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Cultural Diversity

As in other areas of Venezuelan life, the cultural sector is extremely active. Many are the names of all the men and women whom with their determination and dynamism, play each day a leading role in the cultural movements of Venezuela. They, the artists, in their diverse disciplines and fields of endeavour reflect a young, talented, productive, and of course creative, country. Many of them have been the object of praise and recognition abroad because of their work and their achievements.

Cultural management in Venezuela is undeniably among the best-organized in Latin America. The Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela establishes that the Ministry of Culture, Education and Sport, is the body in charge of putting into practice the State’s cultural policies and of taking responsibility for the protection and the development of the nation’s artistic and cultural heritage; hence the creation of institutions and public foundations which enhance the dignified efforts realized in our country, such as: The National Council for Culture (El Consejo Nacional de la Cultura) CONAC, the National Art Gallery (Galeria de Arte Nacional), the Latin-American Monte Avila Publishing House (Monte Avila Editores Latinoamericana), the National Cinema Foundation, the Teresa Carreno Theatre Foundation, the Museum of Fine Arts, among others.

There are more than 150 private foundations at work throughout the country, which, through their substantial financial contributions, encourage artistic development. It is important to mention as well the work done under the direction of regional and municipal bodies which develop programs to support local artists and spread cultural education.

Traditional Festivals

Probably the most celebrated event of them all, Carnival takes place during the month of February, forty days before Good Friday, but has no fixed date because Easter is a floating holiday. Carnival has existed in Venezuela since the colonial period, and was much celebrated in Caracas. Today, however, Carnival has lost its importance in the major cities, and is taken more seriously in the coastal towns, and other provinces, especially in El Callao.

El Callao was founded in 1853. It is a town of multicultural history, where many Europeans would try their luck in their search of gold and other vast riches this area offered. It was the mixture of Englishmen, Americans and Frenchmen, and their cultures, that brought as a consequence the version of Carnival that is celebrated in this town. Carnival became a moment in which people could forget their racial and social differences. The blacks that were brought to the country as slaves have contributed enormously to this festival, since this was also an opportunity for them not to be belittled, and they could behave any way they wished, and pray any way they wanted.

By 1925 the people of El Callao treated this festivity as an important event in their yearly calendar, and preparations began early. Costumes were ordered from an English shop called Weldon's which arrived in great bulks through the postal system of Ciudad Bolivar. Funnily enough, it was the blacks of El Callao that would order these costumes, as they liked to dress up as queens, ladies of honor, court jesters and the like. Embroidered fabrics, lavish silks and other decorations were also ordered for this event. Because of the proximity of the Caribbean islands, traditions such as the calypso from Trinidad and the laborious dresses of the women of Guadalupe and Martinique became part of the show as well.
It is important to note that Carnival as a celebration is known for its devils and not its other components, which characterize the region it is celebrated in. The masks that the devils wear and their impulsive personality are the trademarks of these festivities.
Carnival in El Callao begins forty days before Good Friday.

Los Tambores de Barlovento
  The Drums of Barlovento are celebrated at the beginning of the rain season in March, near Corpus Christi, in Barlovento, Miranda state. This area comprises the towns Curiepe, Higuerote, Caucagua, Tacarigua and others where there is a large black population due to the coffee and banana plantations that existed there in the colonial period. Thus, this is an Afro-Caribbean tradition in which the drums are the main theme complemented by various other wooden instruments, mostly of African origin.
La Paradura del Nino
  In the Andean region of Tachira, Merida and Trujillo, this is a celebration around the 6th of January, focusing on Jesus as a child. It is a procession in which the Baby in its manger is placed on a large handkerchief and every corner is held by a person who has a candle in his hands. He is paraded around the town from house to house and a drink is offered to the people who carry him. The people in the nino's procession pray for him, and themselves.
Los Diablos de Yare
Los Diablos de Yare is celebrated in the main cities of the Federal District, Aragua state, Miranda state, and Cojedes state. This is a carnival celebration, in which devils with many horns and different human or animal faces parade around the town, to arrive at the main church. These devils are paying penance, and the amount of horns show the many sins they are paying for. Just in the same way as this celebration took place in 16th Century Spain, so it was taken to its colonies,
  such as Venezuela. The people follow them to their destination, and a great party begins. This celebration occurs during Corpus Christi.
La Cruz de Mayo
  This religious act is in the name of the Holy Cross. Every cross found in public places in the smaller towns and provinces is decorated with flowers on the third of May. The people of these towns light candles and take them to the cross with offerings and a wish. The celebration that follows varies according to the town's traditions.
Semana Santa / Easter
  Easter is a Catholic festival, but it has become a holiday around most of the world. It begins forty days after Carnival, so its date oscillate between March and April, and would officially begin on Good Friday. On Palm Sunday people visit the church nearest to them to pick up a piece of holy palm. This is probably the only catholic ceremony that has not been altered in Venezuela, and would therefore need no explanation. In just the same way as catholic in the US fast on certain days, and pray on others, Venezuelans would also be doing the same things. The official religion of the country is, after all, Catholicism, even though people do not attend church on Sundays as often as in Spain.

Museums and Galleries

  • National Gallery of Art
  • Caracas Museum of Fine Arts
  • Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art
  • The Alejandro Otero Museum of Visual Arts
  • For further information ...

The National Gallery of Art, the museum of Venezuelan art, has a permanent collection of more than four thousand artworks, comprising more than four centuries of art history in the country. The aboriginal art of the Pre-Hispanic period, the anonymous painters and the portrait painters of the Colonial period, the masters of the nineteenth century academic painting, the artists that renewed Venezuelan paintings at the start of the twentieth century, known as the Circle of Fine Arts, the initiators of abstra ctionism, the most significant creators of the new figuration, as well as a number of contemporary artists, are all duly represented in this collection.

Founded in 1974, the National Gallery of Art opened its doors in May, 1976. Its present site, in the most important cultural area of Caracas, is an excellent example of the creative talent of one of our best-known architects, Carlos Raul Villanueva. In 1935, during his so-called eclectic period, Villanueva designed this building with its harmonious combination of styles, which may be appreciated in its main facades and its portico. There, among cornices and columns of definite neoclassic influence, the sculptural reliefs by Francisco Narvaez, the country's first modernist sculptor, may be seen on the lower wall.

The open spaces of the National Gallery of Art are ideal surroundings for contemplation and aesthetic enjoyment. In the luminous inner patio, art and nature mingle in the most harmonious way. The corridors around the patio are a transition area which prepare the spectator for the quieter atmosphere of the exhibition halls. The continuity of the eleven halls gives a circular character to the development of the open spaces, which intensifies the feeling of serenity in the building itself.

In addition to the exhibition of works in the permanent collection, the National Gallery of Art has temporary exhibitions, which provide visitors with an opportunity to see the most representative works of Venezuelan fine arts, from the aesthetic expressions of our most remote past, to the most innovatory proposals of contemporary art, and provide each exhibition with whatever support is necessary to help understand the different artistic languages and trends that have evolved in the course of our history.

The exhibitions are only one of the many activities that the National Gallery of Art provides, since it is a permanent cultural center for conferences, seminars, films, concerts and workshops for the aesthetic preparation and enjoyment of adults, young people and children.

In the Conservation area, the National Gallery of Art is responsible for the preservation of a large part of Venezuela's patrimony of art treasures. Strict rules are enforced for their handling and for the control of elements which might harm them. In addition to the works of restoration by specialists from the Conservation Department, an advisory service is provided for students sent there by universities and other cultural institutions.

In an effort to help the development of historical art research in Venezuela, the National Gallery of Art has the support of the National Center for Information and Documentation of the Fine Arts C.I.N.A.P. (Centro de Informacion y Documentacion Nacional de Artes Plasticas), which is dedicated to obtaining, processing and facilitating bibliographic and hemerographic material, as well as photographs, cassettes and videos on Venezuelan fine arts. The center provides assistance for the institution's research programs, and also attends the general public, and in particular students and professors from universities and other art institutions. The C. I. N.A. P. possesses one of the most important archives on Venezuelan fine arts.

The publications of the National Gallery of Art deal in detail with the institution's research and exhibition programs. They keep accounts of the Gallery's achievements: books, catalogues and brochures, all beautifully printed and designed, complement the exhibitions, and provide comments which add to the existing bibliography of Venezuela fine arts. Printed materials published by the National Gallery of Art also include posters, postcards and diaries in which images of our artistic patrimony are widely distributed.

Educational work is an important part of the activities of the National Art Gallery, which promotes and supports the contact of the visitor with the works of art, organizing guided tours, workshops on aesthetic expression and different artistic techniques, offering advice to students and teachers and preparing educational materials adopted to the needs of the public.

In 1990 the National Gallery of Art became a State Foundation. This has enabled the Institution to stimulate fund-raising as well as sponsorship from other foundations and private enterprise. This provides the Gallery with an opportunity to carry out important projects. As a result of this new policy, between 1990 and 1991 National Gallery of Art added 177 works of art to its permanent collection, which increase Venezuelan art patrimony and, in some cases, fill gaps in the collection.

Guided tours and other educational services should be organized in advance, by appointment, through the Education Department. Catalogues, brochures and other publications are sold at the bookshop on the portico.

National Gallery of Art
Galería de Arte Nacional
POBA International, 539
P.O. Box 02-5255
Miami, Florida 33102-5255

The Caracas Museum of Fine Arts is the most "encyclopedic" art museum which it could be said is most committed to giving a general view of art history. It was founded in 1917 as the first art museum in the country and started out with a heterogeneous collection which today includes important works from different periods, from Egyptian reliefs to contemporary sculpture; from Chinese porcelain to drawings, prints and photographs; from European, medieval and modern art to Latin American paintings and sculptures.

The Museum of Fine Arts has been defined as a museum of international art, with an emphasis on Latin American art. Several Latin American artistic trends and movements are represented in this collection: Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, the great masters of Mexican muralism; Wifredo Lam, Rufino Tamayo, both artists who looked at our ancestral images; the poetic landscapes of Armando Reverón. Contemporary expressions are also represented: Joaquín Torres García's sensitive abstraction and Marcelo Bonevardi's and Gonzalo Fonseca's incorporation of sacred subjects alternate with the strict constructivism of Edgar Negret and the kinetism of Jesus Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez.

The wealth and variety of the collections in the Museum of Fine Arts made it necessary to set up a team of specialized researchers, and it is the only Venezuelan museum with a Restoration Department.
The exhibition areas of the Museum of Fine Arts have grown, making good use of the potential of the building. In 1989 the Department of Drawings, Prints and Photographs was set up, where researchers and university students have access to the works on paper in the Collection. In 1990, a permanent exhibition of Egyptian art was opened, exhibition on four of the access ramps; in 1991 the sixth floor was prepared for the Sculpture Terrace, and this year the permanent collection of Chinese Porcelain will be permanently installed in the fourth Hall, which has been specially adapted for it. The Museum's Art Library has offered, since 1957, a specialized service for teachers, students and researchers.

The presence of the Museum in the reflexive thinking of fine arts and culture has always been essential, in the research programs and activities which complement each exhibition, and in the meetings held in the Auditorium and in other areas, such as the Experimental Hall or the Sculpture Terrace. Lectures, conferences and seminars on different disciplines such as literature, philosophy, psychology, politics, poetry, architecture, urbanism etc. promote understanding of the fine arts and attract new visitor s to the Museum. Each day, the Museum becomes more of a center for cultural promotion, putting on events such as concerts, theater, dance, etc.
The educational work of the Museum has developed significantly, stimulating knowledge and learning through different activities linked to the exhibitions. Guided tours with complementary workshops, pottery and painting workshops and educational publications such as the study guides and children's guides, bring new generations into direct, palpable contact with art and culture, as one of man's basic needs.
The Museum of Fine Arts has undertaken an intense publishing activity which accompanies and enriches the program of exhibitions. Carefully designed catalogues, posters, postcards and educational booklets provide the general public with information of the Museum's activities, and are useful material for students and researchers.

The Caracas Museum of Fine Art
Plaza de los Museos
Parque Los Caobos
Caracas, 1 0 1 0 Venezuela
P.O. Box 61018
Fax: (582) 571 0169
Phone: (582) 576 2507

The Sofia lmber Museum of Contemporary Art is a Venezuelan museum which is exclusively dedicated to collecting, preserving and divulging a collection of works by Venezuelan and international contemporary artists. This Collection includes art works produced after the most relevant movements and artists of the second half of our century. The collection is remarkable for its masterpieces by the great creators of contemporary art, both universal and national. It includes works by Picasso, Chagall, Leger, Mo ore, Duchamp, Braque, Calder, Botero, Rauschenberg, Marisol, Borges, Otero, Cruz-Diez and Soto, among others.

Traditionally, museums need a site and a collection before they are founded. None of these conditions was fulfilled when the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art was founded, which was a unique and unusual phenomena, not just in this country but the world over. We can surely say that the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art came out of nothing.

In 1971 the Simón Bolívar Center began to build the Central Park Residential Complex in Caracas. In it, a cultural area was contemplated, but at that stage a large museum was out of the question. The project was submitted to the founder of the institution, Sofia Imber, who, without proper premises but in the hope of turning some building into an exhibition hall, created a tiny kunsthalle which, in time, grew in size and in importance.

In 1973 the Museum of Contemporary Art Foundation was created. The first step was to progressively obtain more and more exhibition halls. The premises of the Museum were built in six successive stages. Between 1974 and 1982 it covered six hundred square meters, on different levels, and had large windows which communicated the halls with the inner gardens of the Central Park. The second stage, which started in 1982, was a decisive factor in the consolidation and growth of the institution; the exhibition h alls were enlarged to eight hundred square meters; the offices for employees were also enlarged and a new main entrance connected the Museum with its surroundings. The third stage, which took place in 1986, enabled the exhibition halls to be further enlarged, and the first Picasso Hall in a Latin American museum was opened. Moreover, the Museum today has a sculpture garden, a coffee-shop, permanent quarters for the National Guard, a library, workshops, a dining-room for employees, new vaults, storerooms and workshops for the restoration and preservation of works of art. The exhibition spaces in the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art are now distributed through 16 interconnected halls.

In 1990, by Decree of the Federal District Government, the original name of the institution, Museum of Contemporary Art, was changed to the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art.

The exhibition program is an important part of the Museum's many activities. The exhibitions at the Sofia lmber Museum of Contemporary Art include collective exhibitions, both monographical and thematic, and also one-man exhibitions devoted to the works of important and well-known Venezuelan and international artists. Every exhibition is the result of committed, careful planning, research and staging, which always guarantees their high quality.

To complement the exhibitions on the premises, and as part of other autonomous projects, the Museum publishes a series of books, catalogues, monographies on artists, posters, booklets, bulletins, postcards, slides, videos and films, which are prepared, printed and designed with high quality standards.

To accompany the exhibitions, and as a separate activity, the Museum carries out educational plans and programs involving, fundamentally, guided tours, creative workshops, lectures, film-shows and other activities.
In the professional responsibility and earnestness of its exhibitions and programs of activities, the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art has earned consistent international recognition, which, from the very beginning, involved exchanges with the most important world museums.

The Sofia Imber Public Library has 18,000 books, catalogues and unpublished materials. Its bibliographic wealth and abundance, as well as its ample spaces, make it the most important art-library in Venezuela.
The Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art also offers special services in its art shops, book shop, cafeteria, framing workshop and chocolaterie.

Only a few years after its foundation and the development of its main premises, the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art promoted the creation of two outer halls for the promotion and diffusion of the arts: the CADAFE hall (East extension) and the IPOSTEL hall (West extension). Nevertheless, the most important off the premises center of activities of the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art is the new Coro Museum of Art, in the State of Falc´n. It is located in "the Balcony of Bolívar", colonial mansion of great historical and artistic importance.

Another interesting and innovatory program for artistic diffusion that the Sofia lmber Museum of Contemporary Art has developed is the Maccsibus. This bus periodically prepares didactical exhibitions with copies of universally recognized works of art, books, catalogues and videos, accompanied by personnel from the institution; the bus goes to neighborhoods, suburbs, schools and even travels to towns at a considerable distance from the capital.

Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art
Zona Cultural, Parque Central
Caracas, 1 0 1 0 Venezuela
P.O. Box 17093
Fax: (58212) 572 1408
Phone: (58212) 572 5224 - 573 0075


The Alejandro Otero Museum of Visual Arts is the most recent museum to be opened in Caracas. The building is a modern work of architecture, specially designed for exhibitions, covering a built-up area of five thousand meters. The institution has six exhibition halls, a library, shop, lecture room and amphitheater, and possesses three hectares of land on which an Open Air Museum is to be constructed.

The Museum is part of the cultural circuit in the south of the city of Caracas, beside the Poliedro show-center, the Youth Symphony Orchestra "La Rinconada", the Experimental Theater Workshop, and the new site of the Hector Poleo National Workshop for Artistic Techniques. These institutions make up a large and rapidly expanding cultural complex, which is specially dedicated to international artistic exchange. In its architecture, its bold spaces and clear leaning towards the search of new artistic themes, the Alejandro Otero Museum of Visual Arts is undoubtedly the ideal place for young artists to meet and exchange ideas on contemporary works of art.

The Alejandro Otero Museum of Visual Arts is a State Foundation which was set up on the 21 of May, 1990, by Presidential Decree to offer Venezuelans a new cultural option. It is also a posthumous homage to one of Venezuela's greatest contemporary artists - Alejandro Otero.

The institution is more than a museum for mere contemplation. It is an ideal place for the exchange of ideas, for reflection, learning and the divulgation of visual arts. The Museum's Collection is based on a well-defined purchasing policy, in which contemporary works of art, whether national or international, are acquired.

The Alejandro Otero Museum of Visual Arts is particularly interested in the integration of the arts (painting, installations, theater, music, dance, literature, films, videos and new technologies) and also to new proposals for art, both national and international, through the organization of Fairs, Biennials, collective exhibitions and travelling exhibitions, etc. At the same time, one of the principal objectives of the Alejandro Otero Museum of Visual Arts Foundation is the research, study and divulgation of Alejandro Otero's thoughts and works, since it is believed that his artistic ideas reflect the fundamental conflicts and questions of contemporary art. In a relatively short time, the Museum has become an important part of cultural life for the inhabitants of Caracas.

The Alejandro Otero Museum of Visual Arts provides the community with continuous, direct access to twentieth century art forms, in an ambitious educational program that includes guided tours, workshops, courses, lectures and travelling exhibitions.

At the same time, the Museum has undertaken an important publishing plan that includes the publication of catalogues for exhibitions, children's booklets, educational guides, books on art and a collection especially devoted to museum studies.

The Museum promotes the permanent exchange of artistic experiences, inviting international artists into its extension programs. The guest artists join in on a variety of activities such as lectures, workshops and seminars with their Venezuelan counterparts.

The Alejandro Otero Museum of Visual Art
Zona Cultural La Rinconada, Caracas
Fax: (582) 681 1651
Phone: (582) 606 6702 - 606 6703

For further information please contact:


Galeria de Arte Nacional
POBA International, 539
P.O. Box 02-5255
Miami, Florida 33102-5255

Plaza de los Museos
Parque Los Caobos
Caracas, 1 0 1 0 Venezuela
P.O. Box 61018
Fax: (58212) 571 0169
Phone: (58212) 576 2507

Zona Cultural, Parque Central
Caracas, 1 0 1 0 Venezuela
P.O. Box 17093
Fax: (58212) 572 1408
Phone:(58212) 572 5224 - 573 0075

Zona Cultural La Rinconada, Caracas
Fax: (58212) 681 1651
Phone: (58212) 606 6702 - 606 6703

Museo de los Ninos
Edificio Tacagua, nivel Bolívar
Parque Central
Caracas 1011
Po Box 14029
La Candelaria
Tlf: 573 3434 / 573 3390 / 573 3378
Fax: 575 4302




Other Cultural Institutions:

Torre Norte, Piso 16
Centro Simon Bolivar
Caracas, Venezuela
Telephone: (58212) 483 3432
483 1795
483 1277
Fax: (58212) 41 65 33

Edificio Ateneo
Plaza Morelos
Caracas, Venezuela
Telephone: (58212) 573 4622

Galeria de Arte Nacional
Plaza Morelos
Caracas, Venezuela
Telephone: (58212) 571 0176