One of Uruguay’s Most Prominent Artists Is Funding and Building the Country’s First Contemporary Art Museum

Sarah Cascone

Pablo Atchugarry, one of Uruguay’s leading contemporary artists, is planning to open the nation’s first contemporary art museum in the resort town of Punta del Este.

Dubbed the Museo Arte Contemporâneo Atchugarry, the project is an outgrowth of Fundación Pablo Atchugarry, which the artist founded 15 years ago to promote the visual arts in Uruguay.

The foundation has since grown to include an auditorium, galleries, an outdoor amphitheater, and a 99-acre sculpture park. The museum will be the latest addition to its expansive grounds.Construction is underway on MACA, the Atchugarry Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be Uruguay's first contemporary art museum. Photo by Lorena Larriestra and Nicolas Vidal.Construction is underway on MACA, the Atchugarry Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be Uruguay's first contemporary art museum. Photo by Lorena Larriestra and Nicolas Vidal.

Construction is underway on MACA, the Atchugarry Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be Uruguay’s first contemporary art museum. Photo by Lorena Larriestra and Nicolas Vidal.

“It’s a way to integrate nature and art,” Atchugarry told Artnet News. “It’s going to be a real revolution for Uruguayan artists because it’s a tangible example of the transformative power of art.”

Construction began two years ago on a building designed by architect Carlos Ott. The opening is set for January 8, 2022, with Leonardo Noguéz, who is trained as an architect, hired to serve as director.Construction is underway on MACA, the Atchugarry Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be Uruguay's first contemporary art museum. Photo by Lorena Larriestra and Nicolas Vidal.

Construction is underway on MACA, the Atchugarry Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be Uruguay’s first contemporary art museum. Photo by Lorena Larriestra and Nicolas Vidal.

Originally, Atchugarry envisioned an institution dedicated to the art of Uruguay, but as his plans have evolved, MACA has become international in scope.

“It’s a museum where you can discover national artists, and there is an exchange with other countries,” he said.

The museum will open with a show from the estate of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, whom Atchugarry has long admired.

“They’re so revolutionary,” he said. “They express a spirit of freedom in their art.”Pablo Atchugarry during construction on MACA, the Atchugarry Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo by Lorena Larriestra and Nicolas Vidal.

Pablo Atchugarry during construction on MACA, the Atchugarry Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo by Lorena Larriestra and Nicolas Vidal.

The collection is largely drawn from Atchugarry’s personal holdings, bolstered by long-term loans from private collections in Uruguay and other collections in Latin America and Europe.

Featured artists include Richard Anuszkiewicz, Carlos Cruz Diez, Wifredo Lam, Julio Le Parc, Louise Nevelson, Vik Muniz, and Frank Stella.

Among the works on view will be the very first sculpture Atchugarry carved from marble—now his signature material—back in 1979.The grounds of the Fundación Pablo Atchugarry. Photo by Lorena Larriestra and Nicolas Vidal.

The grounds of the Fundación Pablo Atchugarry. Photo by Lorena Larriestra and Nicolas Vidal.

Atchugarry travelled extensively as a young person, which gave him many opportunities to encounter art. He hopes MACA can offer the same experience to young Uruguayans closer to home.

“When I was 20 years old, I saw an exhibition of Alexander Calder at the national museum in Montevideo and it was a life-changing experience,” he said. “Being able to see art in person without having to go abroad becomes a starting part, it opens the first connection with art.”

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