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Bogotá Fair ArtBo Is Staying Strong in Its 15th Year, Despite Simmering Tensions in the Region

Published : Sunday, 22 September, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 557

A view of the opening days of ARTBO's 15th anniversary edition. Courtesy of ARTBO.

A view of the opening days of ARTBO's 15th anniversary edition. Courtesy of ARTBO.

"This is just the kind of thing that sets ArtBo apart," said Colombian collector Eduardo Salazar, excited to find a video work at the Bogot art fair by Mara Teresa Hincapié, a Colombian performance artist who died in 2008 and whom he called "our Marina Abramovi?." The piece, Intempestivas (1992), was created in collaboration with artist José Alejandro Restrepo and her son, Santiago Zuluaga, courtesy of Buenos Aires gallery Rolf Art.
Intempestivas is a timely work for the 15th edition of ArtBo, which is open through September 22. Through Restrepo's images, Zuluaga's guitar sounds, Hincapié's physical performance, and a stack of video monitors showing rapidly cycling images, including licking flames, it references political tensions, and is a reminder that the fair is taking place against the backdrop of a possible renewal of violence by members of the guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
One of the group's leaders recently released a video proclaiming a return to war against the government, disavowing a peace accord struck three years ago, which mostly brought to an end a war that had lasted a half century and claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives. A remaining armed faction continues to murder government officials throughout the country while trafficking in guns and drugs, and has linked up with other deadly rebel groups.
But in Bogot, the nation's high-altitude capital, which at the moment remains untouched by the conflict, the fair launched a lively opening on Wednesday. In attendance were groups from Tate, Ballroom Marfa, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Panama, as well as curators like Inés Katzenstein, director of MoMA's Research Institute for the Study of Art from Latin America, and the Museum of Fine Art Houston's Latin American art curator Mari Carmen Ramrez. Former president César Gaviria, whose daughter Mara Paz Gaviria is the fair's director, also made an appearance, along with President Ivn Duque.
The flow of international visitors came despite the fair having moved its dates from October to September to avoid coinciding with elections taking place next month, at which time businesses close early and alcohol isn't served.
The fair's 76 dealers have brought work that's priced as low as a few hundred dollars, like the delightful collages by Puerto Rico's Manuel Mendoza Snchez, which are available for $700 at San Juan gallery Embajada, to big-ticket secondary-market works, like a painting by Colombia native son Fernando Botero, at Bogot's Galera La Cometa for an asking price of $400,000. "Sometimes art fairs get caught in the middle," Salazar said. "Here, you find great heat with works by the masters, as well as with avant-garde contemporary artists."
With some exceptions, sales have been a slow burn, but collectors were inspired by the high quality of the work on view. Boston-area collector Julian Fisher compared the fair to a small version of the Spanish fair ARCO Madrid, citing the "incredible array of art from around the Spanish-speaking world," he said. "What impresses me is the staggering price range, and the technical quality of the works is very good throughout." Indeed, the fair has extensive representation of galleries from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, along with some Europeans. American dealers, on the other hand, have been mostly absent.
Other works also allude to the region's violence. Bogot gallery Beatriz Esguerra Arte is showing local artist Pedro Ruiz's bold, five-foot-long painting Displacement #204 (2019), which shows a man in a loincloth piloting a canoe, surreally transporting a giant tract of lush, green jungle. The piece refers to the forced displacement of millions of Colombians through decades of conflict, a subject that resounds with a number of other artists showing at ArtBo.
"Colombia has fantastic art and great stories to tell in terms of politics and geography and in so many ways, and hasn't quite been discovered," said Esguerra, who has shown in every edition of the fair to date, during the fair's VIP preview on Wednesday. By the end of Thursday, she reported having sold two dozen works.

As perhaps suited an event based on international trade-only about half ArtBo's buyers are Colombian, according to Paz Gaviria-several artists took on commerce itself as a subject in their work.
    -Artnet News

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