In the spirit of ringing in the new, I have put the Paris art scene on temporary hold in favor of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Three weeks ago I had never heard of this charming destination, described as a Mexican version of a Tuscan hilltown. Now, after spending a week there, I can’t wait to return. Certainly it is delightfully picturesque, blessed with superb weather and home to thousands of ex-pats from North America and Europe. But it is also oozing with art from every cobblestone. This is largely due to the efforts of one Stirling Dickinson who wandered into the sleepy town in 1937 and established an art institute in a former convent. The rest is history.
Over the years, San Miguel de Allende has become an international art center, attracting hundreds of artists from all over the world. These newcomers have contributed a distinctly European art sensibility alongside the existing Mexican craft scene, resulting in a very interesting and textured visual feast. The countless galleries and art co-ops co-exist with local artisans peddling their traditional crafts such as the exquisite bead work (below) and finely detailed wares. For the tourist looking for art, the options are vast.
The offerings in the fine arts are incredibly diverse. I came across still lifes of clay pots against adobe walls; huge abstract canvases ripe for a NY penthouse; discerning abstract panels with thoughtful titles; powerful and humorous paintings in the primitive vein; large, sophisticated expressionist narratives; photorealist masterpieces and oversized contemporary ceramic sculptures. And if jewelry’s your thing, Pepe Cerroblanco’s designs at the Fabrica La Aurora art center are irresistible.
Art in San Miguel is a SERIOUS business, and so I was rather surprised by the generous and friendly sharing of information I encountered in the art community. But the highlight of my art experience came when I wandered into the brand new super-modern boutique hotel Matilda, only to come face-to-face with a sculpture by one of my favorite living sculptors – Mexico City-based Xavier Marin. What a treat!