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.
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?
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?
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”.
- 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 Exposicion, Lima, Peru
Telephone number: 51 1 2040000
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This interview previously appeared in Ultimate Journeys Peru
Cover photo: Flickr