Although our press junket's motorcade was delayed by that of the First Lady of Colombia, the ninth edition of artBO (Bogotá International Art Fair, through Oct. 28) was much less star-spangled than any of the Basels or Friezes. There was no Jay-Z, and while there was a Condo for his condo (at Bogotá's Galería La Cometa), there was no Picasso for his casa (two artists whose work the rapper expresses a wish for in his single "Picasso Baby"). Instead, there were emerging artists. The convention center, with its stately honeycombed brick walls, was filled with displays by 65 galleries from 23 countries (16 from Colombia), nearly all focused on fresh names from Latin America.
Miami-based dealer Alejandra Von Hartz summed up Colombia's, and the fair's, allure. The country "had a very difficult recent history, which is in some aspects still present," she told A.i.A at the fair. "Artistic production was invigorated precisely because of this."
As for sales, it was too early to tell much on Thursday afternoon, but some booths told A.i.A. they were off to a good start, dispelling the idea that Latin American collectors don't rush to buy at the beginning of the fair. Von Hartz told A.i.A. that "if they see something that is going to go quickly, well . . . " She looked over to a neon piece by Soledad Arias, Perfect Lovers (2004), hanging in her booth. The piece, one of an edition of three, sold to a private collector for $8,500, two hours before the show opened. Her booth also included works by Gean Moreno & Ernesto Oroza, and Jaime Gili.
New York's Sikkema Jenkins & Co. pared down their roster to present a Latin American-focused booth. William Cordova and Vik Muniz were key choices, especially since Muniz also has an exhibition up at the nearby Museum of Art of the Banco de la Republica. Sikkema Jenkins, which is at artBO for the first time, was drawn by existing clients in the region. According to Michael Jenkins, the Colombian collector base "is not huge, but they've been really good patrons."
Besides the First Lady, the VIP opening saw collector and arts patron Ella Fontanals-Cisneros; curator Moacir dos Anjos, organizer of the 29th São Paulo Biennial, 2010; Julieta Gonzalez, associate curator of Latin American art at London's Tate Modern; and Tanya Barson, curator of international art at the Tate, London. There was also Jesús Fuenmayor, the director of the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation; and Houston-based collectors Louis and Gail Adler.
As is the norm at art fairs, the organizers sought to balance out mercantilism with education. The pedagogically driven Articularte Pavilion was led by artists Nicolás París and the duo of Maria Camila Sanjinés and Manel Quintana. There is also a lecture series put together by curator María Inés Rodríguez of the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City. Topics included "Museums in the post-modern Labyrinth/Museum Ad Nauseum," and "The Expanded Field of the Collection," in which collectors from Mexico, Colombia and Spain discussed the changing role of the private collector.
There are also 14 individual projects that make up the "Laboratorium" project. As the name suggests, all the booths deal with scientific exploration. A standout here is Lima's Revolver Gallery, which is showcasing cartographic works by Elena Damiani. Her collages of found photographs and maps are inspired by the Jorge Luis Borges fable of the map and the territory.
The Artecámara pavilion features 23 young Colombian artists with no commercial representation. This, according to artBO director María Paz Gaviria Múñoz, is an example of how artBO is trying to rethink the art fair model. "The fair is organized by the chamber of commerce," she told A.i.A. at an intimate VIP after-party at a bar called Lipstick, "but it tries to propose a platform for the entire city, not just the commercial sectors." She pointed out that the fair has catalyzed growth in the local art scene, with two other fairs springing up in artBO's wake. Odeón, a contemporary art fair, is now in its third edition.
Many paintings on display, like those by Manolo Vellojín at Bogotá's Alonso Garces Gallery and Pablo Griss at Klaus Steinmetz Contemporary Art, from San José, Costa Rica, showed a Latin variation of reductive abstraction. Notably absent were the large sculptures or paintings that are standard at other fairs. Instead, most booths played it safe with works on paper or photographs. The art "adjusts very well to the Colombian market, which is very contemporary, and not set at a high price point," Gaviria Múñoz told A.i.A. at Lipstick. "New collecting, which is most collecting in Colombia, is focused on the emerging artist."