Gaston Ugalde /   Gastón Ugalde

Bolivia 1944

Installation, Sculpture, Performance Art, Conceptual Art, Photography, Land Art, Painting, Collage

Gaston Ugalde
Gastón Ugalde
April 12, 2016
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

Ten million people live in Bolivia, a home of multitude of ethnicities, with over 35 languages spoken. A local artist, Gastón Ugalde, found his inspiration impeller in its socio-anthropological dynamics. During his six decades-long career, this artist have been devoted to transforming into art a strong adherence to a motherland he feels, depicting an intangibility of nation’s diverse cultures. Somewhere along this way, Ugalde earned a title of enfant terrible of the Bolivian art world, thanks to his riotous personality, molded by pretty eclectic education and insatiable curiosity.

Ugalde has been transforming into art his strong adherence to a motherland

Gastón Ugalde -Gastón Ugalde, Masks from the serie Chamanes, image © Haupt and Binder
Gastón Ugalde -Gastón Ugalde, Masks from the serie Chamanes, image © Haupt and Binder

Ugalde’s Education: Architecture, Economics, Political Science and Finally – Art

Gastón Ugalde was born in Nuestra Señora de La Paz, also called Chuqi Yapu or Chuquiago, Bolivia’s third-most populous city, located in Aymara. He studied Architecture at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, but also Economics and Political Science at the Canadian Simon Fraser University. Canada is where he gained his artistic education as well, as he attended Fine art at the Vancouver School of Art. At the beginning of his career, Ugalde experimented with video art, pioneering this media in Bolivia of the 70s. By now, the spectrum of the media he worked in increased so much that he mastered the fields of performance, painting, sculpture, collage, installation, land art, and photography.

Coca plant is a vital part of the religious cosmology of the Andean cultures

Gastón Ugalde - Coca-Cola, 2010
Gastón Ugalde – Coca-Cola, 2010

Coca Plant in Ugalde’s Art

Named Andean Warhol by the critics, Ugalde based the essential concept of his work on the socio-political shape of Bolivia, its traditions and common people’s way of life. One of the elements he always leans on are spiritual rituals, especially those that include coca plant, a vital part of the religious cosmology of the Andean cultures of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, northern Argentina, and Chile. The traces of using coca leaves go way back, as the archaeologists determined it was used for chewing with lime 8000 years ago. Gastón Ugalde used the opportunity of being an internationally recognized artist, to point out the consequences of the clash between the traditional use of this plant and its recreational product cocaine, widespread all around the world. He started in the 70s, by making portraits of the politicians out of coca leaves. Afterwards, he moved onto U.S. dollar – a symbol of a social class in Bolivia, Coca-Cola logo and a map of the United States of America. By using raw leaves of the coca plant, Ugalde creates a strong political association to the material, being painfully ironic regarding the economic collapse of Bolivia and, on the other side, a never-ending bloom of the narcotics industry and its biggest consumer – U.S.

Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt pan in the world

Gastón Ugalde -Untitled, 2010
Gastón Ugalde -Untitled, 2010

Salt Pan

The other theme he chose to illuminate is Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt pan in the world and what lies under it: a brine substance with more than half of the world’s lithium reserves. The questionable activities of excavation is what worries Ugalde, particularly the tradition of exporting raw materials to be used for the industrialization of the West, leaving out Bolivia from the chain of profit. He created series of artworks that draws on Christian iconography, in order to underline the suffering of Bolivian people. This artist has been present in the Bolivian pavilion at Venice in 2009, when he presented Marcha Por La Vida/ March for Life, a patchwork of traditional Inca and Aymara blankets joined together to represent our shared social fabric, imposing a universal question about the humanity – its values and its purpose.

Marcha po la Vida – March for Life

Gastón Ugalde - Marcha por la vida II, 2009
Gastón Ugalde – Marcha por la vida II, 2009


Ugalde has won many awards for his work – in 2002, together with Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, and Uruguayan visual artist Luis Camnitzer, he was honored with the Mercosur Konex Award. His work can be found in numerous public and private collections worldwide: Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, Estrellita Brodsky Collection New York, Pietro Valsechi collection Rome Italy, Museum Am Dom Trier Germany, Museum Villa Haiss Germany, MAXXI – Museo Nazionale Delle Arti del XXI Secolo Rome Italy, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo MAC Santiago, Chile, Museo Nacional de Arte La Paz, Bolivia and many others

This artist is represented by Fabien Castanier gallery.

Gastón Ugalde lives and works in his beloved La Paz, Bolivia.

Artwork images © artist
Featured image: artist’s profile nesxt to his work © Natalia Lara Díaz Berrio

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
201510 Bienal do MercosulPortoalegre BrasilGroup
2015SP ArteSao Paulo, BrasilGroup
2015Rituals et DependancesGalerie Celal ParisGroup
2014Territorios de la imagen, selection of the Juan Mulder collectionLimaGroup
2014(un)realMaddox Gallery, London UKGroup
2014Animals in the WallsLondon UKGroup
2014Paris Photo LAParisGroup
2014Bolivar HallLondonGroup
2014Museo de AmericaMadridGroup
2013I Bienal del SurPanamaGroup
2013IX Buenos Aires PhotoArgentinaGroup
2013Reality CheckMassArt BostonGroup
2013Monumental InstallationIADB Washington, DCGroup
2013Group ShowSmithsonian, American Indian MuseumGroup
2013IntersectionsMuseum of Latin American Art Long Beach CaliforniaGroup
2013Group Show Coral Gables Museum, Florida USAGroup
2013Art LimaLima, PerúGroup
2012Art Platform Los AngelesHACSGroup
2012HFAFHouston, TXGroup
2012Art WynwoodHardcore Art Contemporary SpaceGroup
2012ART MonacoMonacoGroup
2012Scope NYHardcore Art Contemporary SpaceGroup
2012Almas de SalMueso Nacional de Arte, La PazGroup
2012FIA CaracasVenezuelaGroup
2011BoundariesMuseum of Latin American Art Long Beach CaliforniaGroup
2011Houston Fine Art FairHoustonGroup
2011The Latin American RevolutionLMNT MiamiGroup
2011ARTPalm BeachGroup
2011ARTbeatWashington DCGroup
2011MiamicitoDot 51 Gallery MiamiGroup
2011PintaNew YorkGroup
2011Modern PanicLondonGroup
2011Buenos Aires PhotoArgentinaGroup
2011Rostros ShamanicosGalería Christopher Paschall Siglo XXI BogotaGroup
2011Down and UnderHardcore Art Contemporary SpaceGroup
2010Group ShowSaatchi Gallery, LondonGroup
2010Group ShowVilla Hais Museum, BerlinGroup
2010Group ShowMuseum Am Dom TrierGroup
2010Group ShowSiguaraya Gallery, BerlinGroup
200953rd Venice BiennaleVeniceGroup
2009TrienalSantiago de ChileGroup
2009Art Santa FeNew MexicoGroup
2008Group ShowNota Gallery, La PazGroup
2007Bienal de ValenciaValenciaGroup
2007Group ShowCasa de las Americas, MadridGroup
2006Cuerpos PintadosSao PauloGroup
2005Group ShowMuseo de Arte Moderno, La PazGroup
2005Group ShowNecker Island, British Virgin IslandsGroup
2004Group ShowMuseum of Contemporary Art SantiagoGroup
2004La RecoletaBuenos AiresGroup
2004Cuerpos PintadosSantiagoGroup
2004Group ShowN Gallery DusseldorfGroup
2004Cuerpos PintadosBuenos AiresGroup
2002Group ShowEvan Gallery, New YorkGroup
200149th Venice BiennaleVeniceGroup
1999XII Bienal de la HavanaCubaGroup
1997I Visual Arts Biennial of MERCOSURPorto AlegreGroup
1996Seven Visual Artists from BoliviaMuseum of Contemporary Art, SantiagoGroup
1992Expo Seville ’92SevilleGroup
1991Museum of Contemporary ArtCaracasGroup
1990Mito y Magia en las Americas: Los ochentaBoliviaGroup
1990MARCO Contemporary Art MuseumMonterreyGroup
1989II Cuenca’s Biennial of PaintingCuencaGroup
1987I Cuenca’s Biennial of PaintingCuencaGroup
1986VII Biennial of San JuanLatin American & Caribbean EngravingGroup
1986IV LatinAmerican Biennial, New YorkGroup
1986I International Biennial of PaintingMiamiGroup
1986II Bienal de la HavanaHavanaGroup
1985XVII Biennial of Sao PauloSao PauloGroup
1985Neo Expressionism de Tres ContinentesTeyler Gallery, VAGroup
1985III Biennial of GraphicsCayman Gallery, New YorkGroup
1984Neo Expresionism from Three ContinentsTeyler Gallery, VAGroup
1984New Forms of FigurationCenter for Inter American Relations, New YorkGroup
1983VI Biennial of San JuanLatin American & Caribbean EngravingGroup
1982XII Biennial of ParisParisGroup
1981V Biennial of San JuanLatin American & Caribbean EngravingGroup
1980IV Biennial of MaldonadoMuseum of American Art, MaldonadoGroup
1980Group ShowHuntington Art Gallery, Austin, TexasGroup
1979XV Biennial of Sao PauloSao PauloGroup
1978I BiennialLatin American Art; Sao PauloGroup