Cusco’s delightfully dinky museums
With all the Incan ruins to see and llamas to pose with, most people visiting Peru’s Sacred Valley probably wouldn’t stop in any of Cusco‘s museums if admission wasn’t included in the boleto turistico.
Not us. Todd and I would have made our way to the museums regardless, if only to counteract our Peruvian “Ruin Fatigue” (similar to “Church Fatigue” we suffered in Italy, “Temple Fatigue” in Thailand, and “Damp Cave Fatigue” in Laos).
It’s fair to say that Cusco’s museums are dinky. But, even the dinkiest of museums usually offers something up to the art addicted. A visually illustrated bit of history, a gaudy bauble worth coveting, or an artist with a surprising talent.
While nowhere near the league of Lima’s Museo Larco, Cusco’s Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Museo del Instituto Americano del Arte, and Museo Historico Regional each had an oddball heart.
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
Cusco’s Contemporary Art Museum is entirely unfair to the artists in its permanent collection. Most paintings lack a description, leaving the cultural meaning and social strife behind the compositions left unexplained.
In museums however, no label is better than a label done poorly, or worse an inflated-ego, jargon-packed artist statement. At the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo we’re left to speculate and WTF?-ize through the lens of what little we’ve learned so far about Peru’s history and culture.
Museo del Arte Popular del Instituto Americano del Arte
The Folk Art Museum is the most lackluster and yet surprising. The display cases are crowded and jenky, occasionally littered with dust bunnies and dead bugs. The lighting is fluorescent and insufficient. Labels of the art are non-existent or faded to illegibility. This museum doesn’t have curators, it has hoarders.
Yet, I wish we had more time to spend at the Museo del Arte Popular to enjoy its small pleasures. There are hundreds of creations, most with humor and heart, depicting everyday life and personal faith. People are crafted so passionately and shown engaged in actions so real, that we spy many scenes familiar because we’ve encountered them in our time in Peru.
Museo Historico Regional
The most blah for our tastes, Cusco’s Regional History Museum houses lots of rote paintings of rulers political and religious, the old varnish often oxidized to near black.
The Museo Historico Regional‘s collection suffers mostly from lack of context and continuity. Some exhibits and pieces are explained in detail — like the life of half Incan, half Spanish historian Garcilaso de la Vega, whose former home houses the museum. Others are dashed together like a child’s last-minute diorama assignment — like the local food exhibit with, yes, a silly diorama on guinea pig breeding. We linger in a small room of more modern, lively art before moving on.
Or, perhaps I’m just being a little harsh and “Museum Fatigue” has set in.