New Colombian Contemporary Art, and Art News of the Week 26 October – 1 November 2020

Maria Berrio - The Paradise of Others, 2019. Photo: Kohn Gallery
Maria Berrio - The Paradise of Others, 2019. Photo: Kohn Gallery

There is a new group of contemporary artists that have been growing over the past years in Colombia, and they are turning pain and difficulties into creation and pleasure for the senses. After completing a road trip in January of this year, Alec Soth returned to his home in Minneapolis to find a letter sent from the Minnesota State Prison. Many rarely seen and sacred artifacts are now accessible at museums and galleries around the world in the spirit of inclusion and attracting the widest possible audience.

Colombian artists who are shaping contemporary art

October 27, 2020 – Via ART SY

Colombia is a country where there are a multitude of landscapes and great biodiversity. It is the South American country where magical realism was born by the hand of writers like Gabriel García Márquez.

It is the place where the old colonial city of Cartagena, the coast to the Pacific Ocean, and the exuberant tropical forest of the Amazon coexist. But not everything is beautiful in this country where its people have suffered the longest internal armed conflict in the West. And they are currently enduring a difficult post-conflict scenario of violence and corruption.

But there is also a new group of contemporary artists that have been growing over the past years in Colombia. This shows how art can emerge and flourish despite such difficult circumstances. This new group of Colombian artists is able to turn pain and difficulties into creation and pleasure for the senses. There are many actors on this stage that meet in the Colombia of today. But let’s meet some of them.

Maria Berrio

Maria Berrio – A Universe of One, 2018. Photo: Kohn Gallery


María Berrío works with Japanese paper and watercolor, exploring the possibilities of collage with dreamlike assemblages of the intricate design on large canvases. Strong and vulnerable women are undoubtedly the focus of Berrío’s devotion, although her work is not based on real people.

Her work is plagued by flora, fauna, and mythical elements. It invokes utopian ideals and is strongly influenced by Colombia’s green natural landscapes. Berrío expresses a certain longing for her place of origin that is often present in her creations, although she has lived in the United States for the past 20 years.

Her latest work is on show at the exhibition “Flowered Songs and Broken Currents” until November 27 in Victoria Miro, London. It deals with women’s response to disasters. Also, it is known that Berrío will have her first individual institutional exhibition at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, in the United States in 2021.

Doris Salcedo

Doris Salcedo – Plegaria Muda , 2016. Photo: Nasher Sculpture Center

In her artistic work, Doris Salcedo gave testimony of political violence, social marginalization, melancholy, and trauma. Wooden chairs, rose petals, clothing, and grass are some of the many things she uses to produce it. Her works have been presented over the past forty years in such iconic spaces as Bogotá’s Plaza de Bolívar and London’s Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

Her sculptures and installations, some large and some more discreet, deal with the pain of absence, serving as symbolic and sacred spaces for the collective mourning. Salcedo was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1995. In 2019, she was selected as the inaugural winner of the prestigious $1 million Nomura art prize. This is the largest cash award for contemporary art in the world.

The awards will be used to help Colombian communities deal with the country’s history of violence. The artist hopes to take these actions to remote areas that have been particularly devastated by the internal conflict.

How a photographer helped a prisoner see beyond his cage

October 29, 2020 – Via The Guardian

Fausto Cabrera. Photo: Emily Baxter, SEEN

After completing a road trip in January of this year, Alec Soth returned to his home in Minneapolis to find a letter sent from the Minnesota State Prison. In the letter, Christopher Fausto Cabrera apologized for bothering him and confessed that he had great admiration and respect for Soth’s photographic work.

Cabrera told him that he had trusted photography for years as reference material, given his imprisonment, and that he had developed a great admiration for the genre. After Cabrera wrote this first letter to Soth on impulse, the two began a free exchange of ideas about culture and isolation that developed into an amazing new book.

Cabrera had written to the photographer with no real expectation, but with the intention of connecting with other artists. Intrigued, Soth confesses that there was something in the letter, the feeling that Cabrera was bright and self-aware, so he decided to respond.

This correspondence, which is still ongoing, provides the raw material for an intriguing new book. Its title “The Parameters of Our Cage” is taken from one of Faust’s letters where he states that: “We all face the parameters of our cage eventually. What we do when we reach those bars helps define us.”

“The Parameters of Our Cage”. Photo: amazon.com

This book records the first nine months of their dialogue as they get to know each other. It is engaging, often revealing read, and is edited by Soth in a manageable epistolary narrative. In the published letters you can see how both men exchange thoughts about literature, art, freedom, and confinement. They also do the same with their dramatically different life experiences.

Soth recognizes in one of his letters that he comes from a privileged family, as his father was a lawyer and was lucky enough to have a stable home with no financial problems. But he also confesses that he always felt like a freak. He was shy, and traumatic things happened to him when he was young.

For his part, Fausto remembers in one of his letters how he came to know about Soth’s work. It was when he saw a photograph of Soth of an improvised knife that was used on the cover of “You Must Remember This”, a book of poems by Michael Bazzett. The image was part of Soth’s 2010 series “Broken Manual”. A work that, ironically, was about individuals who have chosen to disappear from the mainstream.

Fausto began to wonder what this photograph was about, and if there was an intentional thread that somehow connected to the prison. Shortly thereafter, inspired in part by the mysterious image, Fausto wrote a poem of his own entitled All I Know About Prison Shanks. Another brief prose piece by him, The Visiting Room, was published in the Washington Post last year.

How ‘inclusive’ art & artifacts are keeping museums relevant

October 30, 2020 – Via Euronews

An exhibition at The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts.

Many rarely seen and sacred artifacts are now accessible at museums and galleries around the world in the spirit of inclusion and attracting the widest possible audience. According to the International Council of Museums in 2019, a Paris-based institution, museums are becoming more democratic and inclusive. This institution considers that the current definition of museum is outdated.

“The Covid-19 pandemic made it very clear to us that the museum of the 20th century doesn’t fit into the 21st century. There are many global trends as we can see, globalization, digitization, diversity, migration,” said Dr. Matthias Henkel, president, and board member.

Henkel added that “There is a new type of gallery and museum, which reflects the need for museums and galleries to house collections rich in diverse cultural and ethnic representations. Museums deal with objects from abroad, outside the context of other cultures. Therefore, it is necessary to build a bridge to other religions, or to other cultures.”

The British Museum’s “Living with the Gods” exhibition, which ran until April 2018, contained cult artifacts from numerous faiths. The exhibition included spiritual idols and items from the Yoruba people of West Africa and the Zoroastrian communities of India. For its part, the Louvre Museum in Paris contains a gallery of some 3,000 objects of Islamic art, spanning 1,300 years, from Europe and Southeast Asia.

In the Middle East, shortly after Pope Francis’ visit to the capital of the United Arab Emirates in 2019, the Louvre Abu Dhabi launched a wing of “Universal Religions”. The exhibition featured pieces reflecting the country’s many faiths and nationalities such as Jewish Torah scrolls, a medieval Bible, a blue North African Koran, and Buddhist totems.

With its permanent collection of more than 2,800 works of art, the Jordanian National Gallery of Fine Arts is striving to attract local and global audiences. Ceramics, paintings, and installations of Christian and Byzantine influence are exhibited, along with intricate works of Islamic calligraphy.

“It helps people to understand and to empathize with the other. Most of the cultural and political crises, you see, it comes from the idea of not accepting the other. A gallery’s mission is to represent and celebrate this plurality of cultures and world views,” said Khaldoun Hijazin, the gallery’s executive director.

The museum executive went on to say that inclusion encompasses not only religions and cultures but also many generations. For example, in 2018, the gallery launched The Factory Platform, giving young museum visitors the opportunity to participate in the creative process of making art and learn about the history of local and global communities.

Leave a Reply