An art lover’s guide to Colombia
You might not expect to hear the words ‘Colombia’ and ‘art’ in the same sentence. However, from private parties in the country’s best galleries to lessons taught by artists in their studios, there is something for everyone. We can design some extraordinary journeys for art enthusiasts. Here are some of our favourite experiences in Bogotá, Cartagena and Medellín:
The Colombian capital has a thriving art scene, with plenty of traditional museums, trendy galleries and interesting, politically inspired street art. A good place to start would be the city’s historic centre, La Candelaría. We can arrange for a brilliant private guide – a young lawyer with a PhD in Law and a Masters in Political Theory from The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) – to take you to the Plaza Bolívar, the setting of a few of the most important events that shaped Colombia’s past, and then continue on to some of the best street art spots. He now works at the International Center for Transitional Justice, so has a wonderful insight into the nation’s history and politics.
A stop-off at nearby Fragmentos, a space of ‘art and memory’, is also imperative. Here, artist and sculptor Doris Salcedo has created a monument out of molten metal from the weapons of the FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
Another burgeoning art district is San Felipe, home to many smaller contemporary art galleries displaying the work of up-and-coming artists. In the past, we have organised for clients to meet gallery owners for a game of tejo, a traditional sport where you throw metal pucks at small gunpowder targets, in a ‘dive bar’. This is a fun way of spending time with locals in a relaxed setting and gaining insider access to the neighbourhood and its art scene.
We can secure exclusive access to La Cometa Galería, one of Colombia’s most iconic art spaces. We will ask owner and director Esteban Jaramillo to accompany you, if he isn’t travelling, who will recount the gallery’s story and take you behind the scenes into the archive rooms, where paintings are fixed and packed. This is a fascinating experience for those lucky few.
For those who have a penchant for fine dining and art, we can arrange an extraordinary evening at the Museo Nacional de Colombia. The building, which was constructed as a prison in 1823, harbours a wealth of treasures – from archeological artefacts to 20th-century indigenous and Afro-Colombian art. We have the contacts in place to create a dinner set up in one of the museum’s most beautiful spaces, dished up by well-known chef Alejandro Cuellar.
Similarly, it’s possible for us to arrange a private party for up to 100 guests in the famous Museo Botero – named after artist and sculptor, Fernando Botero. The museum houses one of Latin America’s most important international art collections. There are several elegant settings, our favourite being the courtyard, which we think would be a sensational spot for a spectacular celebratory dinner.
Although not as big as Bogotá, this delightful city – with its colonial architecture and Caribbean culture – has some wonderful art experiences. A specialist can take you gallery hopping in the Old Town and Getsemaní in search of characterful galleries and artists’ studios.
You could also spend a day with one of the city’s best mural painters, Andres Molina. He will show you around this colourful city, revealing the inspiration behind some of his creations, many of which adorn the walls of Cartagena’s restaurants, hotels and bars. He will also take you to his studio in La Presentacion, a world-class cultural centre, where you can paint your own artwork, learning about different techniques and styles. This is particularly suitable for families but can, of course, be tailor-made to all.
Another fun outing to be enjoyed one afternoon focuses on local crafts. Your guide will take you to some fabulous, secret antique and handicraft stores, free of tourists, where you can listen to the tales behind the exquisite artefacts on sale, including their origins, their cultural significance, the indigenous communities that produced them and the materials they used.
Although the hip capital of Colombia’s mountainous Antioquia province may have a troubled past, accompanied by one of our guides, it is now safe to explore. The city is rich in cultural heritage: the Botero Plaza is decorated by sculptures by Fernando Botero, with the Museo de Antioquia displaying more of the artist’s work, and there are numerous galleries to explore as well as prolific street art.
Nowhere is Medellín’s history reflected more powerfully than in Comuna 13. Similar to the favelas in Rio, the area has been transformed. Once a notorious district worth avoiding, it is now a cornerstone of Medellín’s reinvention as one of the world’s most innovative metropolises. Featuring dramatic murals, public terraces and park-libraries, it connects with the rest of the city via cable-cars, escalators and a metro system. Our local expert will introduce you to an art collective here, where some members are former gangsters who have played their part in propelling Medellín into a thriving street art destination.
To top off your time in Medellín, let us arrange for you to dine at the MAMM (Modern Art Museum of Medellín) with Carmen Angel and Rob Pevitts, the owners of Carmen, one of the city’s best restaurants. The Californian couple, both alumni of Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, have lived in Colombia for eight years and set up four restaurants in that time. These foodie entrepreneurs are as fascinating as they are fun.