Galería Quetzalli is tucked into a courtyard across from the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, a magnificently decorated 16th-century church whose plaza is a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. On our way to the gallery, we slip inside the church and its explosion of baroque art. Past frescoes and gold leaf and dozens of sculptured saints, we walk through and on into the Galería Quetzalli, from the aesthetic of 1660 to clean contemporary design. It's like time travel. Suddenly we're surrounded by postmodern paintings and sculpture, some of it as sparing as Santo Domingo is lavish.
Most of the art displayed here is created by Oaxacan natives, but Galería Quetzalli often exhibits work from elsewhere to broaden the perspective of local artists. Director Graciela Cervantes also arranges to export local work; Galería Quetzalli has mounted exhibits in Berlin and Bologna and San Francisco, among others, and assisted the Inter-American Development Bank and Mexican Cultural Institute with shows in Washington, D.C.
The galleries and artists themselves depend almost entirely upon tourism, however. While alebríjes and tapestries are exported around the world, fine art is not dispensed in mass quantity. Art collecting is the province of the wealthy, and Oaxaca state is poor. Without a steady stream of tourists to buy local art, young Oaxacan artists would have no outlet for their work, and no one would arise to follow Morales, Tamayo, Toledo.
That's part of the reason why the Inter-American Development Bank mounted its Oaxacan exhibit, "Dreaming Mexico." The bank's mission is fighting poverty through regional development, and culture is part of that. "If this poor state has such a wealth in culture and 300,000 people make a living at it, imagine what they can do with a little help," Felix Angel explains.