Puerto Vallarta: Mexico’s Art Mecca

Come for the beach, stay for one of the best art scenes in the Americas


 

A Pacific Coast paradise, the stunning Mexican city of Puerto Vallarta is often seen by sun-hungry Canadians as a go-to spot for escaping the doldrums of winter. But while it certainly boasts vast stretches of white sand, gorgeous sunsets and picture-perfect scenery (the city’s beauty became world-famous in the 1960s when John Huston shot The Night of the Iguana here and the movie’s star, Richard Burton, carried on a highly publicized affair with Elizabeth Taylor during filming), there’s far more to Puerto Vallarta than palm trees, cool drinks and pretty views.

Puerto Vallarta also happens to be home to a large and active visual-art scene. The city’s vibrant gallery culture has grown apace with its emergence as an international destination, and now masterful works can be found in many local spots—at bustling markets, on the walls of refined galleries, and even in lovely restaurants (which also serve tequila, often made right in town).

Here are some of the best places to browse—and perhaps buy—the art of Vallarta.

The Malecón

This recently revitalized seawall walk, which skirts the Pacific right in the heart of town, is home to a number of bronze sculptures created by some of Mexico’s most famous artists. Take in everything from the whimsical (mermaids and seahorses) to the wonderful (dancers in mid-step), either on your own or during the free guided art walk that takes place every Tuesday morning from November through March.

Colectika

Owned and operated by Canadian transplant Kevin Simpson, this gallery displays the fruits of Simpson’s relationship with the Huichol, an indigenous people who are known for creating amazing psychedelic art, including crazy beaded skulls in a swirling array of colours. Ask, and employees at Colectika will show you a separate collection of ceremonial Huichol artifacts—masks, clay pots and wooden carvings.

Café des Artistes

Part gallery, part fine-dining restaurant, this popular spot, located in a century-old home, boasts one of the best views in Vallarta. Browse the abstract statuary and the pieces that hang on the walls, then dine on the culinary creations sent out from the kitchen by Thierry Blouet, a classically trained French chef.

Centro Cultural Cuale

On an island in the middle of the Cuale River, this large complex, arranged around a lovely central plaza, offers an array of art exhibitions, concerts and dance performances. Those who will be in Vallarta for a while can take regular lessons in guitar, piano, sculpting and more.

Galleria Dante

Bringing the best of the city into one place, Dante boasts eight separate showrooms and more than 60 artists (80 per cent of them Mexican). Ramble through the various rooms and the sunny, open courtyard to see works from up-and-comers and internationally renowned painters and sculptors. The gallery also hosts special events, including meet-and-greets with artists whose pieces are on display.

Old Town Farmers’ Market

Every Saturday from November through July, on a bustling side street in the Zona Romantica, local artists and artisans sit at tables piled high with their work. They’re happy to chat with visitors about the techniques they used while creating their wares, which consist of everything from glasswork and handmade jewelry to surrealist etchings on photo paper.

 

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