CARTAGENA.- The 1st International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de Indias
opened last week to astounding success. With more than 16,000 people in attendance for the inaugural weekend, the crowds poured through the 15 venues of the Biennial, discovering not only the works of 120 artists from 45 countries, but also the city of Cartagena itself. Within certain circles the biennial is becoming known as the "Art biennial"- re-instilling faith in the state of contemporary art and demonstrating a true commitment to artists and works that are art historically, socially and politically relevant. Visitors from all over the world have been mesmerized by the tight curatorial proposal, selection of artists and works, the placement of key artworks throughout the city of Cartagena and the discovery of new trends in Colombian contemporary art.
Known for years as the one-time home of author Gabriel García Marquez and the land that bore Magical Realism, a port city of Indigenous, African, and Spanish colonial roots, the UNESCO World Heritage site that famously survived the repeated attacks by pirate Sir Francis Drake, Cartagena de Indias rededicated itself as a place for the promotion and dissemination of contemporary culture with the opening on February 7th of the the First International Biennial of Contemporary Art.
Artists Julie Mehretu, Oscar Murillo, Lothar Baumgarten, KimSooja, Oswaldo Maciá, Jessica Rankin, Elena del Rivero, Shirazeh Houshiary, Radcliffe Bailey, Perry Bard, Álvaro Restrepo, Khalil Rabah, Ligorano/Reese, Anna Boghiguian, Friedemann von Stockhausen, Eduardo Abaroa, Janet Biggs, Emeka Ogboh, Leo Villareal and others descended on the city turning it into a new hub for contemporary art, sparking multilingual and multidisciplinary conversations and collaboration throughout the museums and spilling out into the streets. This was not another biennial-but rather one of the most important cultural events this city and perhaps country has experienced in recent years. Director Natalia Bonilla said "The outpouring of support from every sector of Colombian society has surpassed our greatest expectations and we could not possibly be more thrilled with the work that Artistic Director, Berta Sichel has done to bring together some of the most diverse artists to participate in this first edition of the biennial."
INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS IN PUBLIC SPACE
In addition to the four main exhibition venues, much of the art spills out into the streets, plaza and occupies alternative spaces across the city to insure that everyone in the city feels welcome to engage with art on multiple levels.
Yoko Ono's Wish Tree was installed in one of the busiest plazas of the city and in less than a week was covered in tags left by both biennial visitors and pedestrians passing by. While some wish for peace, one child told spectators that he wished for a bicycle.
Leo Villareal has installed Cylinder II which at almost 12 feet high fills an unassuming colonial house with light and beckons pedestrians passing by.
Nezaket Ekici reperformed her work Fountain on Saturday February 15 for an audience of hundreds who crowded into the patio of the Cooperación Española to see this renowned Turkish artist reinvent her work for this new context.
Carlos Schwartz has installed his Laberinto de Luz in the Playa del Triunfo creating a contemporary monumento to light along the old walls of the historic district.
Anna Boghiguian took over an entire chapel in one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city, and along with children from the surrounding streets, created a fantastic, whimsical and sometimes grotesque installation of birds and beehives that toes the line between spiritual paradise and earthly grime.
Oscar Murillo, took over a crumbling house with no roof in the historic district and filled it with paintings, drawings, found objects and video all of which reference his native La Paila, Colombia and while engaging with traditional Colombian materials, food, and song, allow for the public to explore the space intimately and organically.
IMPERFECT IDLER OR WHEN THINGS DISAPPEAR
In an effort to reevaluate the national trends and movments in contemporary art, a special section of the biennial has been dedicated to exploring the state of Colombian art today. Following an open call that generated over 450 submissions from all over the country, curators Miguel Gonzalez, Gabriela Rangel and Stephanie Rosenthal, worked together to organize the Colombian exhibition, Imperfect Idler or When Things Disappear. Following a rigorous search process that involved numerous artist studio visits, meetings with curators all across the country, the addition of nine artists selected from the open call, this survey of Colombian art today is now on view at the Museum of Modern Art of Cartagena and in a variety of alternative and public spaces throughout the city.
Participating artists include: Felipe Arturo, Jaime Ávila, Wilson Díaz, Julián Dupont, Juan Manuel Echavarría, Clemencia Echeverri, Adrián Gaitán, Elías Heim, Leonardo Herrera, Veronica Lehrner, Ana María Millán, Diego Mendoza, José Olano, Juan Sebastián Peláez, Miguel Ángel Rojas, Luis Roldán, María Isabel Rueda, Wilger Sotelo, Paola Tafur, Pablo Gómez Uribe.