ARTBO 2023: ‘New Spaces, New Realities’

By Oli Pritchard November 24, 2023

After last year’s glorious revival of the city’s premier art festival, it’s going from strength to strength at ARTBO 2023.

Long Covid isn’t only for people. It affects culture too. Last year was a year of rebirth and new beginnings as all kinds of festivals and ferías came back to life. The question now is: Can they continue? In the case of ARTBO 2023, the answer is a resounding yes.

The Bogotá art scene is renowned for its resilience, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the festival has not only survived but blossomed, with ARTBO 2023 adding two new sections and consolidating itself in the new home of Ágora rather than Corferías across the road. Organizer Maria Paz Gaviría describes it as “new spaces, new realities,” which perfectly describes the exhibition.

The two new sections are Diseño and Encuentros. These fit in with the existing displays such as Referentes and Proyectos that aim to showcase largely contemporary local artists. ARTBO 2023 features four whole floors of the delightful Ágora space – frankly a perfect backdrop for art.

The event is smartly organised, with the ground floor dominated by an immense installation by the Mapa Teatro collective. Los Santos Inocentes takes the form of a gigantic colourful dress with party streamers flowing from its arms and neck. Lower down you can go under the dress and see what’s there. But we’ll leave that as a surprise for you!

Mapa Teatro collective installation

The ground floor also features powerful works from indigenous artist Jacanamijoy, whose huge canvases take advantage of the space to really come alive. These large, multicoloured works are best seen from multiple angles and by walking around them. The sculptures of Jaime Miranda-Bambarén make up the third part of the jigsaw.

Proceeding up the elevators, the art truly starts on the second floor with ¿Cómo piensan los bosques? curated by Goldsmiths graduate Claudia Segura. As one might expect from an alumni of such an iconoclastic institution, the art is brave and striking. The various works aim to encourage us to think not only of humans but of all life on earth.

Elsewhere on the floor, art collective El Marrano de Barro blur the lines between activism, social history and art. Political slogans and posters sit side-by-side with more idiosyncratic depictions of ordinary Colombians’ fight for their rights. It’s an arresting and thought-provoking display.

Top-class Colombia talent

ARTBO 2023 features more top-class contemporary Colombian talent inside the 3rd-floor Referentes gallery. Tercera Naturaleza serves as a theme that draws together different movements in contemporary Colombian art. Natural influences segue neatly into thoughtful neo-impressionism, with local experience and influence proudly featured.

The rainforest-inspired rooms of Selva Cosmopolítica are a highlight, carefully curated and deeply tied to the very essence of Colombia’s nature. Miguel Ángel Rojas’ jungle scenes stand out for their vibrant shades of green. Flora Ars + Natura has a similar emphasis, drawing on the connection between humans and nature.

Miguel Ángel Rojas’s work stands out in Selva Cosmopolítica

The new Diseño section is across the way, and rather attractive. There’s a well-laid out set of example rooms to show exactly how each part fits together. It’s a relatively small space compared to the more traditional artistic disciplines. But it packs a lot of power in a small package.

Finally, the much larger fourth floor of ARTBO 2023 is where you’ll find all the major galleries of the city showcasing their wares. It’s not only locals either, collections from elsewhere in Latin America, Europe and North America are also exhibiting. In total, there are 45 galleries from 17 different countries.

While buying original artwork isn’t for everyone’s budget, the Bogotá scene is somewhat affordable compared to other major markets. There aren’t quite works for every wallet, but you may find more opportunities than you expect – especially from artists that make prints, of which there are a few.

Bogotá is by far the centre of the country for all cultural events, so if you’re interested in contemporary art, this is the place to be. That said, there are a number of issues that stop the capital from being a regional heavyweight like Mexico City, Sao Paolo or Buenos Aires.

The city’s art scene is best described as resilient, with a limited foundation to build on. There is a small gallery scene with centres in Chapinero and San Felipe, a handful of art institutions such as the Nacho and limited funds available to support artistic endeavour. It’s a minor miracle and testament to Colombian artists that there even is a scene.

ARTBO 2023 is open now and runs until Sunday 26th November at Ágora Bogotá, Calle 24 #38-47, midday to 8pm (7pm on Sunday). The entrance is on the calle, nearest TransMis are Recinto Ferial or Ciudad Universitaría on the K (El Dorado) line. Tickets are COP$36,000 and available online here.