During the late 1960s, Colombia was a hotbed of dissence fostered by intellectuals angered at the power-sharing of the ruling elites and racial exclusion. This insubordinationy many, including the country’s aspiring writers, painters, lmmakers, and journalists was most palpable in Cali, home to a large Afro-Colombian population and cultural elite.

The tipping point came in 1971 when the capital of Valle de l Cauca was to host the VI PanAmerican Games and International Bienal of Graphic Arts. These two events were supposed to showcase the country’s new-found economic prosperity, but for many, inspired by the May 68 student marches in Paris, the games undermined their social cohesion by not allowing ordinary people to attend. The protests that erupted in Cali were met by a police crackdown. Universities were stormed in raids and many students arrested and a killed during the uprising. Cali earned a reputation as being the “City of rebellion.”

The cultural forces that emerged from Cali ended up reshaping Colombia’s literary and artistic landscape. The Bogotá Museum of Modern Art (MAMBO) is celebrating 55 years this year and recently opened the exhibition El Arte de la Desobediencia (Art of Disobedience) featuring works from 1965 to 1984, and which reference a break in modernism that allowed other important transformations in the artistic process to take center stage.

The timeframe chosen by MAMBO is important because in 1965 an installation was presented at the National University (at that time, the Museum’s headquarters) and 1984 saw the celebration of the last Athens Salon. Spanning almost two decades of cultural enterprise, the exhibition Art of Disobedience shows how the museum was at the epicenter of a counter-modernist movement that beside Cali, ended up including artists in Medellín and Barranquilla.

For the artists in this showing, disobedience or disrespect of authority was assumed as an ironic or provocative game that challenged power in its different manifestations, from the state to family, educational, sexual and religious. The exhibition is accompanied by an educational project “Are you modern?” which seeks to address questions, such as: What makes us modern? Is contemporary the same as modern?  Even, how modern is the Museum of Modern Art?

MAMBO never tires of challenging audiences, and this exhibition, at a highly politicized time in Colombia’s history, is an important contribution to understanding how artists working during an era marked by the Cold War also reflected on the challenges facing their times. According to Claudia Hakim, director of MAMBO the purpose of the exhibition is to “give new life to the museum’s collection, with a narrative that highlights its history and brings it closer to the contemporary.”

MAMBO – Calle 24 No.6-00

Admission: $10,000 Adults, $7,000 students. Closes Mondays.