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Uruguay’s First Permanent Contemporary Art Museum Opens

Uruguayan coastal resort town Punta del Este opened the country’s first sizeable contemporary art museum, the Atchugarry Museum of Contemporary Art (MACA), on January 8, with an inauguration gala celebrating its first exhibitions of the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude and Argentine artist León Ferrari.

Spread over a 90-acre landscape with rolling hills, wooded areas, and water features, the museum will not only be a beacon for modern art, but will also host a new arts film festival, ARCA Intl. Film Festival, whose inaugural edition will run this January 9-14. The project was created by sculptor Pablo Atchugarry and is the final in a sequence of structures built by the Fundación Pablo Atchugarry.

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“There is a common concern among artists and collectors, which consists in thinking about where their works will go, the fruit of a lifetime, the passion that has always accompanied them. So, a few years ago the idea of building a museum was born, right here in the Pablo Atchugarry Foundation, which is in some way the cultural heritage that I leave for Uruguay,” Atchugarry told Variety.

“I think that MACA will belong to humanity and that, like a ship loaded with art, life and dreams, it will lead us to a world of greater understanding and love,” he added.

Architect Carlos Ott designed the buildings which include five exhibition rooms and an outdoor sculpture part with 70 pieces from renowned international artists. In addition to a gift shop, and cafeteria, the space also includes a theater room, an auditorium, and a large outdoor terrace to be used for ARCA screenings.

Leonardo Noguéz will be the museum’s first director with writer and businessman Roberto Vivo as the president of its board of trustees. MACA’s advisory board is filled out by Jorge Helft, Angel Kalenberg, Renos Xippas, Emma Sanguinetti, and Piero Atchugarry.

Established to celebrate all forms of contemporary art, the relationship between MACA and ARCA is a vital one and begins the day after the museum’s inauguration with the first edition of the fledgling festival.

Speaking with Variety, ARCA director Mercedes Sader explained that the festival, like the museum, will be entirely modern in its focus, but also indicated that older films about contemporary art might one day find their way into selection as the museum’s exhibitions and the festival’s program are intended to be closely linked.

“The films selected for the main section needed to be recent, so this time around we only included films from the past two years,” she pointed out. “It’s possible that in future editions we will add a section for classics, but those will be films related to art from the last half-century and often include films that people in Uruguay may have heard of, but never had the opportunity to see in person.

“The main idea is to grow the collaboration with the museum and make it resonate with visitors so it can expand in the future,” she added.

As MACA was constructed to appeal to the constant flow of international visitors to Punta del Este, so too has the festival programmed its selection.

“Everything is very international, the museum opens with two major exhibitions where neither is Uruguayan, although there is a permanent collection with a lot of work by Uruguayan artists since 1950,” Sader explained. “For us it is important that the museum and the festival have that international appeal. The festival is a time and place where people come from all over the world, and we want to acknowledge that.”

To that end, ARCA has enlisted programmer Sergio Fant, who is part of Berlin’s selection committee and has programmed in the past at festivals including Venice, Helsinki Documentary and Trento, among others.

According to Sader, Fant’s involvement is important for two key reasons: “Because he knows Uruguayan producers and to bring to Uruguay films that will otherwise never appear in cinemas.”

This story first appeared on variety.com, which features additional information on the contemporary art museum.

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