MIKO Art Gallery
03 Jan, 2020 | Renata Lazcano Silva
MIKO Studio during an exhibition. Photo: Salvador Saavedra
The transmutation of a space to create more art and culture
In the centre of La Paz are iconic museums, monuments and architecture, such as the San Francisco Church, which was built in a mestizo-baroque style built between the 16th and 18th centuries; Plaza Murillo, the city’s central square that is surrounded by government buildings and the Cathedral of La Paz; the colonial buildings along Calle Jaén; and the nearby National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore, which has one of the largest folk-art collections in the country.
This neighbourhood is called the Casco Viejo, and in the middle of this cultural epicentre is MIKO Art Gallery, a space that promotes upcoming and established Bolivian artists. But the activities at MIKO go beyond just exhibiting art; the gallery also provides artists with a shared work space in which they can exchange knowledge and ideas with each other, learn and refine techniques, and develop synergies that help them grow individually and as a collective.
The MIKO Art Gallery is located in the Pasaje Kuljis, a corridor inside a heritage house and part of an old convent. MIKO (for Movimiento Independiente Kontemporáneo, or Contemporary Independent Movement) was founded in 2017 by its general director, Andrés Kuljis, an architect and artist who wanted to ‘transmute’ the building using emerging Bolivian art (and whose family the pasaje is named after). Artists Leonardo Calisaya and Tizi Jiménez also joined the project and helped transform the space.
Together, the team decorated the space with murals and urban art to prepare the gallery for exhibitions. Additionally, they restored another space in the house by installing contemporary art in the former convent of Conceptionist nuns that dates back to 1670.
Since its opening, the gallery has hosted more than 100 exhibitions. ‘Most of the exhibitions are joint,’ says Salvador Saavedra, MIKO’s curator of photography. ‘They break the teacher-and-apprentice scheme, since the idea is to share and learn from each other.’ MIKO has also represented Bolivia at international exhibitions in the United States, Mexico and China, displaying artwork by the MIKO team and other Bolivian artists and generating a cultural exchange with other artists around the world. The MIKO Art Gallery now has two other locations, one in the United States, on Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, and another in Mexico City.
MIKO Art Gallery is a platform to cultivate the fine arts, with open doors to anyone who wants to be part of this movement. ‘Art deserves to be continually cultivated, and this is a space that allows people to fulfill their dream,’ Leonardo Calisaya, head of MIKO Art Gallery Bolivia, says. ‘There are different ways of thinking and expressing ourselves, and we need to grow together and share – that is the priority of this space. The artists cultivate their technique from the individual to contribute to the collective. We deserve to grow together, make art together and build culture together.’
‘Art teaches you to love life, to enjoy. It is very important not to lose the ability to be amazed by everything.’
—Leonardo Calisaya, director of MIKO Art Gallery Bolivia
Mural at one of the entrances of the Kuljis Passage.
Photo: Renata Lazcano Silva
Detail of the colonial vestige.
Photo: Emily Kilner
Photo: Renata Lazcano Silva