Contemporary Art in Bogota
Like any capital city with a population of over 10 million, Bogota hosts a wide variety of art galleries ranging from the well-known Museo Botero, the municipal gallery MAMBO (Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogota), through an impressive range of private galleries run by enthusiastic young curators to some impressive displays of street art. This Travelogue concentrates on the art scene in Bogota, but other cities also have lots to offer, most notably Cartagena and Medellin.
Whilst instantly recognizable, the sculptures of Fernando Botero may not be to everyone’s taste but they are iconic both within and outside Colombia. In 2000, he donated over 200 artworks to create the Museo Botero, 123 of which are his own, and the rest from well-known international artists. The museum is located on the walk up to the centre of the historic Candelaria District and makes a good start to a tour of Bogota. MAMBO was established in 1962 and has hosted exhibitions by some well-known names. It continues to host a continually changing program of exhibitors and is well worth checking out.
But for us the modern art highlight of Bogota is the large number of small private galleries, run by young curators in their twenties and thirties. One of the largest of these is Espacio Odeon, housed in an impressive old Odeon Cinema building opened in the 1940’s but which subsequently fell into complete dereliction. Since 2011, it has been partially restored with original paintwork and plaster retained as found, and sections of floor missing which creates an impressive double height exhibition space. The creator and director of the gallery is the young and dynamic Tatiana Reis. The changing exhibitions are often thought provoking, concentrating on subjects such as wasteful food production.
Not far from La Candelaria is the bohemian district of La Macarena where there is a wide variety of ateliers to visit. Examples of these are NC-arte run by the non profit ‘Neme Foundation’ in an historic building where exhibitors are invited to maximise the impact of the space. Espacio El Dorado was opened in 2015 and features three main exhibition spaces comprising black, grey and white cubes.
Similar in concept is the San Felipe District where there are around 15 exhibition spaces housed in small restored building, which can be visited on foot accompanied by a specialist guide. A typical example of this is Espacio kb, which opens in conjunction with an adjacent private gallery, where the curators are on hand to talk about the displays and share a drink or two with visitors.
Finally, not to be missed is a tour by car around the city to pick out some of the best street artworks. These are often distinguished from graffiti by virtue of being on walls and buildings where they are clearly welcomed or even commissioned by the building owners.
One important fact – you do not have to be an art collector or connoisseur to really enjoy visiting a few of these galleries and meeting their curators; it will give you a fascinating insight into the current art scene, particularly in the context of Colombia’s recent history.