New Aspen gallery tours aim to demystify contemporary art

Agustina Mistretta, left, launched Aspen Art Tours in December. She gives free weekly walking tours of contemporary art galleries in downtown Aspen.
Courtesy photo


Aspen Art Tours runs free walking tours on Thursdays at 5 p.m. Private tours and artist studio visits are also available. Book at or via Instagram @aspenarttours

Friends and friends of friends have often asked Agustina Mistretta for a crash course on Aspen’s famed contemporary art scene.

“Everybody would ask me: ‘What are the good shows? What are the good galleries? Can you give me a walk-through?’” she recalled.

So she’s now turned her expertise and passion into a small tour company, offering free tours of local contemporary art galleries.

A curator, Mistretta has lived in Aspen on and off for the past seven years and has worked for hip spots including Skye Gallery and Gonzo Gallery and for the artist Tania Dibbs. In late December, she launched Aspen Art Tours, which offers free weekly walking tours every Thursday evening as well as private tours and artist studio visits by appointment.

The tour usually covers five to six galleries downtown, focused on the booming contemporary art scene here. Stops have included the Skye, which is currently showing interactive furry toy-like sculptures by Spencer Hansen; the Cha Cha Gallery, which is showing new work by the notorious Mr. Brainwash; and Gallerie Macimillian, which this winter is showcasing works by a who’s-who of contemporary artists like Ed Ruscha, David Hockney, Jeff Koons and Roy Lichtenstein, along with Casterline Goodman, which has a Chuck Springer show up and Boesky West, which has a Paul Stephen Benjamin’s “Pure, Very, New.” She’s also brought tour groups to Harvey Preston Gallery, Christopher Martin Gallery and the photo collections at Peter Lik and Guadalipe Laiz.

Mistretta’s tours are open to all comers, from collectors in the market to buy some new pieces to curious observers looking to learn about why these artworks are priced so exorbitantly.

She has run similar walking tours in Barcelona and Buenos Aires and saw an opportunity in Aspen’s gallery scene.

“I realized that sometimes the town was very busy and that the galleries were slow,” she said. “I though maybe that people were intimidated by the galleries — that they didn’t feel comfortable coming in and asking what these shows are about.”

The tours have proved popular, propelled by word of mouth and referrals from hotel concierges, although Mistretta isn’t making any money on the endeavor yet.

“Response has been amazing,” she said. “People are excited about it.”

Mistretta hopes to grow the Aspen Art Tours business while keeping the tours free. She is pursuing nonprofit partners to fund the tours, while aiming to expand into Aspen gallery tours for children and Spanish- and Portuguese-speakers and hoping launch a second tour of the downvalley gallery scene around Basalt and Carbondale.

“My idea is to engage with a nonprofit to support my work, so that it can be sustainable,” she said. “I’m not making any money from it but I want to give back to the town.”

Aspen Times Weekly

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