As a result of our increasingly globalized artworld, emergent markets such as Asia and Africa are well on their way to achieving the recognition they deserve. Major international auction house Christie’s has salesrooms in Hong Kong and Shanghai and is active in 46 countries. Platforms like 1-54, the first leading international art fair dedicated to contemporary African art and its diaspora, and the Cape Town Art Fair have helped put Africa on the map. However, Latin America remains largely overlooked despite their financial contribution to the art market worldwide. According to Statista, the region contributed a sum of £50.9b in 2018 and this figure is predicted to rise to £69.6b by 2023. Statistics aside, Latin America is home to several talented up-and-coming artists who are making a splash in the art ecosystem. For this piece, I’ve rounded up five of the most exciting names in contemporary Latin American art.
Nana del Riego (Instagram: @nana_delriego)
Cuban photographer Nana del Riego is definitely one to watch. The rising star already boasts an impressive resume, which includes solo shows for the 11th and 12th iterations of the Havana Biennial and group exhibitions in her native Cuba, Portugal, and the United States. She recently signed with Cuban Fine Arts, a Brooklyn-based gallery representing artists living and working in Cuba. Currently, Del Riego’s work is one of seven artists on display at the gallery’s virtual exhibition, ‘Arte Cubano’ (Cuban Art), which aims to showcase and celebrate the island’s diverse range of contemporary art practices. Her oeuvre evokes the aesthetics of Cindy Sherman and David LaChapelle through its vibrant colours, unexpected juxtapositions, and theatrical flair. Del Riego draws inspiration from mass media, advertising, and pop culture to explore the subject of the female body and identity in the 21st century.
A virtual gallery tour of ‘Arte Cubano’ can be accessed using this link: https://www.artsteps.com/view/5f57b4d0c1ea2b6c19964445
Lucía Vidales (Instagram: @lucia_vidales)
Next up is Lucía Vidales who lives and works in Mexico City. In her work, Vidales creates an imaginary alternate universe employing fiction, history, time, and the gestural power of pigment. Underlying these paintings is a sense of restlessness and anxiety as figures materialize from the primordial soup while appearing self-aware of their confinement within the picture frame. In addition to attaining an MA in Visual Arts and a BFA in Fine Art from the National Autonomous University of México and National Institute of Fine Arts respectively, she has exhibited in over sixty solo and group shows in museums and galleries in Mexico and abroad. Vidales recently presented solo exhibitions at the Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo (2020), the House of Deslave, Tijuana (2019), and the Galería de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City (2019). Her present exhibition ‘Sudor Frío’ (Cold Sweat) at New York’s PROXYCO Gallery is on view until 21 April.
Pedro Wirz (Instagram: @wedropirz)
Swiss-Brazilian artist Pedro Wirz has been on the art world’s radar for some time now, and for good reason. Originally hailing from São Paulo, Wirz moved to Switzerland to pursue an education and career in the arts, where he currently resides. His fantastical wall-objects, sculptures, and installations use natural and manmade materials, combining elements such as wood, wax, and soil with plastics such as latex, epoxy resin, and silicone. Drawing from folklore, craft, science, and cultural histories, he blurs the distinction between socially constructed categories of nature and culture as a dire commentary on the planet’s climate emergency. On top of his art practice, Wirz has completed artist residences in Rome and New York and contributed to a number of curatorial projects around the world. This year, Wirz is scheduled for his second solo show at the Kunsthalle Basel, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, dates are subject to change.
Francisco Rodríguez (Instagram: @franciscorodriguezpino)
Francisco Rodríguez is one of Chile’s most promising young artists in the contemporary art scene. Based in London, he holds an MFA from UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art and a BA and post-graduate diploma from the Universidad de Chile. Rodríguez has participated in various group shows since 2010 and landed his first solo exhibition in 2018 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago. He is represented by Cooke Latham Gallery (UK) and Galeria Leyendecker (Spain) and in 2019 was nominated for the Robert Walters Group UK Young Artist of the Year Award. Strongly influenced by traditional Japanese prints and graphic animation, his work employs solid blocks of colour, bold outlines, and emphasis on flatness in his production of intricate narratives. Viewers get a glimpse into intimate spaces and moments in time, which at times are inexplicable and ambiguous and, at others, quite ordinary, capturing the complexity of the human experience.
Soy Fira (Instagram: @soyfira)
Last, but certainly not least, is trailblazing NFT artist Soy Fira. One of the first Latina NFT artists and the first in Colombia, Camila Fierro, who goes by Fira, draws in a one-line stroke as a way to express other people’s stories. Compared to others on this list, her trajectory is somewhat less conventional with a background in Civil Engineering instead of Fine Arts. She is fascinated by the ways in which art and technology intersect and their potential to build bridges between places and people. In an interview with Forbes Colombia, Fira speaks to the significance of NFTs as a digital footprint in ensuring your work or legacy will never be forgotten. Her digital portfolio comprises mainly of portraits as well as original fashion designs, which have been featured in Vogue Mexico and worn by reggaeton legend J Balvin. Hosted on NFT marketplace Open Sea, Fira’s debut sale sold out in less than 24 hours.
If there’s anything I have learned about this group of incredible artists is that their common Latin identity is all they share. Working across various media and styles, they are shaping the future of art and I for one cannot wait to see their careers continue to grow and evolve.