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Crédito Obra:
Antoinette Bouzonnet Stella, The Entrance of the Emperor Sigismond into Mantua, 1675; Engraving on paper, 6 ½ x 15 ¾ in.; Gift of Chris Petteys
María Irene Alcalde: “Art has the ability to unite thought and emotion.”

04 - 02 - 2020

María Irene Alcalde: “Art has the ability to unite thought and emotion.”

With a degree in Art History, specialized in Cultural Property Conservation and Restoration, María Irene Alcalde has devoted most of her professional life to the promotion of contemporary art. In recent months, she was curator of Chilean women art for the international edition of “Women to Watch”, a process that culminated with the selection of Paola Podesta’s “Cornisa Palacio Vergara” by the NMWA curatorial team of Washington D.C. to represent Chile in the Paper Routes” group show, scheduled for June.

Presently her primary task is to coordinate the program’s Chilean edition, to be held for the second time in our country. Entitled Acid-Free, the exhibit will feature 11 women artists representing different generations, all of whom work with the medium of paper. The curator notes that the work of these artists is united by “the lightness, the transparency, accessibility and elegance of the material.”

What route did you follow to become a curator? Did you have a mentor?

It has been difficult to envision myself as curator, because I never posed it as a goal. I was trained as art historian and acquired more knowledge through my conservation work with the MAVI collection.  I studied late in life, and I had classmates my children’s age. At the university I met Soledad Novoa, who not only became my thesis advisor and my friend, but also has been a model for me.

What is your assessment of local spaces that visibilize emergent artists?

Quite a few spaces exist that profile young artists, albeit, defining “quite a few” in terms of the national context. Basically, competitions and artist-in-residence programs that aim to empower artists under 35 years old. In the past 14 years MAVI has offered the MAVI Young Art Award, which has recognized a great many artists who today are acclaimed by national medio.

What is your appraisal of the formats young artists use?

It’s hard to say. The new generation tends to select materials and techniques that are adaptable to communicate their ideas: ranging from waste material to audiovisual techniques and new technologies.

In today’s social-political context, what is the value of art?

Art can bring together thoughts and emotions. It is an instrument that enables the creation of identity.  In the neighborhood where the museum is located, the walls along the street from GAM (Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center) to Lastarria Street, have been transformed into surfaces where people can express their feelings, from rage and incomprehension, to poetry and tolerance. So many expressions of social discontent may be called street art. The walls change every day, narrating wounds, desires and frustrations. There are small poems, cartoons and caricatures, even an incredible reinterpretation of Picasso’s Guernica.

Every day when I walk by there, I feel like all those walls keep me company and speak to me so clearly. This information enables us to extrapolate countless needs that are communicated through art.

Do you believe the art world is heading towards gender equality? How does MAVI approach this issue?

Women produced 38.5% of MAVI’s collection, which begins in the 1960s. It’s a very high proportion in comparison with other museums such as MAC (Contemporary Art Museum) and MNBA (National Fine Arts Museum). A shortened gap is evident in recent decades. MAVI Awards, for example, had a slightly higher participation by women than men, with 52% of the total. In any event, most important is the quality of the artists. In Chile both men and women are engaged in serious work. Our scheduling does not consider sex or gender, in selecting exhibitors. 

How was your experience working with the NMWA’s “Women to Watch”?

I have always felt a sense of affinity with paper as a medium. I like its lightness, transparency, accessibility and elegance.  That dichotomy between the fragility and strength of paper is moving.

It has been a pleasant and nourishing experience, as has been to work with the people who comprise Women to Watch Chile, all so affable to work with. They trusted my work, they supported me and have been extremely professional.




Special thanks


    • Andrea Cuomo
    • Andrés Rodríguez Perez
    • Cecilia Echeñique
    • Comité Calificador de Donaciones Culturales
    • Embajada de Chile en Estados Unidos
    • Estela F. Garafulich Adult Literacy Programe
    • Francisca Florenzano
    • Javier Mendicute
    • Javiera Parada
    • Jurado Concurso de Canto 2014-15
    • Jurado Concurso “Mujeres en la Musica II”
    • Jurado Final “Cartas de Mujer”
    • Jurado Preseleccion “Cartas de Mujer”
    • Kingston Family Vineyards, Casablanca Valley
    • María José Viera Gallo
    • Mario Agliati
    • Michelle Landa
    • Nieves Edwards
    • Roberto Sepúlveda
    • Rodrigo Espinosa
    • Teatro Corpartes 660
    • Ximena Sahli
    • Viñamar y Castillo de Molina
    • Viña Veramonte