Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Art in prison

If you need to lock people away in maximum security, one ever-popular approach is to build a prison at the end of the earth. The British did it in Tasmania, the Russians did it in Siberia, and the Argentinians did it in Ushuaia, at the very southern tip of the continent. The Ushuaia prison is now being used as a museum, and it’s one of the strangest places I’ve had the pleasure of looking at art.

Most of the huge building is used to document the history of the region and the prison, complete with creepy life-size papier-mache figures of famous inmates.  One wing of the prison has become an art gallery, and some of the larger paintings got their very own cell for display.

Sergio Bocaccio, Regata 69

In places like Ushuaia you don’t get famous artists in the gallery, but many of the works were quite pleasant and I enjoyed the paintings a lot more than I did the gruesome reminders of the prison’s first life.

Sergio Bocaccio, Barrenada

Ana Kijajo, El mar II (reminds me of Franz Kline)

Monica Dal Maso, Lugares exoticos (Exotic places)

Hugo Caballero, Ciudad de la alegria (City of joy) (reminds me of a quilt)

And here’s my favorite little “is that art or is it lunch?” moment. It must be art, because they were made out of something hard and painted.


  1. I've been to Ushuaia - isn't it an extraordinary place?

  2. This was my second visit and you're right! I think there is something special and exotic about anywhere at the end of a road, and this place is truly at the end of a very long road -- the Pan American Highway. There's a sign saying 17,000 km to Alaska. I'm glad I was flying instead of driving.

  3. How fascinating, what a stark but effective setting for the art work. Love the Happy City, it does look like a quilt.
    Thanks for sharing.