Mérida’s art scene continues, although visitors entering a gallery may be offered hand sanitizer instead of a glass of wine these days.

Health contingencies have ended, at least for now, the traditional art exhibit reception that has been a mainstay of Yucatán social life. Still, art is everywhere and it’s possible to fill an entire day enjoying work from local and international creatives.

Restrictions on public gatherings are also encouraging gallery owners to speed up something many were already pursuing: online exhibitions and sales.

At La Cúpula, a cultural center and gallery in a massive historic structure noted for its elegant dome, doors are open by appointment. Visitors preview and learn about accomplished artists on La Cupula’s very active Facebook page and on Instagram. And that’s just the beginning.

Raising the profile of their gift-shop offerings is also in the works. The off-the-lobby shop at Rosas & Xocolate boutique hotel, two blocks away on the Paseo de Montejo, is now becoming an offshoot of La Cúpula. Table-top objects and apparel curated by the cultural center’s founder Leila Voight will be on sale there.

Rosas & Xocolate gift shop

“We want to invite people to approach art in a real way,” said Diana Castillo, who is the director of the cultural center.

Although art sales are admittedly down – to buy art is not a priority right now, Castillo admits – artists have to survive. That is why La Cúpula is promoting selected pieces for sale online, at reduced prices. “The idea caught on immediately,” she said.

“Selling art is what allows us to continue as a cultural center,” said Castillo.

The cultural center side of La Cúpula is also raring to go. Under the dome or elsewhere on the campus, La Cúpula has staged music events of all sorts. For now, such an event is out of the question. “We won’t do things again until we have a green light,” said Castillo, referring to the government’s rules meant to stem the spread of Coronavirus. “The health of our public is the most important thing.”

But once again the Internet provides an option.

“We are not closed to the idea of doing something in our space and broadcasting it live,” said Castillo.

Online ambitions have not put any printing presses in mothballs. La Cúpula, which celebrates five years on December 17, is also publishing a lavish art book to commemorate the date.

SoHo Galleries, on Calle 60 in the Santa Ana neighborhood, is also upping its retail game. A loft space in the 10-year-old gallery has been fitted with shelving and display cases for plates, carvings, masks, and other objet d’art.

SoHo Galleries

This part of the gallery is more suitable for impulse buys and fun gifts or souvenirs, all created by artists in SoHo’s realm.

Although sad that the days of large wine-and-cheese receptions are gone “for a long time,” gallery owner Adele Aguirre is expediting the shopping cart function on her website, something she had already been developing.

Aguirre’s gallery is also offering technology that allows prospective customers to “virtually” buy larger-scale art on approval. Shoppers can see a digital rendering of what a big canvas would look like in their homes.

SoHo also hosts Facebook Live lectures each Thursday evening on subjects such as 19th-century Yucatecan art. Paying attendees get a 10% discount on meals delivered by participating restaurants, a concept that shares the wealth with other business owners.

Going digital also helps SoHo, and any other gallery still open, stay in compliance with local regulations to keep the public safe.

“There are a lot of rules and we want to keep all those rules,” said Aguirre.

Renato Chacón, artist-owner of El Zapote gallery in the Santiago neighborhood, is also accelerating plans to go online and operate dually as a virtual and brick-and-mortar business. For the time being, however, pieces from the many artists they represent fill the gallery’s walls.

El Zapote

“We are open by appointment,” said Chacón. ”Or walk by and ring the bell.”

El Zapote is a relative newcomer. The gallery is only three-and-a-half years old, and he and partner Julieta Pinzón had no experience in the field. “The only experience we have is that we love it,” she said.

Art receptions and workshops at the gallery have ceased for now, but Chacón and Pinzón have an eye toward the future.

“We are planning a website and we would love to show the next exhibit through that,” said Chacón.

Chacón estimates it will be another two months before El Zapote’s website is up and running. “It takes time and we want to do it right,” he said.

Already, Chacón sees signs of how art will continue to be sold in the future. For one of his regular artists, the last two sales occurred on Facebook. “We have to get used to that,” he said.


Open by appointment

La Cúpula:
Calle 54 407-B x 41 y 43, Centro, Mérida
Tel. (999) 688 9479

SoHo Galleries:
Calle 60 400-A x 41 y 43, Centro, Mérida
Tel. (999) 928 5710

El Zapote:
Calle 57 545-A, x 66 y 68, Centro, Mérida
Tel. (999) 923 1391
FB: Galería El Zapote


Editorial by Lee Steele

Lee Steele is editor of Yucatan Expat Life, which delivers daily news headlines in English about the region at yucatanexpatlife.com.


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