Arte and Soul

Once known for smokestacks and beer, Monterrey is now a place where artists launch international careers and collectors vie for their work.

WE ARE A CLOSED SOCIETY,” says Guillermo Sepúlveda. “We’re incestuous. Families have been here for three hundred years, and no one leaves Nuevo León. We might marry someone from Jalisco, but we don’t leave Monterrey.”

These are strange words considering that Sepúlveda is in the process of explaining how Monterrey, just 150 miles south of Laredo, has become an international center for Latin American art. But rather than emphasize the sophistication of regiomontanos, as the citizens of Monterrey are called, he explains their commitment to place and how a hostile desert climate shaped the character of a people who in turn built a city.

Sepúlveda is the owner of Arte Actual Mexicano, one of Monterrey’s two leading art galleries, and he is generally considered the catalyst that turned a city associated with beer and smokestacks into a center for the arts. When Sepúlveda opened Arte Actual thirty years ago, Monterrey had no galleries of consequence, not one museum of any sort, and no collectors. Today Monterrey is an art market that rivals Mexico City, Houston, and Dallas. (Before the Mexican economy crashed in 1995, art professionals in Texas estimated that Arte Actual and the other leading gallery, Ramis Barquet, were each selling approximately $250,000 in art a month, and the

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