Interviews

Meet LA’s Art Community: Gabriela Urtiaga Thinks “It’s a Great Moment for Latin American Art”

An interview series spotlighting some of the great work coming out of Los Angeles. Hear directly from artists, curators, and art workers about their current projects and personal quirks.

Gabriela Urtiaga (photo by Santiago Orti)

Welcome to the fifth installment of the interview series Meet LA’s Art Community. Check out our past interviews here.

Gabriela Urtiaga joined the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, California, as chief curator in September of this year. Previously, she was the chief curator at the Kirchner Kirchner Cultural Centre (CCK), in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Throughout her career she has worked with Latin American and international artists, including Marta Minujín, Julio Le Parc, Delia Cancela, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Marie Orensanz. Prior to her tenure at CCK, Urtiaga was the Projects Curator and the Secretary of Culture for the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2019, she was selected as the curator of the Curitiba Biennial, Brazil. She has edited, written, and published several books, including Happenings and Performances of Marta Minujín, Borges and Xul Solar: The Art of Friendship, Borges: Fictions of an Infinite Time, and Democracy Under Construction: Patterns from Four Continents.

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Where were you born?

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

How long have you been living in Los Angeles?

I just moved to LA two months ago! I’m a new girl in town! However, I’ve been in LA many times before, I know the city very well, I love its energy, its wonderful weather, and fortunately I have a lot of friends here.

What’s your first memory of seeing art?

I remember very well a very big retrospective in my hometown of Antonio Berni, a great Argentine artist related to the figurative new realism movement. It was a shock.

Do you like to photograph the art you see? If so, what device do you use to photograph?

Yes, I do! I like taking pictures of the art I see, whether I go to a museum, a gallery, or during a studio visit. I always use my cellphone cam and I like to have my own digital storage.

What was your favorite exhibition in Los Angeles this year?

Celebrating Diversity by Argentinian duo artists Chiachio and Giannone at MOLAA from March to June this year. It was something really powerful.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

A lot of good books! But I’d choose M Train by Patti Smith; El Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges (I read it over and over again), and Happiness by Thich Nhat Hanh, a zen master.

Do you prefer to see art alone or with friends?

It depends. I like visiting art shows with my husband — he’s writer and art journalist — but sometimes also with friends. I really enjoy it, especially when I discover an emerging young artist.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on 2021 curatorial programming. MOLAA has a very ambitious longterm plan to continue providing access to Latin American and Latino Art and we have a lot of work to do. Furthermore, I think it’s a great moment for Latin American art — the art scene is growing more and more everywhere.

What is one accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?

Working with great Latin American artists I admire most, such Marta Minujín, Julio Le Parc, Guillermo Kuitca, and Tomas Saraceno, among others. And this year, I had the privilege to be one of the curators of the biennial of Curitiba in Brazil, where I presented a curatorial project with all female artists.

Where do you turn to for inspiration for your projects?

From here, there, and everywhere! From literature, movies, music ,and basically watching the world sensibly, our global current issues and social and cultural trends.

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