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Guatemalan gallery doubles as research center sharing the history of the country’s art from la Conquista to the present

By Anna-Claire Bevan

It’s not just technology that has changed since El Attico first opened its doors in Guatemala in April 1988. Back then it was an antique shop that doubled as an art gallery, now it’s an art gallery that doubles as a research center.

Interior of Guatemala's El Attico art gallery.
Interior of Guatemala’s El Atico art gallery.

“The antique shop was dwindling, while the art gallery was becoming stronger and moving in other directions,” says El Attico owner, Guillermo Monsanto.

So, after three months, and many requests from visitors to see more contemporary pieces, Monsanto and his business partner, Luis Escobar, decided to close the antiques’ side of their gallery and use the extra space to develop an exposition area where they could host fortnightly events.

Ever since opening its doors 25 years ago, El Attico has had a hugely positive effect on Guatemala’s art scene: showcasing the country’s young, upcoming talent in one room and pieces from more established artists in the other. Its centro de documentación gives students, researchers and collectors access to information about the country’s art from the present day to as far back as la Conquista.

However, the gallery’s patriotism doesn’t end there. El Attico also dedicates itself to restoring and conserving important national art that has been neglected over recent years.

The two art enthusiasts chose the name ‘El Attico’ because they say: “it evokes the idea of rediscovering forgotten objects and paying attention to them so that they come back to life with another meaning.”

For both Monsanto and Escobar, their fascination with art started during childhood and since then has become their driving force:

“In difficult times, creativity can save you. There’s no age or social condition necessary to appreciate art. What’s most important is not to lose confidence and hope in yourself.”

With its emphasis on technical sculpture work and home-grown talent, El Attico’s diverse collection is aimed at everyone and occasionally loaned out to museums and theatre productions around the country.

“We are very grateful for the help and support that we have received from many people throughout this whole time. We’re really happy that we can dedicate ourselves to doing what we love and we’re ready to continue evolving,” says Monsanto.

The gallery’s 25th anniversary celebration will showcase selected works by Guatemalan artists focused on the male figure.

Anna-Claire Bevan is a British journalist based in Guatemala City. She writes about political, environmental and social issues for magazines, newspapers and websites in the US, the UK, Guatemala and Spain. Anna originally set up her first blog Vida Latina as a result of her travels in Latin America and frustrations at the lack of media coverage that this area of the world receives.

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