What You Need to Know About the Colombian Art Market

ARTBO director Maria Paz Gaviria talks about Bogotá's rocketing cultural scene.

María Paz Gaviria, the energetic director of ARTBO, the annual international art fair in Bogotá, Colombia, sat down with artnet News in the fair’s VIP lounge on opening day (October 24) to discuss the Colombian art scene, the growth of the ARTBO fair (this year marked its tenth anniversary), and its impact on the market and the city of Bogotá.

“The Colombian art scene is in no way emerging,” says Gaviria emphatically. “Colombia has had a fascinating cultural art scene for many many years now. It has been growing exponentially but I think it’s just now beginning to be visible both internationally and locally.”

Indeed, ARCOmadrid the premier contemporary fair in Spain recently announced that Colombia will be the featured guest country at the 2015 edition next February, with a special section of galleries selected by curator Juan A. Gaitán. There will be a program of exhibitions at major art institutions throughout Madrid, with support from the Colombian Embassy in Spain and the Colombian Ministry of Culture.

Gaviria, who has served as director of ARTBO for the past three years, is the daughter of former Colombian president César Gaviria who served from 1990-94 and who famously led the fight against Pablo Escobar, the Cali drug cartel, and various guerilla factions.

ARTBO was launched as a project of the Bogotá chamber of commerce with the goal of strengthening the cultural art scene and “obviously to create a kind of a platform for cultural activity,” says Gaviria, adding “my job has been to follow that line.” ARTBO has become stronger and larger with each edition, with a total of 66 galleries from 30 cities exhibiting this year, as compared with 29 galleries from seven countries in its inaugural 2005 edition. Applications from galleries were up 30 percent this year she says, adding that feedback from galleries indicates a spike in the number of active Colombian art collectors.

Among high profile Bogotá galleries like Casas Riegner and Beatriz Esguerra Arte, were many from Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, along with well-known Manhattan galleries Leon Tovar, Nohra Haime, Josée Bienvenu and Y Gallery.

Carmen Araujo Arte of Caracas, Venezuela was a third time exhibitor at this year’s ARTBO, with an eye-catching booth including works by Juan Iribarren, Marco Montiel-Soto, Luis Poleo, Alexandra Kuhn and Gerardo Rosales. Sales were good and are still being finalized, reports spokesperson Oriana Hernández. She told artnet News “in relation to the previous years, we saw that there were more activities around the show. We also saw that the profile of the galleries within the fair has become more contemporary and the new space for artists’ books is a proposal that should be repeated in the following editions.”

Goals of the Fair

Outlining what she says are her “obsessions” regarding the goals of the fair, Gaviria talked about “the internationalization of the Colombian art scene and the fair. We are kind of creating a whole dialogue for the Colombian art scene and at the same time bringing the international,” aspect here. In addition to the main section of the fair, this year’s edition included: Projects, featuring work by recognized contemporary artists with gallery representation, selected and invited by curator José Roca; Artecámara, which seeks to promote and share the work of young Colombian artists with no commercial representation: Reference, featuring artworks created between 1950 and 1980 to provide historical context; and an artists’ book section.

“My other role that I’ve really been focused on is promoting the art both within the collecting audience but also within the general public,” she says. “The fair has been instrumental in a sort of democratization of the art world within Colombia itself.”  Noting that there were four satellite art fairs this year, compared with two last year, and one fair in 2012, Gaviria says: “That is wonderful news to me. That means we’re really making the market grow, making the city grow. I think the fair has been instrumental in those two things.”


VIP Preview night on October 23 at ARTBO in Bogotá

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