MALI, The Museum of Art in Lima: an Interview with the Directors


MALI, The Museum of Art in Lima, holds the most extensive collection that you can find within Peru. For art enthusiasts, this museum is not to be missed. To find out more about this important museum, I sat down for an interview with Natalia Majluf and Flavio Calda, directors of MALI.

Photo Ultimate Journeys Peru

Q: MALI was cre­ated more than 60 years ago. Tell us about the history of the museum

Na­talia: MALI was cre­ated in 1954 by a group of peo­ple who thought that Lima should have a place where art could be ex­hib­ited. At that time there was an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal mu­seum and a mu­seum of pop­u­lar art, but not one for fine
art. So from that time to the pre­sent, this has been a na­tional mu­seum of art. “MALI has the largest and most rep­re­sen­ta­tive col­lec­tion of artworks in Peru, from the pre-His­panic pe­riod to the pre­sent day. This has been achieved by a col­lec­tive ef­fort in­volv­ing sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of Pe­ru­vians. Many artists, col­lec­tors and fam­i­lies have con­tributed in dif­fer­ent ways (by do­nat­ing works, col­lec­tions, etc.) so that Peru should fi­nally have an in­ter­na­tion­ally re­spectable col­lec­tion. Also, dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ments and pres­i­dents have sup­ported and en­sured the con­ti­nu­ity of its man­age­ment. That is the mu­seum’s strength: many years of work with a clear vi­sion of where we want to go”.

Q: How do you see Lima as a tourist des­ti­na­tion and how should you con­cen­trate on that sec­tor? 

(Photo: Ultimate Journeys Peru)

Na­talia: Over the last ten years we have seen a grad­ual trans­for­ma­tion in the idea of Lima for tourism. For many years it was thought that the city had noth­ing of in­ter­est to tourists. This has been chang­ing and the boom in gas­tron­omy has been an in­ter­est­ing fac­tor, but there are oth­ers and I think the grad­ual ren­o­va­tion of Pe­ru­vian mu­se­ums has started to trans­form this point of view.

Lima’s great wealth is its mu­se­ums; the fact that for a long time they have been ig­nored by the au­thor­i­ties and travel agen­cies is a key fac­tor. Both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors have been blind to this enor­mous po­ten­tial. Lima does not have ruins as im­pres­sive as Machu Pic­chu, Kue­lap or Choque­quirao; clearly, the ar­chi­tec­ture of the coast does not have the same im­me­di­ate at­trac­tion; it may be as im­por­tant from an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal and his­toric point of view but to the tourist that is not the same. Nev­er­the­less, Lima is the city with the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of cul­tural her­itage in phys­i­cal terms, not just in Peru but in the re­gion.

What we have to imag­ine is that over the next six years, as the growth and ex­pan­sion plans of Lima’s var­i­ous mu­se­ums come to fruition, this will be the cul­tural cap­i­tal of South Amer­ica. As far as mu­se­ums, qual­ity and quan­tity are con­cerned, no other city can com­pete with Lima.

Q: You have worked with the public sector to refurbish the permanent exhibitions. How should you work with the private tourism industry?

Photo: Flickr

Flavio: Hav­ing a per­ma­nent col­lec­tion helps us to work with or­gan­ised tourism be­cause we have a con­sis­tent prod­uct all year round, en­abling us to par­tic­i­pate in fairs and gen­er­ate ma­te­r­ial such as the audio and video guides. Since we opened in Sep­tem­ber 2015 we have worked very closely with agen­cies, tour op­er­a­tors and guides’ as­so­ci­a­tions, invit­ing them to the mu­seum so that they can see the new gal­leries in per­son. This has brought us the first wave of for­eign vis­i­tors, but we ex­pect even bet­ter re­sults from next year on­wards. We also have tourists who come on their own; we have dou­bled the num­ber of such vis­i­tors but the fig­ure is still low con­sid­er­ing this mu­seum’s po­ten­tial”.

Na­talia: An­other im­por­tant as­pect for tourists is the tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions. A short while ago we opened a small ex­hi­bi­tion called Las playas de Lima, 1978-1991; it pro­vided a new lease of life. We also opened a mega-ex­hi­bi­tion of the col­lec­tion of genre paint­ings we have ac­quired, which is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant watercolor col­lec­tion in Peru today. We will also mount ex­hi­bi­tions of pho­tographs and ar­chi­tec­ture on the coast, as well as a small dis­play in the tex­tile gallery, among
oth­ers. So not only will the tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions on the first-floor change through­out the year, but the per­ma­nent dis­play will also be re­freshed. The idea is that reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to Lima -Pe­ru­vians from out­side the cap­i­tal and Latin Amer­i­can trav­ellers- will have a rea­son for com­ing­back to MALI again and again.

Q: And what about activities for local residents?

Flavio: Now we are serv­ing two sec­tors of the pub­lic, but we’ve al­ways been a local mu­seum. We know the dif­fer­ent seg­ments of the pub­lic in Lima, but vis­i­tors’ ex­pe­ri­ences are dif­fer­ent, de­pend­ing on where they come from. They come to a night in MALI —the first Fri­day of each month— to lis­ten to con­certs and have a drink; on Sun­day —a fam­ily day when we hold a num­ber of work­shops—peo­ple come to learn and to do some­thing to­gether as a fam­ily. The app, for ex­am­ple, helps to en­rich these ex­pe­ri­ences. We want them to keep com­ing back; we want vis­i­tors to do their own re­search to ob­tain an ever more in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

Q: Apart from this, do you have any more specialized activities?

Na­talia: Yes, con­fer­ences for ex­am­ple. We are also de­vel­op­ing a pro­gram of vis­its for a spe­cialised pub­lic, who will see the works we have in store, more com­pre­hen­sive col­lec­tions than those on dis­play, vis­its guided by spe­cial­ists in the sub­ject, etc.

Q: What projects are on the horizon? 

Na­talia: We have a num­ber of on­go­ing pro­jects, the most im­por­tant of which is prob­a­bly an ex­ten­sion to MALI. It will be a space spe­cially de­signed for our con­tem­po­rary col­lec­tion that is not shown on the sec­ond floor be­cause it cov­ers up to the 20th Cen­tury. Nev­er­the­less our con­tem­po­rary col­lec­tion is one of MALI’s most im­por­tant and prob­a­bly one of the most
im­por­tant in the re­gion. “The idea is that the new build­ing should be used as an area that brings us into closer con­tact with the Par­que de la Ex­posi­cion; it will also be built in the con­text of the new line 2 metro sta­tion at the junc­tion of Paseo Colon and Gar­cilaso de la Vega. The sta­tion con­nect­ing the un­der­ground with the Met­ro­pol­i­tano bus ser­vices will be on our cor­ner. It will be­come the heart of Lima’s pub­lic trans­port sys­tem and it is very im­por­tant for us to make the mu­seum a part of this”.


Photo: Flickr


  • Sun10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Tue – Fri10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Sat10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Location: Paseo Colon 125 | Parque de la ExposicionLima, Peru

Telephone number: 51 1 2040000

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This interview previously appeared in Ultimate Journeys Peru

Cover photo: Flickr



Diego Oliver is a Peruvian writer and author whose work can be found in the travel magazine Ultimate Journeys. He loves to focus on Peruvian culture both modern and classic, traveling the country, as well as social responsibility.