Cultural Crossroads

The Creative Spirit of Colombia's ArtBo Art Fair

By Aryana Khan
In the spirit of Cultural Crossroads and following a busy week of contemporary art here in London, we take a moment to reflect on another, less talked about but no less special, art fair that took place at the same time as Istanbul Art Week in mid-September, in a very different region and at a considerably higher altitude! ArtBo in Bogotá, Colombia.

B oasting lush tropical mountains and overflowing with the warmth and kindness of Colombian culture (not so different from our own Eastern hospitality!) – there is a certain magic to Bogotá and the country at large. Colombia resonates with under-acknowledged artistic and creative spirit. One can also simultaneously indulge other sensibilities too: not least the love of emeralds, coffee and chocolate – and the desire to improve one’s salsa and merengue one-two step…

Teresa Currea, "DERVISH" 2019. Pencil, ink and watercolor on cut out paper, 46 × 26 × 25 cm.

Continuing on the ‘global art bus tour’ and fresh from the Istanbul Biennial, Turkey again seemed to find its way into the fold at the fair in Bogotá, as seen in the work of Teresa Currea whose stunning pieces drew whimsical connections to miniature painting – having been inspired by her travels after an artist residency at arthere Istanbul in 2018.

"A Logo For America" by Chilean Artist Alfredo Jaar. Photo by Blaine Bolus

In its 15th edition, ArtBo featured 67 galleries from across South America (Beatriz Esguerra Art, Galeria El Museo and Galeria Sextante – to name but a few), but also saw strong representation of international names such as: Leon Tovar Gallery, Elba Benitez Gallery and Mor Charpentier. Price points started at just below 1,000 USD, going up to 400,000 USD for a painting by Colombian native, Fernando Botero, with many fantastic pieces at prices just under 2,500 USD from talented emerging artists in the region.

This year Aaron Cezar, Director of Delfina Foundation in London was invited to curate Proyectos, which explored the "relationship between art, performance, and everyday life., and how performance can be a way of processing the world all around us".

ArtBo was directed by Maria Paz Gavira who has overseen the fair since 2012. The organizers put a superb amount of care into introducing local and international collectors to various institutions and galleries, notably, Galería Santa Fe, a dynamic contemporary art space which opened only several months ago with a vision to support local arts and culture.

The fair was well attended by local patrons, collectors, connoisseurs and art lovers at large. Adding to the buzz of the week and running alongside ArtBo was Barcú Feria, an alternative fair/festival, in the old part of town. Other institutions not to be missed: the fabulous Gold Museum, and of course, the Botero Museum.

Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez with Beatriz Esguerra of BEA Gallery ; Works by Pablo Arrazola.

Though geographically quite far, this fair is a reminder that such platforms are truly cross-cultural meeting points: through the wonderful people they bring together from across the globe, or the diverse artworks on view. It is also a gentle form of encouragement to look beyond our known borders, to see new things and draw new (less immediately, obvious) connections. It isn’t Basel and it certainly isn’t Frieze, but that’s precisely its special magic – the raw creative spirit feels so much more palpable.

ArtBO Fair Special Guests Party at Andrés Carne de Res - Chía. Pictured: Blaine Bolus, Cami Duarteo, Ghazi Atallah, Ariana Afshar, and Aryana Khan of Sotheby's Middle East : Photo by Cámara de Comercio de Bogotá.

It is well worth the trip, and an art fair is one of the best ways to get to see this incredible country and begin to get to know its invigorating heartbeat. You will return freshly inspired by Colombia’s hospitable culture, its unspoiled landscapes, its overflowing energy. and if so inclined, return having become a better dancer with an improved one-two step.

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