Curacao is known throughout the world as one of the most colorful islands in the Caribbean, both literally and figuratively. While savvy travelers are aware of the island's vibrant local culture and aquatic life offshore, Curacao is most commonly represented as the home of brightly-painted colonial mansions. Though these rows of pastel houses and businesses are certainly a sight to behold, this colorful spirit is on display everyday throughout Curacao in numerous galleries and art centers. Across Curacao, art aficionados and souvenir seekers can find the affordable pieces by both local and internationally-renowned artists, making a gallery tour one of the best ways to experience the island's culture and remember your Caribbean vacation.
In the heart of the Otrobanda section of Curacao's capital, the gallery known as Kas di Alma Blou (Papiamento for "Home of the Blue Soul") displays a wide variety of works by local and internationally-recognized artists. The gallery features three distinct exhibition spaces within one of the city's famous colonial Dutch mansions. While there are many affordable pieces of original art and souvenirs available, scores of visitors have found simple enjoyment in the relaxing atmosphere and peaceful sculpture gardens.
Similar to Kas di Alma Blou, Carib Fine Art in the Hotel Kura Hulanda displays the work of local artists amongst pieces by international art stars, such as Romero Britto. Most interestingly, Carib Fine Art is home to a unique collection of 19th century engravings, including numerous maps and sea charts depicting the "New World."
The work of local art collective Artevishon is on display year-round at Otrobanda's Gallery Mon Art. While the artists represented by Gallery Mon Art have won numerous awards and found collectors throughout the world, the gallery's home is just as notable. Known locally as the Riffort, the Gallery Mon Art's home is, in fact, a nearly 200 year-old colonial fort.
Numerous local artists are also on display at a pair of unique art centers. Landhuis Bloemhof, located on a picturesque plantation outside of Willemstad, houses and supports local artists, while regularly welcoming visitors to exhibitions, museum-style installations and creative lectures. The Open Atelier also exhibits the work of local artists, but has come to be known for its commitment to art education, including classes for tourists of all ages.
Many of Curacao's favorite artists also have their own gallery and studio spaces open to the public. In such galleries, visitors are able to buy original artwork and souvenirs directly from the artists and, in some cases, witness the island's most creative minds at work.
Located near many of the commercial galleries in Otrobanda, the Jean Girigory Gallery features the artist's colorful paintings, each inspired by elements of local culture. Treasured as one of the island's best folk artists, girigory is often on hand to share the stories behind her paintings, sculptures, jewelry and other handmade souvenirs.
Yubi Kirindongo maintains both a gallery and a small museum at his home west of Willemstad. Kirindongo has traveled extensively with his work, including showings at biennial exhibitions in Brazil, Cuba and South Africa. In Curacao, he was granted the government highest artistic honor – the Cola Debrotprize. Having worked since 1978, Kirindongo has amassed an incredible body of work, much of which is on display at his home. Working primarily with metal scraps and other discarded materials to create modern sculptures, Kirindongo's pieces represent the resourceful spirit of Curacao and its diverse population. Though his art-filled home must be viewed by appointment, Kirindongo regularly welcomes curious visitors from all walks of life into his creative world.
The gallery of John Baselmans is full of unique paintings, drawings and sculptures that share the history of Curacao and its people. Many of the artist's paintings and drawings feature both representations of the island's original natives and indigenous plant and animal life. On most days, Baselmans can be seen assembling modern sculptures or working at his drawing table.
Within a profoundly colorful gallery in the Bloempot Shopping Center, self-taught artist Nena Sanchez spends her days rendering a vibrant view of Caribbean life. Known for her still-life paintings filled with local flora and fauna, Sanchez has found collectors throughout the world. The Nena Sanchez Gallery offers both original paintings and affordable souvenirs such as prints and postcards.
With all of these galleries – plus several more – open to travelers, everyone can experience the colorful spirit of Curacao through the eyes of its most creative individuals. With artwork and souvenirs for all tastes and budgets on display, there is also no better way to cherish your trip to one of the Caribbean's most vibrant destinations.
Justin Burch writes articles about travel in Curacao for the Marriott Resorts.