Panama: Emerging Art City

The cultural industry in Panama contributes around 6.0% of the Gross Domestic

Product since 2014, it is the duty of the cultural entities to economically support this

growth so that Panama will develop as a power in art and culture in the next five to ten

years. According to the 2014 report of the distribution of funds of the Ministry of

Culture, only $ 841,863.20 were invested in the cities cultural initiatives. We must understand that the creative industry can and should contribute significantly to the economic and social development of the country. If the cultural industry contributes economically and exponentially to the advancement of the region, it is the duty of government institutions to support and invest in the arts and the cultural sector in the same way.


It is not a mystery that around the world there are two cities that attract attention for their cultural, artistic, architectural abundance and of course, the thousands of opportunities that are within reach of the creative industry, they are Paris and New York. These are full of museums, galleries, designers, fashion, and hundreds of tourists who travel to understand and experience the attributes that make these cities the world capitals of art.


The world of art has circulated between Paris and New York and some two or three other cities for years and although organizations and companies are developing in other cities, the art world always travels at least once a year to one of these two capitals for business, public relations and/or research trips. Yes, there are cities like Miami or Vienna, which host the creative world in a similar way, although these cities invite once or twice a year during their famous fairs such as Biennials or Art Basel and events of the creative community, they do not become capitals of art since after the visitors leave, they return to the cities they were before receiving them.


On the other hand, we find emerging art cities such as Detroit, Seoul, Johannesburg, Bogota, and many others. These cities can be identified for the opportunities they give to artists, curators, organizations, entrepreneurs, and creatives who are constantly moving, incubating innovation, and offering a series of new experiences, full of history and future.


In the renowned book published by Phaidon Art Cities of the Future: Avant-garde of the 21st Century a series of data shows us that the major art capital as we know it can become a theme of the past in a few years. In 2016 the United States led the art market with a figure of $ 582.4 million in contemporary art purchases, followed by England with purchases of $ 399.4 million and China with $ 361.7 million. These figures show that, although much of the market and business takes place between New York and/or Paris, cities like London and Shanghai have incredible potential. Not to mention that a large sum of purchases made in the United States comes from international collectors. On the other hand, cities like Mumbai or Panama have a minimal amount of investment in art and culture at an international level and very rarely they reach the big international figures. However, the cultural sector in Panama contributes around 6.0% of the GDP, even more than centers of Latin art with a greater population as is Bogotá with a contribution of 5.8%. It is for the above that we must understand and explore the immense opportunity to grow the internal cultural market and expand it from Panama to the world and not vice versa. Panama has collectors and cultural entrepreneurs. It is for this reason that these emerging art cities such as Detroit, Johannesburg, and Sao Paulo are currently opening and developing powerful and inclusive markets that invite art lovers from all levels of economic, academic, and social levels.


During the conference in 2014 Creating an Art Capital at the famous London auction house Christie's, speakers discussed the elements that create the basis for cities to evolve into an art capital; among these elements: art schools, public museums, artists who can pay rent, financial opportunities from the government, fairs and a strong source of collecting. In this sense, could we say that Panama can become one of the meccas that offer a creative market? Can Panama become one of the world's art capitals? I would like, at this time, to disagree with the elements that curators, collectors, directors, and artists agreed during the above-mentioned conference at Christie's that an art capital should have.

I conclude that cities like Panama offer a series of different qualities that attract and allow growth of an active market, a cultural tourism income, and the growth that an emerging city in creative subjects such as theater, visual arts, and public art offers.


The first element that in my opinion is characteristic of an emerging art city, is the possibility to understand that the internationalization of the market is important for growth, but that it does not mean that its roots must be forgotten. The native artists are of great importance and although the doors are opened to foreigners, these cities are identified through their history and progress experienced by these same artists.


Secondly, the invitation of the private sector to be part of the cultural growth of the city. This second element happens equally in art capitals, however, in emerging art cities, it is important to understand that the private sector is sometimes the only or primary funding for organizations or artists.

Three, creative education accessible to a diverse audience. Fourth, both national and international collecting. This last one refers to the fact that emergent art cities usually contain a great collection component, but that does not necessarily come from national collectors.


Based on the above, I dare to say that Panama has developed not as a capital of art, but as an emerging art city that is willing to receive and invite creative innovators. Museums such as the Biomuseo or events such as the International Book Fair which are internationally recognized; large collections and philanthropic initiatives in the private sector, academic and creative programs in educational institutions, and cultural and art initiatives such as Articruz are some of the initiatives that make it possible for Panama to grow. These allow the city to invited ley players the recognize the wonders that this city presents, and collaborate in creating new circumstances for tourism, economy and social growth of the city.


It is understandable that New York will not cease to be the art capital of the world, and that Paris will always be Paris. This does not necessarily mean that cities with the potential for creative progress must follow in their footsteps or compete against them to grow and evolve. If we start to think that emerging art cities are friendly alternatives for creative advancement, we can conclude that the opportunities would be infinite and that, with conviction, community, and collaboration in a few years, emerging art cities like Panama or Bogota could become of interest for the young artist and the market.