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The 12th edition of ARTBO is currently underway in Bogotá. On view through October 30, Whitewall spoke with the fair’s director Maria Paz Gaviria about ARTBO’s uniqe model, its impact on the Colombian cultural community, and special programming like Proyectos curated by Jens Hoffman.
WHITEWALL: You’ve spoken about how the fair has been essential for market growth in Colombia, and its success is seen in things like the creation of parallel fairs in Colombia. How have you seen the fair transform Bogotá culturally, outside of the community of visual arts?
MARIA PAZ GAVIRIA: As a program of Bogotá’s Chamber of Commerce in the field of cultural industries, ARTBO aims to position the city as a hub of art and culture and as a business destination. This was a long-term vision that began to be implemented in 2004 and that is gradually becoming a reality. Not only have we witnessed the interest ARTBO generates in international galleries, and international collectors, museum directors, professionals in general, we are sure that ARTBO is activating an image of the city as a fresh and interesting destination for the visual arts scene. This is also happening within the city and the country. The high rates of attendance to the fair (35,000 in 2015) suggest the people in Bogotá are now more interested in what ARTBO offers. The growing number of art spaces, almost 130 in the whole city, is also an example of this commitment of people from Bogotá to art.
Actually, one of our objectives is to sensitize the public towards the arts and thus increase the general interest in contemporary art. That is why ARTBO offers sections directed to promote young artists (Artecámara), activities to understand and revise contemporary art practices within the general public (Articularte) and also spaces to learn and discuss art practices (Foro).
I think Bogotá has become an exciting place for contemporary art from an international point of view. The reality is that Bogota and the Colombian art scene has always been vibrant and exciting with great artists and a dynamic scene, but without a doubt in the past few years Colombian art, and therefore Bogotá as its center, has finally reached a point of worldwide recognition.
WW: Locally, how would you describe the Colombian art buyer?
MPG: Colombia, unlike other Latin American countries, has less of a history of collecting. I believe ARTBO has played an important role in opening spaces for this practice, not only because it has brought world galleries to Colombia but also because it has pushed other fairs and other art spaces to participate in the art market. Collecting has developed alongside with ARTBO and ARTBO has grown alongside. I collectors in Colombia, since they are less traditional than elsewhere, are very open to contemporary art, to new formats, they do not only concentrate in the blue chips, but in the fresh and cutting edge, in the international proposals.
WW: ARTBO has is its own kind of fair model, with curated spaces that go beyond commercial aspects. Why has that been a successful aspect of the fair, do you think?
MPG: ARTBO has a unique model that makes it different from other fairs in the region, with a vast program of commercial and non-commercial sections and a focus in diversity and quality, the fair has one of the most refreshing and innovative perspectives within the global circuit. ARTBO also includes both distinguished and up-and-coming curators, seeking to offer incomparable quality in its sections and taking exciting risks in its proposals. I think this model is successful because it responds to the needs in our country as well as the interests in the international scene.
WW: Can you tell us about the Proyectos section, curated by Jens Hoffman this year?
MPG: We are thrilled with Proyectos and Hoffmann’s perspective. The section brings together fifteen galleries from eleven cities in the world, each showing exhibition of a single artist whose work explores the representation of the human figure through painting. Hoffmann took as a point of departure the work of the relevant women artists Beatriz Gonzalez and Debora Arango for their works’ relevance to Colombian art and their critical views both on a political and moral level. Although using different styles, both artists explore rupture in their approach to the body, in relation to the expressiveness, distortion, repetition, re-contextualization and the questioning of taboos, among others.
WW: This year Artecámara, a space for young artists and artist-run spaces, is curated by Fernando Escobar. Why is it important to have a space for young artists and organizations within this kind of commercial setting?
MPG: ARTBO is a program that attends all the value chain in the visual arts field. Our program transcends the traditional commercial fair with activities throughout the year that aim to strengthen access to art education, formation for empirical artists outside of the mainstream art circuit, incentives for production of artwork and for the art of curating, as well as programs for collectors and gallerists. Year round we work on education, exhibitions and different commercial strategies to strengthen the art scene. Artecámara is part of this complete view of the art field and it has been a program aiming to open doors for young artists since 2004. Colombia is still a developing country in need of programs to democratize the access to art education and to the art spaces. We feel this year Artecámara’s is very relevant with the current political context since it explores the notion of territory from different perspectives and thus generates a dialogue with what has been happening with peace negotiations here.
WW: Outside of the fair, for those maybe coming to Bogota for the first time, or still getting to know the city, could you share with us some of your favorite places to eat, relax, and see art?
MPG: I would personally recommend for the visitors to take a look at the solo show “The lilies of the fields and the birds in the sky” by last year’s Artecámara winner, Sandra Rengifo, curated by José Roca, at ARTBO Chapinero. Also we have worked very hard in our gastronomic offer at the fair and we have Leo Espinosa, one of Latin American top chefs in the VIP Lounge, and an offer special dishes created by Jaime Cerón and chefs of five top restaurants in the city for ARTBO at the restaurant section including Andean ceviches, sweet and spicy desserts, among others. Every year we develop a guide with the whole program with all the exhibitions taking place in the city during ARTBO. This may be consulted at www.bogotartecircuito.org
WW: Are there any exhibitions around the city visitors should be sure to check out, as well, at either museums or galleries around town?
MPG: There are more than 130 spaces in Bogotá dedicated to the visual arts. Most of them are concentrated in presenting their proposals during ARTBO, so I think in general terms the quality of the exhibitions around the city is strong. Every year we develop a guide with the whole program with all the exhibitions taking place in the city during ARTBO. This may be consulted at www.bogotartecircuito.org
ARTBO is on view through October 30.