Bogotá’s Sala de Arte Bancolombia houses rare art collection

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Omar Rayo's "The Bishop's toy."

Having reached its first anniversary, and the latest addition to Bogotá’s vibrant exhibition scene, the Sala de Arte Bancolombia houses one of the most impressive collections of artworks in the country and a real treat for visitors interested in the artistic representation of the nation during the 19th and 20th Centuries. This said, within the collection, there are works dating back to colonial times, including religious pieces and portraits by one of the great masters of the age, Gregorio Vásquez Arce y Ceballos.

As the private collection of one of the country’s largest financial institutions, the Sala de Arte Bancolombia opened on the fourth floor of the Torre Atrio building, and within 1.400 square meters, visitors can admire 350 works by artists such as Fernando Botero, Alejandro Obregón, Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar, Omar Rayo, Enrique Grau, David Manzur, Édgar Negret, Luis Caballero, Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo, Pedro Nel Gómez, and Francisco Antonio Cano.

The exquisite curatorial work of Nelson Osorio, and museographer Carlos Betancourt, present art in spatial, non-chronological order, giving importance to specific themes, rather than technique.

The gallery also houses artifacts belonging to the historical collection of Bancolombia, and which show the technological advances of an institution that was founded almost 150 years ago.

Painting by the Munich-born, Colombian painter Guillermo Weidemann.

From the everyday items that the bank safeguarded as a testament to its role in shaping Colombia as a modern economic power, the Sala’s identity is defined with certain nostalgia of nation building, from the depiction of the Magdalena River with steamboat by the primitive coastal artist Noé León (1907-1978), to the sweeping Andean landscapes immortalized by the 20th century painter Gonzalo Ariza, the uniqueness of this collection is in great part to due to its non-commercial approach, presenting works that break with stereotypes of what a Botero, Rayo or Negret “should look like.” Included in the landmark collection is a rare mural by Alejandro Obregón that once adorned one of the bank’s offices, and now comes to life, with its 8-meter-long canvas of darting barracudas.

At the start of the 20th century, Antioquia was at the epicenter of economic transformation. Artists Pedro Nel Gómez (1899-1984), Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo (1910-1970), and Debora Arango (1907-2005) documented the social conditions of workers, and the role of women, in a department governed by staunchly conservative, religious, and provincial values. In this collection, Bancolombia has several emblematic works of these artists who played a fundamental role in defining the future narratives of Colombian art.

For visitors to the Colombian capital, the Sala de Arte Bancolombia is a “must-see” on the cultural circuit, and among the many pleasant surprises of visiting this new exhibition space, is the fact that admission is free. The salon offers guided tours with a bilingual staff from Tuesday to Friday at 12:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The salon is open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. On Saturday, the museum is open from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Sala de Arte Bancolombia. Calle 28 No.13A-75 (Torre Atrio / Fourth floor)

Caballos y formas by Fernando Botero (1953).
Caballos y formas by Fernando Botero (1953).