Published on December 27th, 2015 | by Mark Chesnut
A Day at the Museum: Newly Reopened Lima Art Museum is a Must-See
Peru is a rewarding place for lovers of history, art and archeology, what with its legendary Incan culture and sites like Machu Picchu. The capital city of Lima, which serves as the point of entry for most international visitors to Peru, is filled with cultural diversions — including the Larco Museum, which is housed in a former mansion on the site of a pre-Columbian temple and features some 3,000 years’ worth of artifacts (including a much-visited erotic archeological exhibit).
The Larco Museum may be Lima’s most high-profile cultural venue, but add to the must-see list the Museo de Arte de Lima (Lima Museum of Art, usually referred to by its initials in Spanish, MALI), which re-opened in 2015 after a major renovation and upgrade. Today, it’s one of the best places to learn about Peruvian history, culture and art.
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During my most recent visit to Lima — after moderating two panels at SAHIC: The South American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference — I took a bus downtown to check out the recently reopened facility, which is located in Parque de la Exposición (Exposition Park), in the Palacio de la Exposición (Palace of the Exposition), a handsome structure designed by France’s Eiffel company for a public exhibition in 1872. Following its original debut, the building served as a hospital, headquarters for Peru’s national Congress and — finally — as an art repository.
In its revamped form, the museum has what is basically an all-new interior, with lots of space to cover thousands of years of art history. Visitors start their tour of the 34 galleries at what is basically the beginning of time, with a large collection of pre-Columbian ceramics and other artifacts from cultures ranging from the Inca to the Mochica and Nasca. Other galleries trace creative history through colonial and republican eras, through the middle of the 20th century. Its an impressive collection of pre-Hispanic, colonial, republican, modern and contemporary works, and it provides a very visual overview of how Peru has evolved over the past centuries.
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Especially interesting are the examples of the 19th-century indigenista movement, which depicts traditional and rural Peruvian life through European-inspired artistic traditions, and the collection of early Peruvian photography.
The park outside the museum is also worth strolling; designed for an 1872 exposition, today it’s a popular place for locals to relax and enjoy family time. The Byzantine Pavilion and Moorish Pavilion provide lovely architectural elements, and during my recent visit, I enjoyed live music and dancers.
If you prefer a guided tour, I recommend TourGuidePeru — the company owner, Aaron, gave me a great walking tour of downtown Lima.
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And if you have museums on your mind, here are four more places to go in Lima, to bring your culture vulture list up to five:
Museo Larco (Larco Museum): A privately owned museum of Pre-Columbian art.
Lugar de la Memoria, la Tolerancia y la Inclusión Social (Place of Memory, Tolerance and Social Inclusion): This recently opened museum features an exhibit about Peru’s violent period between 1980 and 2000, as well as other creatively inspired calls for peace and justice.
Museo Mario Testino (Mario Testino Museum): If you love fashion and/or photography, you won’t want to miss this museum, which features the work of Peru’s most famous modern photographer. This was featured in my roundup of 15 Things To Do in Barranco, the Hippest ‘Hood in Lima.
Museo Pedro de Osma (Pedro de Osma Museum): Also featured in my roundup of great things to do in Barranco, the Pedro de Osma Museum is set in a gorgeous historic home, and displays the artistic and decorative collection of the philanthropist Don Pedro de Osma — a fascinating glimpse at an elegant past.