Archive for the ‘Colombia’ Category

Well, I have been away from Bogota for a while due to traveling, work etc… but since I am back and we are in the full throws of ArtBo 2009 I thought it would be interesting (and a bit of fun!) to do a quick analysis of which Colombian artists are being searched for on the web WORLDWIDE.°

I decided to include some rules!

1. The artist must be alive and kicking!

2. The artist obviously must be Colombian (though I made a couple of exceptions.*)

3. The artist must predominately live and work in Colombia.

(again I may have been lenient in one or two cases given that I do not have all the facts).

Also, all results were confirmed, excluding possible name misinterpretations by the search engine, by confirming that of the first 10 results on the first returned Google search page – AT LEAST ONE of the websites  (10%) had to relate directly or belong to the artist in question and not just a namesake. Some of the artists actually occupied ALL of the 10 results!

So, for all you fuddy-duddies that say “What about so and so . . . they should be in the list!” well, based on the above reason I have left out of contention artists such as Fernando Botero, Carlos Jacanamijoy, and Omar Rayo – all three being well known Colombians artists who have predominantly lived and worked outside of Colombia.

So here is the list of the TOP 21 MOST SEARCHED FOR Colombian artists  – according to Google keyword tool which bases its results on monthly averages over the last twelve months:

 List of Top 21 Colombian Artists

To a large extent many of the names could have been predicted since the art scene in Colombia is still taking baby-steps with respect to other Latin countries such as Argentina or Venezuela – and as such most searches relate to the staple diet of names: Beatriz González, Maripaz Jaramillo etc etc.

What did surprise me though was the HUGE difference in the number of people searching for Beatriz González (6,600) and John Castles  (260) who is a close contemporary of the fabled Bumangues artist. Also it was interesting to see artists Jorge Riveros, Miguel de la Espriella and Rafael Penagos in the list as their work is not so commonly reported on in the Colombian press and media (at least as far as I have seen).

However, it is very interesting to note that Doris Salcedo is neck and neck with Beatriz González. Also interesting to note the number of women in the list – about 30%! Not bad I think considering art is often still a male dominated profession.

I would predict that Doris Salcedo will race ahead within the next few years if her career continues as well as it has. And who knows, maybe some of the “dark horses” at the bottom of the pack will race up the list too. Or perhaps some colombian artists we haven´t considered now presenting at ArtBo 2009 will make the grade!

° I had to use worldwide data as local search volumes in Colombia were just too low for most of the artists. This most probably does add in a factor that distorts the results if there are several people with the same name being searched for – but is the best data that is available.

* It should be obvious that I made an exception with Armando Villegas who is Peruvian but who has lived and worked in Bogota for pretty much the whole of his career as has Jim Amaral who is from the USA.

A number of other well known artists were also searched for but the search volumes were either way too low or they did not result in a first page result. If you think there should be other artists in this list please leave a comment – maybe it will be worthwhile repeating the excercise in a years time!


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One of Colombia´s best young abstract artists has been presenting an exhibition of his latest work in Cartagena. His work is being shown at the “Centro de Formación de la Cooperación Española y la Embajada de España (Claustro de Santo Domingo)” in the old walled city.

Fourteen large works in oil are being presented.

According to Colombian art critic Germán Rubio: “One only needs to attentively observe Walbert´s paintings to appreciate that in them there is careful elaboration, nothing or almost nothing is completely impulsive, everything is under control; balance, contrast and exchanges are searched for.

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Wow !! Looks like a big number doesn´t it?!

Unfortunately it is in Colombian pesos . . .however, it is still a tidy sum of around USD $450.000.

Which for Colombia means it was one of the biggest sales ever.

The auction was arranged by Maria Victoria Estrada and Ana Sokoloff and was held to raise funds for Colombian charities such as Conexión Colombia, Colombia Diversa, Fundación Genesis y Fundacion Juan Felipe Escobar.

Ana Sokoloff, who has worked with Christies in New York, and with many galleries in Bogota selected the artists for this auction with an eye on maintaining high quality latin american artworks in the auction. The auction was held in the top Colombian gallery “La Cometa” which is run by Esteban Jaramillo and has held exhibitions in the past of artist such as Luis Luna, Jason Galarraga and Le Parc.

Through this successful auction more than 600,000 Colombians should benefit in someway through the application of the money within the charities that are to benefit from some of the proceeds.

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San Basilico

The El Tiempo newspaper, published in Colombia is perhaps the only newspaper that has a national reach in Colombia, so it is good to see them promoting art through their latest release of books called “Arte Explicado” or Art Explained which details what makes a great artist or artwork. The web page can be found below.

Now, to promote this new product they are selling, they are making available free serigraphs of the artwork of two well-known colombian artists: Ana Mercedes Hoyos and Maripaz Jaramillo. Also, a lithograph by Carlos Jacanamijoy can be purchased. Their price is $20.000 – about USD $10 – for the book and the serigraph. That is a pretty good price for a serigraph – can´t beat free! – and it would be great to get one and get it signed by the artist! The idea of releasing art in this way and making it more available to a wider public is also pretty cool. I can only imagine that thousand of such serigraphs and lithographs must have been made . . .

Now here´s the rub. What disappoints me about this whole thing is that they are promoting artists who are already well-known and so are being reflexive (as George Soros would say) in their marketing. To put it more simply – they are providing the market with positive feedback to expand the names of these artists. There are THOUSANDS of excellent artists in Colombia but will they have the chance to present their work via El Tiempo – I doubt it. So while the newspaper “appears” to be democratizing the availabilty of art to the public, they are really just reinforcing a niche for those artists who have already “made it”. And I do think that is a shame. Tsk tsk El Tiempo, get yourselves out of the rut you are making and widen the doors for the other artists that are trudging the path of recognition – and give them a hand up too!

As for the quality of the artworks chosen – I am very disappointed in the new work by Jacanamijoy – it leaves a lot to be desired and is not at all in the style he is known for. Also, by publishing it as a lithographs really demerits, in my opinion, his work in relation to the other artists.

Find out more at the following link – hopefully more newspapers will follow this lead worldwide!

The idea itself is good – but maybe it requires more thought, and a bit less positive feedback!

El Tiempo: Arte Explicado

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While setting my head down on my pillow, readying myself for a night of relaxed slumber I had the strangest of thoughts. it occurred to me that many artists – in Colombia at least – tend to be repetitious in their art, especially when they have found or created a work that has been more commercially successful.

I could simply point the finger at Botero as the cause of this for Colombian artists.

His work show “fat people” in many guises. He has become identified with them.

However, I do not believe that identification is the objective of repetition and most probably is a result of certain commercial or at least public success when a work has been created that has been acclaimed by the public  ( . . . . and possibly sells well too.)

But I think there is a little more to it.

In Colombia at least, there is still no cultural interest in buying copies, especially lithographs or giclees. In part because a giclee is still quite expensive with respect to an original work and many lithographs or serigraphs are not appreciated for what they are. So, as such, there is little demand for them. And so, it is actually “easier” for the artist to repeat an artwork either similarly or loosely disguised with respect to the original work that gained importance or recognition. Often it is the galleries as well as the buying public that cause this to happen – they want a work from “such and such” a series. The thing is – perhaps the series never existed – it was just that the artists created a great work of art that should have been left to stand on its own – without having to be pigeon holed.

What this all boils down to is that I see (and know of) many good and creative artists who tend to become martyrs of their own success and often their apparent creativity  as artists is not realized to its full potential. (I speak of their potential as artist – not artisan or draughtsman).

I think some may hid behind the concept that they are creating a style – a fashion – in their art and that is why it may seem repetitious – but I think it is about time that the artists start to use the mediums of reproduction to force the public to buy works that they like in that way so that they cannot go to the artists and say they want a “copy” of a work they saw. This can only damage the artists soul.

What do you think dear reader?

Have you seen this elsewhere in the world?

Do you agree that this may occur?

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Fernando Botero is one of the worlds richest artists. His workshop which manages the production of monumental which are placed worldwide employs around 100 people – now that`s hard to imagine – in Italy, so we are talking about paying people in euros not pesos!

With an average wage of around €20.000 per year then thats over €2.000.000 on wages alone – wow! I bet even Damien Hirst doesn`t get close to that sum for the people he employs. Anyway – to pay out so much money (and I would suggest that that sum could be doubled in relation to purchase of bronze and traveles and exhibition expenses etc) Mr Fernando Botero obviously has to generate quite a tidy sum of cash each year. I would suggest that it might be around USD $10-20.000.000. Big business indeed.

So . . . . . .

What Does Botero Do With All His Money?

Well he obviously has a very enjoyable lifestyle, but just recently it was revealed that Botero actually gives a lot of cash away. He is a philanthropist. Not perhaps in the league of Gates or Buffet but he is actually very generous with his cash.

Let me list a few items:

  • Botero Prize for Art (annual) : USD $50.000
  • He set up a Senior Home for older poor elder people in Bogota:Est. $300.000
  • He set up a system to pay for children’s food in the poor Choco province :Est. $20.000 / year
  • He donated $200.000.000 worth of artwork to Colombia for its people to enjoy.

Botero’s philanthropy, in fact, was often low-profile and most Colombians, apart form his museum donation and art prize would not be aware of his other philanthropic work. He most truly is a most wonderful person.

You can read more about this story and an interview by Daniel Chang with Botero at the link below.

Botero Interview on his Philanthropy


Find out more on Botero:

The Art of Fernando Botero


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Yep, the title says it all. Another artist out to get publicity. Although Yazmany Arboleda is American his parents are from Colombia and as such his latest exhibition entitled “The Assassination of Barack Obama” and “The Assassination of Hillary Clinton” has made the front page of El Tiempo newspaper, the most widely read newspaper in Colombia .

Unfortunately the exhibition is in New York so I have not seen it. However, it has had its title censored by the NYC police. Now, I hate it when artists overtly look for publicity – even though I know it is very necessary in order to stand out form the many competitors – and by using this title Arboleda is very well aware about the stir it would cause. However I hate it even more when there is such over-reaction to a simple title of an exhibition. Arboleda will probably go back to obscurity once the exhibition ends – but the acts of the police will not.

Does the title of the work stimulate some nutcase to go out and realize the act defined? Perhaps – but they would probably need a little more provocation than that to give them a motive. But what we do see is that the US is no longer the country it once was. Land of the free – home of the brave? Hardly.

  • So, free speech is no longer tolerated.
  • If you wish to go to visit the US, even though you don`t need a visa, you must register for pre-clearance via internet prior to traveling.
  • The US has floating prisons ships – old fashioned hulks.
  • It has resorted to illegal torture of its own citizens and others.
  • It is one of the few countries in the modern world to sill embrace the death penalty.
  • Obama has claimed as one of his political aims to embrace protectionism and as such he is not in favor of signing the free trade agreement with Colombia . . . . and there are a huge number of similar signs that I could mention that America is no longer what it is still perceived by many to be. Ans I think that`s sad.

America – The New China?

So, what has this to do with art and art in Colombia?

America is changing and since abstract expresionism was born it has been a leader in the arts fields. Where were Russia and China in the arts during this period? Absolutely nowhere. And this is most probably what will happen to Art in America if it continues on its path to becoming the new China just as rapidly a s China becomes the New America.

As one of Colombias`s closest neighbours we will probably find that opportunities for Colombian artists to go to the US and present their work will probably either simply diminish or not be worth their while. Many top Colombian artists like Manzur, Grau and Negret made their name in Colombia via their exhibitions in the US.

Colombian artists will now have to start looking for more serious venues I imagine – one that will not be censored. France, the UK . . . . heck, maybe I should include China and Russia as new potential venues where Colombian artists can develop their careers – because it sure looks like the US will no longer hold much value in the world arts scene.

So, to sum up. Even though I am a fan of what Arboleda has done with his exhibition title, art is leading the way in exposing the major forces of change that will soon make America an art wasteland. And a pity that is too.

More info:


Video created of newsflash when first exhibition was closed down:

I would normally put up a link to the artists site, but since I think he was looking more to create a controversy than a real artistic project – in this case – I`ll let you do the search if you are interested! 🙂

* Here`s a link to the story as reported by the New York Times => LINK

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