), home to an extensive collection of European and Brazilian art. 

Cutting edge contemporary art can be discovered at galleries like Galeria Vermelho and Gomide. Move on to Pivô, a nonprofit cultural space focused on visual arts. Round out your visit in the Barra Funda area. Start in this area with a tour of an amazing artist-led arts organization called Mendes Wood DM. HOA is another artist-led arts organization well worth the time to explore. The independent art space Olhão, Galeria Quadra and Galeria Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel would be the ultimate finish to an epic contemporary art walk through the area. 

Elevate your South American art journey through São Paulo by choosing the opulent accommodations of Hotel Fasano, Rosewood São Paulo, or Hotel Unique, where refined luxury seamlessly intertwines with the vibrant cultural tapestry of the city.

São Paulo is an art lover’s dream, from traditional to contemporary, galleries to street art and everything in between, prepare yourself for an art journey through South American art that you will not soon forget. 

South America is a treasure trove of artistic wonders, where creativity knows no bounds. From the vibrant streets of Valparaiso to the contemporary art paradise of São Paulo, these five cities offer exceptional art experiences that will leave you inspired and in awe. Be ready to discover the beauty and culture that is South American art!

About the Author: Cara Brown 

Cara Brown values authenticity and embraces the adventure of travel. She believes it is important to see both the “can’t miss” destination icons, but also go off the beaten path to give deeper insight into the art, culture, people and nature of the places she visits. Visiting Medellín, Colombia, left an indelible mark with graffiti in Comuna 13 and the healing and hope it represented. It’s all about experiencing the destinations from the angles that speak to you.

Cara has a background ranging from corporate America to art restoration and is an artist at heart. She works in fused and stained glass art in her home studio and has a passion for all things glass. Not surprisingly, discovering local artisans and art on her travels is always a top priority.

Connect with Cara via email or by completing the form at the bottom of our Arts and Culture travel page! 

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