The art world’s ever growing international reach has fostered a new breed of collector: those seeking little-known communities, rich in both fine art and craft traditions, which have developed a rich form of contemporary artistic practice that comments on both local and global concerns.
In recent years, Colombia has come to be recognised as one such centre, with events such as the Bogota-based ArtBo launching its 11th edition this year, and La Otra Bienal de Arte (La Otra Bienal de Arte) moving into its ninth year this autumn. This vibrant scene rarely fails to stimulate: as Gianni Jetzer, curator of this year’s biennial, told Artspace, ‘La Ortra is amazing. It reminds me of the pioneer years of 1990s Europe when biennials had that adventurous anything-is-possible feeling. It’s almost like a grassroots movement.’
Doris Selcado (B. 1958), Shibboleth I-IV, 2007. Archival pigment inkjet print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag. Sheet size: 29 5/8 x 22 1/4 in/ 75.2 x 56.5 cm. Edition of 45, no. 22. © Doris Salcedo
That’s certainly what must have been on Vivian Pfeiffer’s mind when she conceived Colombia Recounted: A Project of Contemporary Colombian Art,, an exhibition produced in collaboration with Christie’s Latin American Painting Department and now on an extended run until 31 July. Based at Christie’s New York, Pfeiffer has created a show which crosses genres, presenting visitors and collectors with works that explore new forms of artistic practice. For the Christie’s specialists involved in the project, it’s a chance to share knowledge of a very specific field: ‘It’s an opportunity to show our strength as tastemakers’ says Morgan Scott, exhibition manager for the Rockefeller Center galleries.
Luis Fernando Roldán (B. 1955), Human Adventure-Calligraphies, 2010 (Detail). Printed paper and twenty-five walnut frames. Courtesy of the artist and Henrique Faria, New York.
Colombia Recounted is the result of a collaboration between the Latin American Painting Department and two external curators, who have worked together to assemble a tight, 14-piece exhibition which offers a nearly perfect portrait of Colombia’s dynamic scene.
‘We would have like to have had a larger group,’ laughs Miami-based, Colombian-born curator Francine Birbragher-Rozencwaig, commenting on the difficult task. ‘We needed to select a group that would best expose the contemporary art practice of Colombia to viewers completely unfamiliar with it, whilst broadening the mindset of those who only know Doris Salcedo or Fernando Botero,’ she adds, citing two of the country’s best known practitioners.
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Working with Oscar Roldan-Alzate, Birbragher-Rozencwaig has gone beyond conventional media such as painting and sculpture, including artists who produce digital works and installations. Despite existing acclaim, the curators couldn’t resist including works by artist Salcedo, whose touring retrospective opens at the Guggenheim New York on 26 June. Four archival inkjet prints, documenting the artist’s groundbreaking and acclaimed Shibboleth (2007) — the crevice which she ran through the floor of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall — will be on offer for $18,000. ‘The message of how marginalised communities fall through the cracks in the face of colonialism and racism is exemplary of issues that concern these artists and their global peers,’ says Birbragher-Rozencwaig
Monika Bravo (B. 1964), Urumu Weaving Time, diptych, 2014. Two channel digital animation, monitors and media players. Dimensions variable. Photo Juan Luque
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Coming directly from her unveiling at the Vatican Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Monika Bravo’s two-channel digital animation Urumu Weaving Time, 2014 ($12,300), addresses the idea of abstraction, not as a rejection of representation as it was used by the Modernists, but as a means of defining a language that connects nature and ancient cultures in a non-narrative way. The piece is also one of two installations, the other being Hormigas from the series House Taken, for which Rafael Gomez Barros has created ‘infestations’ of large-scale ants that symbolise immigration, displacement, and alienation. Collectors can take a group of five home for $25,000.
Miler Lagosa (B. 1973), The Tree Branches of Tsukudajima (Negative) (from the series Foundation), 2015. carved printed paper. 16 ½ x 18 x 14 in. (42 x 46 x 36 cm.) Image courtesy the artist
‘What we began to see as a common thread,’ says Birbragher-Rozencwaig, ‘is that most artists of Colombia have a story to tell, whether the work is abstract or narrative, conceptual or didactic.’
The curator’s own anecdote comes in describing the procurement of an edition of Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s Cemetery/Vertical Gardens series begun in 1992. After the artist’s 2000 outing at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, for which she was commissioned to create one of her vertical gardens composed of plastic flowers traditionally used to decorate grave sites, most of the existing editions were purchased by institutions. ‘We approached her and she made an exception to create a brand new installation just for this sale,’ explains Birbragher-Rozencwaig. ‘This will be her last vertical garden — but it will be the first time she will use orchids, which is the national flower of Colombia. It’s one of these one-in-a-lifetime opportunities to get a piece that was previously entirely unavailable and being extremely distinctive with the use of the orchid.’
Beatriz Gonzalez (B. 1938), Los inundados, 2013. Oil on canvas. 39 1/3 x 59 in. © 2015 Beatriz González
It’s a perfect example of the curators’ success at choosing iconic pieces from each artist (the group also includes Beatriz Gonzalez, Miler Lagos and Luis Fernando Roldan). ‘Every work is significant to each artist’s career and is a museum-worthy piece,’ says the curator of her exhibition which is set to attract both collectors new to the genre and established arts institutions.
Main image at top: Rafael Gómez Barros (B. 1972), Casa Tomada, 2008-2014. Resin, fibreglass, soils, coal, fabric, wood, rope. Each ant measures: Body 50 x 20 x 50, legs 90 x 50 cm
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