“Someone, someday, could write a short story about the origins of the Collection. It all began with a single donation.” Professor Valerie Fraser for Wyvern, Wednesday 19 January, 1994.

Thirty years of ESCALA

ESCALA, the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America at the University of Essex, was founded by staff and students in 1993 and inaugurated in December of that year with an exhibition at the University Gallery, now Art Exchange, and this year we celebrate 30 years since that foundation. 

As part of the celebrations, we are exhibiting artworks from the collection in an exhibition titled Trinta / Treinta / Thirty years of the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America. The exhibition will present artworks on display across the Colchester campus (at Art Exchange, the Silberrad Student Centre, and the Constable Building) which showcase the richness of the artwork that forms our collection and embodies and addresses different themes such as human rights, the environment, indigenous America, pop art and political activism, economics, and religious syncretism. 

The exhibition is both a celebration of the enduring legacy of the Collection in studying Latin America as a rich cultural concept at the University of Essex and looking at its future role as a platform for diverse creative voices from Latin America in the UK. 

In looking to the future of the collection, Rebeca Romero, a London-based Peruvian artist, has been commissioned to develop a new artwork to be shown for the first time at Art Exchange responding to the collection and its desire to look to the future whilst also celebrating the past.

Trinta/Treinta/Thirty Years of the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America is curated by Dr Sarah Demelo and Gisselle Giron with the Mapping ESCALA through the archives segment of the exhibition further curated by Gisselle Giron and Santiago Valencia Parra (2022-3 MA Curating, School of Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies).

"This 30-year milestone signifies our enduring commitment to showcasing the diverse stories and artistic voices from Latin America. It is a testament to the collaborative efforts of artists, scholars, and our vibrant community of staff and students here at the University of Essex. Each artwork echoes the collection's journey, contributing to a dynamic dialogue on Latin American art's profound impact. We invite all to join us in this exhibition, embracing the past, present, and future of the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America." Dr Sarah Demelo and Gisselle Giron.

The exhibition opens on 24 November 2023 and closes on 2 February 2024 and includes a public programme of events:


ESCALA is an accredited museum, primarily a teaching and research resource for staff and students and a means to exchange art, knowledge, and expertise globally. The Collection is based at the University’s Colchester Campus and has more than 750 artworks in a broad range of media dating largely from 1960s to the present.

ESCALA has a purpose-designed Teaching and Research space in the Constable Building and artworks on public display in the ESCALA Gallery in the Silberrad Student Centre as well as an online catalogue, a Documentation Centre and library of approximately 4,500 archival items, and the Albert Sloman Library contains approximately 10,000 books on art from Latin America. Together these combined resources make the University of Essex the most complete resource for art from Latin America in the UK.

Staff, students, alumni, artists, and community participation

ESCALA thrives due to the continual support of staff, students, and alumni from the University of Essex, as well as artists from Latin America across the world and the larger community who embrace art from the region. To celebrate the people who have played and continue to play a fundamental role in our history and development, we invited them to choose an artwork from the Collection which reflects their interest and relationship to ESCALA.

We drafted a shortlist of 41 artworks which reflects ESCALA’s broad thematic approach to Latin America from which we asked guests to choose from and share a 150-word text or 3-minute recorded audio or video material about the artwork which they feel the most passionate about or which holds a special memory for them.

Our guests include:

  • Previous ESCALA curators
  • ESCALA collaborators and Essex alumni
  • Current staff and lecturers at Essex who engage actively with the collection
  • Students from Art History, Government, Law, and Language and Linguistics (we asked different lecturers to nominate returning students who would be interested in engaging with the collection and collaborating with the exhibition)
  • Voices from the larger Colchester community who have engaged with ESCALA: curators and academics from Colchester Castle, and University of Cambridge.


Trinta/Treinta/Thirty Years of the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America at Art Exchange includes work by Antonio Henrique Amaral, Olga Blinder, Glauco Otavio Castilho Rodrigues, Carlos Cruz- Diez, Wilson Díaz, León Ferrari, Demian Flores Cortés, Carlos Hermosilla, Hudinilson Jr, Graciela Iturbide, Yolanda López, Jorge Macchi, Anna Maria Maiolino, F Marquespenteado, Raúl Martínez, Cildo Meireles, Sandra Monterroso, Mora Brothers, Ogwa, Eduardo Padilha, Hilda Paz, Rebeca Romero, Milagros de la Torre, Cecilia Vicuña, and Mariana Yampolsky.

Trinta/Treinta/Thirty continues at the Silberrad Student Centre and includes work by Alberto Baraya, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Siron Franco, Fernando Montes, Julieth Morales, Daniela Ortiz, Nadín Ospina, Raúl Piña, and Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar.

Trinta/Treinta/Thirty continues at the Constable Building and includes work by José Pedro Costigliolo, María Freire, and Fanny Sanín.