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Experience Lima’s underground art scene

Peru’s post-Shining Path hipsters live large and create great art. Here’s how to join them.

A street performer wearing a costume performs in the streets of Lima (Photo by Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

 

It's after midnight. A surf-rock band called Los Protones rattles the top floor of a rickety colonial building in downtown Lima. It's 10 soles at the door. Upstairs, dozens of hipsters with ironic hair cuts and Converse shoes crowd the stage and swarm the beer vendor. Los Protones fill the room with percussion. Burgeoning record labels display colorful CDs on folding tables. Drawings and paintings cover the walls — this is an art exhibition after all. 

 
Seemingly every night there is an art opening at one of the new gallery spaces cropping up in neighborhoods like the historic center of Lima or the literary Barranco, where young artists with talent but no connections can show their work.
 
This is Lima's underground art scene – a thriving, constant party, populated by artists and musicians who came of age after 1990, the year the bloody battle ended with the Shining Path rebels, an insurgency that took nearly 70,000 lives. The art movement is rebellious, anti-establishment and merrymaking, and it welcomes outsiders to art openings, live music performances and avant-garde theater.
 
“It's amazing that in a third-world country where so many are just focused on surviving, there is this palpaple need to consume culture,” says Maria Elena Alvarado Boggio, the plucky founder of Desenfranquiciados Colectivo, a collective of artists and curators formed in rebellion to the city's red carpet art scene — namely the two dozen or so art galleries that have dominated for decades. Alvarado and friends are happy to serve up the goods.
 
Ditching art dealers and the stuffiness of a gallery, Desenfranquiciados and other youth culture leaders in Lima believe that art should be widely accessible. And fun. 
 
Social networking is rampant in the city of 8 million. It's almost as if no other form of communication existed. Lima's young organizers use Facebook to send invitations and post flyers. Search for galleries, dance parties and other events on the site. Here's a sampling:
 
 
NIGHTLIFE
 
Fiesta Uma
 
The monthly Fiesta Uma is a DJ dance party held in lofty old mansions around the center of Lima or the artist enclave of Barranco. The party, which has been going on for two years, attracts unpretentious hipsters who tear up the floor to house music and danceable indy pop. On a recent Saturday people got down to Justice's “D.A.N.C.E.” while a projector cast nuclear armament statistics over pink, green and yellow lights against the wall. Organizers leave flyers in cafes and stores around Miraflores and Barranco a week before the event. Look for the namesake on the psychedelic logo: the DJ's black lab, Uma.  
 
Casa Rosada
 
The pale pink mansion hosts art exhibitions and live bands and screens art films. Truly a neighborhood haunt, the Casa Rosada mostly attracts Barranquinos looking for a cheap night out.
 
Saenz Pena 212, Barranco.
Entrance fee: under $4 (10 Peruvian soles)
No website
 
 
GALLERIES
 
Desenfranquiciados Colectivos
 
With the price tag capped at $100, paintings literally fly off the walls at one of the city's most popular art shows, organized by Lima teacher and artist Maria Elena Alvarado and a star pupil, photographer Nicolas Figari. The object, they say, is to bypass traditional art brokers and connect buyers directly with artists. Get there early as gallery reps, ironically, are known to scout the shows. Stay for the quirky Lima mix of champagne and  punk rock.
 
No entrance fee.
Check out upcoming DSF events on the collective's Web page: www.desenfranquiciados.com or write to organizers directly at desenfrankiciados@gmail.com
 
Bruno Gallery
 
The painter Jaime Higa Oshiri was pursuaded by friends in 2008 to convert part of his robin's-egg blue Miraflores house into a gallery. Now Higa has too many artists to show. The hybrid gallery-store is booked with biweekly exhibitions until 2012, the pop artist and painter said. A recent opening featuring hand-sewn cotton animals, in counterpose and dangling from the ceiling. The store is a good place to hear new Lima bands (Los Protones, Moldes, Asobi Seksu) and their 1970s Lima rock counterparts (Alejandro Susti, Los Yorks, Virgin), women's and children's clothing and men's t-shirts designed by Chermany Inks, issues of the widely-read comic series Carboncito or a small but good selection of contemporary Limena fiction. 
 
Calle Francia 565, Miraflores.
Mon. to Sat., 5 a 9 p.m.
+511 241 8806
Look for Bruno Gallery events on Facebook.
 
 
SHOPPING
 
Chermany Inks
 
In July, the Lima-born artist Cherman Kino Ganoza got in trouble for hanging a banner with the graphic of Tupac Amaru, a Peruvian hero rebranded as the icon of the now-vanquished leftist insurgency group MRTA. In a city still haunted by insurgency, Cherman's banner startled neighbors. It's a provocative and increasingly merchandise-oriented operation. Souvenir-seekers can find Amaru and other “superheroes of the nation” classic-comics style printed on t-shirts, stickers and coffee mugs. The artist has designed about 600 prints or posters, all engaging social issues. “All of Lima's young artists should open up their studios to the public,” said Cherman, 40, who opens his studio and gallery space, Chermany Inks, on weekdays.
 
Manco Capac 400, No. 201, Miraflores.
Mon. to Fri. 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
+511 447 0612
The artists maintain a web site for Chermany Inks on Facebook, Made in Chermany Inks.
 
Dedalo
 
This chic Barranco establishment sells handmade women's apparel, and accessories (purses, belts, barrets, scarves) jewelry, stationery, home décor and other pretty things. Think more anthropology than Anthropologie. Look for the belles-lettres imprinted with the poses of Limena Girl, the self-styled caricature of Lima artist Shila Alvarado. Then write a letter home as you nibble on a pastry and sip espresso in Dedalo's bucolic garden patio. The store also hosts art openings and live music. 
 
Saenz Pena 295, Barranco.
Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
+511 477 0562
No website. 
 
Tienda Ego
 
This store’s array of locally-made men's and women's clothing rivals Dédalo, but doesn’t break the bank. 
 
Calle Berlin 219, 
Miraflores, Lima. 
(511) 447-7217. 
Mon.-Fri. 10:30am-9pm. www.egourbano.com.   
 
Pulga
 
Another Miraflores boutique, Pulga sells funky women's and children's clothing and accessories handmade by Lima and Cuzco designers, just a few doors down from Ego at Calle Berlin 290-3. 
 
(511) 445-4349 
Mon.-Sat. 11am-8:15pm. 
www.pulgalatienda.com. 
 
 
THEATER
 
Agarrate Catalina
 
Founded by a ballet dancer and a trapeze artist, this avant-garde theater group melds modern dance with circus acts in shows with a firm, if giddy, objective: to entertain spectators of all ages.  
 
Jr. 28 de Julio 277, Barranco 
(511) 247-5860 
agarretecatalinaperu@yahoo.com
 
Yuyachkani
 
This theater troupe recently celebrated its fortieth anniversary of putting on productions in Magdalena del Mar, near San Isidro. Many of the plays take up Peru's modern history. The longest-running show, Los Musicos Ambulantes, is a cultural parody in musical form. “We have had the luck of making it 40 years without taking ourselves too seriously. We continue to have an insatiable thirst to make new things,” the actress Teresa Ralli said. This November the theater will hold its third-annual women's playwright festival, featuring artists from all over the world.
 
Calle Tacna 363, Magdalena, 
Thurs. to Monday at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees at 6:30 p.m. 
(511)2634484
20 to 30 soles ($7-$10) to enter. 
Tickets can be bought at the theater box office or on teleticket.com.
www.yuyachcani.org / yuyachkani@yuyachkani.org 

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