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Last winter, two concurrent shows at Casas Riegner in Bogotá, Colombia, showed the breadth and range of the gallery’s program. The first was a solo exhibition by the Colombian artist Beatriz González, “CONTRAFIGURAS.” A pioneer in art who is now 90 years old, she created new paintings, works on paper, furniture, and wallpaper for a show she described as an effort to “visibilize an internal struggle,” addressing daily tragedies and conflict in her country.
The other was a group show put together by the gallery’s own curator, Paula Bossa, entitled, “Canto Hondo.” Part of Casa Riegner’s new “In Focus” series, it brought together the work of Ethel Gilmour, María Teresa Hincapié, María Leguízamo, Luz Lizarazo, Liliana Porter, Liliana Sánchez, and César González, each creating work around the inner world of the feminine.
With its early beginnings in Miami in the early 2000s (where it was founded by Catalina Casas), to its move to Bogotá in 2004, and to its now-established place in the international contemporary art landscape, Casas Riegner continues to champion Colombia’s seminal artists, while supporting emerging talents. Whitewall spoke with Bossa about the gallery’s strong conceptual focus, as well as its recent open call for young artists living and working in Colombia today.
WHITEWALL: How would you describe the gallery’s mission when it first opened?
PAULA BOSSA: Catalina Casas started working with artists of different generations. She was working with some really big Colombian names. We’re a gallery that focuses on conceptual art that has strong basis in research and on formalizations and aesthetics.
Our artists are strong conceptually and aesthetically. Our gallery program has these amazing pioneer artists that have contributed to the development of contemporary art in Colombia, like Rosemberg Sandoval, María Teresa Hincapié, and Antonio Caro, who is considered to be the father of conceptual art in Colombia.
WW: Aside from pioneers in the field, the gallery also represents emerging artists as well. Why is that important, curatorially, to showcase that expanse of generations?
PB: I think it’s very important to give a range. One of the things that we started to do when the gallery opened its doors in Bogotá was really give visibility to young artists. We really work hard to push their careers internationally.
All of the artists that we represent—pioneering and midcareer—are artists that are influencing a younger generation of artists. Bernardo Ortiz and Leyla Cárdenas, these are artists that have also been professors at universities.
We launched in 2021 an open call for young artists. That was a really fascinating experience for the program and for me as a curator. We received nearly three hundred portfolios. It was amazing. We invited an international jury and we selected the final winners from a list of thirty I preselected. We chose three winners because the quality of the work was so interesting, and we did the show at the end of the year featuring the three. One of them, Carlos Alfonso, is now part of our program.
WW: And tell me about your fairly recent new program “In Focus,” which goes beyond the typical exhibition season.
PB: We have a huge space here in Bogotá. We have the main gallery space and another smaller room we had used for storage. A year ago we decided to activate it as an exhibition space. We started “In Focus” to feature more experimental exhibitions. That has allowed me also to give more dynamism to the program. It gives me the opportunity to not only feature artists from our program but to also invite artists from the local art scene, establishing dialogues.
WW: How did the recent “In Focus” show “Canto Hondo,” looking at the inner world of the feminine, come together?
PB: It’s a show that is very dear to my heart and is the by-product of a very personal process that I have been living that started a year and a half ago. I read this book Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. It’s a very profound book talking about the divine feminine and this intuition that is inherent to all women, that sometimes is obscured by society, by the patriarchy, by our ego even, by being afraid to show this inner force that we have.
So I chose six different artists from different generations, and this is a perfect example of how “In Focus” works. I included Ethel Gilmour, who is an artist from the U.S. who passed away in 2005 but lived the majority of her life in Medellín. We also featured María Leguízamo, who was also one of the winners of the open call. And I included Liliana Porter, who is a major Argentinian artist living in New York. I included Luz Lizarazo, a midcareer artist exploring the feminine body. I chose these six amazing women artists that embody this idea of the divine feminine. The show is looking at not only this aspect of the feminine that is very beautiful and that is very important for us, as women, to be really conscious of, but it’s also looking at rethinking what the masculine is all about.
WW: How would you describe the collector scene in Bogotá?
PB: This young generation of collectors are people that are open to learning. They are open to going to new shows, to stepping out of their comfort zone. Contemporary art can be very complex and difficult to understand. People need tools in order to understand it. We try to work hard to make people feel comfortable in a gallery setting to ask questions. I always tell people that, while we are a commercial gallery, we go beyond a commercial transaction. We are really passionate about what we do. We are really interested in going beyond the commercial aspect of art.