Coolto: Making art accessible for Bogotá and even cooler to own and rent

There is a new phenomenon in the Colombian art market, and it isn’t one you can see. As a representative work audiences experience palm-sweating, nervous glances and awkward conversation. Its name is “the fear” and its reason for hanging on a wall: Colombia’s stagnant and inaccessible art market.

Frustrated with a market failing to open its arms to a diverse audience, a young entrepreneur from Bogotá has set her sights on widening access to the process of art acquisition in Colombia.

Founded in 2018, Coolto is the creation of gallery-owner Melisa Hernández and aims to tackle inaccessibility through experience, education and an untraditional approach to purchasing.

“There is a huge gap in Colombia’s art market,” believes Hernández, explaining that buyers tend to be concentrated at the top end of the scale, where names and price dictate. But on the rest of that scale, there are those who can, but don’t buy,” she claims. Hernández describes this phenomena as “fear” usually caused by a lack of know-how or potential collectors being duped.

Cue to Coolto as gallery. Focused on the experience as a means to widen accessibility, Coolto aims to instill in its clients the mantra that “you don’t need to know art to enjoy it.” Working only with emerging Colombian artists, from its multi-functional arts space in El Nogal (Cra 12A No.77A-72), Coolto presents an opportunity to engage with the process of acquisition by learning about works from their collection, including directly from the artists.

What is critical to their model, however, is the possibility to rent works instead of outright owning them. With an on-going open call for talent, for nominal fee clients can choose from a range of carefully selected works, including those from the in-house artist, Oscar Guido. Although an established practice in other parts of the world, the introduction of Coolto’s model to the Colombian market nevertheless raises the question: “Why rent art?”

Hernández explains that renting for uncertain buyers is akin to taking “baby steps” in the art world, and acts as a stabilizer allowing clients to try before they buy. Equally, it can be a permanent option for those who like to rotate and experience variety in their works, among them corporate clients needing to keep offices contemporary and attractive. Ultimately, it serves to offer an option to those interested in sharing in the enjoyment of art, but feel excluded because of budget.

With their two-pronged approach to widen access for buyers and propel the works of emerging artists, the company presents an ambitious and admirable objective expanding their portfolio to the charity children’s space. Through the harnessing of visual education at every level, Coolto is creating an experience that cultivates new dialogues on art across the wide spectrum of society.

Coolto is participating in this year’s fringe art festival Barcú.

Coolto.Gallery: Cra 12A No.77A-72