Four days of deep immersion into Colombia's art scene in August last year left uber-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist enthralled by the 'very special' convergence of art and architecture taking place in the gateway to South America. Ever since Obrist's first visit to this neglected corner of the world's most colourful continent, Colombia's principal galleries have been busier than ever trying to cater to demand from the Swiss curator's friends in very high places.
The country's most important annual art fair ArtBo, held in the Colombian capital Bogotá has morphed from a 'you must be kidding' to a must-do event for the globe trotting curators of some of the world's most prestigious art collections. What used to be a cold, corporate affair in Bogotá's principal convention centre, Corferias, has branched out in its seventh year to incorporate almost every aspect of the city's flourishing art scene.
The main show itself has expanded to 57 local and international galleries from 14 different countries. A second hall was thrown open to a strong selection of 21 young artists and talented young architect Manuel Villa was handed the task of designing a children's pavilion to inspire the next Beatriz Gonzalez to take up the paint brush.
La Otra, a parallel event to ArtBo, tempted collectors and pleasure-seekers across town for the fifth year running and was joined this year for the first time by a second event held at the Espacio Odeon, a former theatre converted into a minimalist contemporary cultural centre. As well as keeping the more established events on their toes, the Odeon has created an important permanent cultural draw to the capital's run-down city centre.
While the city's top galleries wined and dined the high-rollers, 11 collective art studios across the city threw open their doors to collectors keen to connect with or uncover the new artists adding a fresh sense of dynamism to Colombia's old guard of Olga de Amaral, Fernando Botero, Hugo Zapata, Antonio Caro and Doris Salcedo. Many of the new generation of artists that had Obrist purring about the 'Bogotá and Medellin miracle' are former architects using the tricks of their trade to construct two-, three-, and at times, four-dimensional reflections on a society looking for a way out of a dark period of history.
Mateo Lopez, Gabriel Sierra, Felipe Arturo, Jorge Lizarazu and this year's inspirational pick for the Venice Biennale, Nicolas Paris, have all used their architectural training to create a new environment that blends architecture, art and design with great success.
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Originally hailing from the UK, Rainbow Blue Nelson first landed in Colombia in search of Tintinesque adventures in 1996. Subsequent forays from his Caribbean base in Cartagena have thrown up a book about Pablo Escobar, and the Wallpaper* City Guides for Santiago, Brasilia, Bogota and Miami. Currently completing a second book about Colombia whilst re-wilding 50 hectares of tropical rainforest on the country's Caribbean coast, he’s interviewed some of South America's most influential figures in art, design and architecture for Wallpaper* and other international publications.
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