Orientation trips
The Mondriaan Fund organises orientation trips for visual artists and mediators to Asia, Latin America and Africa since 2004. The trips are aimed at exchange and cooperation between visual art professionals.

Centro Cultural Moravia
Moravia comes from “morar” which means to live (somewhere). It’s the name of one of Medellin’s poorest neighborhoods. “This is a dream of a community” says Ana Maria Restrepo Aguilar, director of the Centro Cultural Moravia. The cultural centre was built by well known Colombian architect Rogelio Salmona in 2004. The architecture of the centre contrasts greatly with the dwellings and houses in the neighborhood called the “Cuatro Bocas” sector.

Ana Maria introduces us to Cielo Olgin, one of the community leaders of the neighborhood. Cielo’s job is to make sure that the needs and wishes of the local people are taken into account by the cultural centre. And this is probably what makes this place so different from other municipal organisations: it is the local community that wanted the centre and struggled for more than 10 years to have it. Today the centre welcomes 49.000 visitors per month!

Moravia was virtually built on a huge pile of garbage – and a former lake. It is a “Barrio de invasion” (as we were told the day before by Hilde Wolf who gave us a great architectural tour of the city). It means that land was taken over and built illegally. Probably because nobody wanted this land at that moment. In the 50’s many people escaped the violence on the countryside (which seemed to have been triggered on purpose by factory owners in need of cheap labor in the city) and settled in the outskirts of Medellin. The city rapidly became too small.

The area where the cultural centre is located today used to be the official garbage site of the city, where the people as well as the industries dumped all kinds of waste. Immigrants from all over the city started to collect the garbage – and soon built their own sheds to live on the wasteland. At the cultural centre we saw impressive historical photographies showing past living conditions of the people of Moravia. Initially 1.700 families lived there. Many families were since then relocated, but about 200 families still live on the site.

A beautiful and peaceful garden is now covering the garbage ill – but it certainly won’t be used to grow vegetables: the soil is too toxic. At some places the garbage underneath the garden releases methane gas which is used by the families.

Ana Maria and Cielo tooks for a walk in the neighborhood. We stopped at a small container building a bit further away: Cielo told us that as not everybody takes part in the centre’s activities, like dance classes or music lessons, they try to reach out for them. In the container we met a group of women and young girls who were training hair skills. This is an example of educational training organised by the cultural centre: to give women access to training opportunities and – in this case – to take care of their beauty.

Another community leader joined in and showed us small models of houses with a view into the hill (with a lot of garbage). The whole container’s activity is about recycling culture: a light switch constructed from a needle, windows constructed from old buses, chairs made out of old beer containers, etc.

Museo de Antioquia

Located in the old city centre Museo de Antioquia is the most important museum of Medellín. Antioqua is de name of the province of which Medellín is the capital and the museum collects and presents a wide range heritage and arts rom the entire region. The collection covers a wide range, from indigenous ceramics to social realism of the early 19th century and contemporary art, the museum aims to be a dynamic contemporary institute that in the words of Venezuelan curator
Nydia Gutiérrez aims to bring the past to the present.

The museum owes a lot of its collection to donations, most importantly by one person, the artist Fernando Botero who was born in Medellín in 1932. In 2000 he donated more then hundred pieces of his own work, including 23 large bronze sculptures and a wide collection of works by others artists to the museum. His donation came with a few important conditions though. On of them was that the museum would move to its current location, a former city hall.

This building from 1937 already came with a few impressive artistic characteristics. It was built in elegant art deco style, with bright green patio’s in the middle. Coinciding with its original political function the central halls and staircases are all decorated with monumental frescos by Pedro Nel Gómez, in social realist style that testifies the communist beliefs of its maker.

After the move to this new location Botero also arranged the display of his donations that covers almost an entire floor of the museum and should remain on view permanently. One wing presents works from his collection, including a colorful painting of Frank Stella. The collection of 23 large-scale bronze sculptures were positioned on the public square in front of the museum, which from then on became known as the Botero Plaza.

Besides these restrictions Nydia and her team have a wide collection of Colombian art to her disposal with which they make exciting exhibitions. She guides us through the presentation of ceramics that cleverly combines information about education and technique with pre-Colombian art and some beautiful contemporary commissions by local artists. By focusing on the material the exhibition not only helps us to understand how pre-Colombian heritage is an important source of inspiration for contemporary practitioners, the ceramic art works also symbolically address the fragility of the current moment of social and political peace with regard to the violent recent past of the city and region of Antioquia.

Another exhibition called Piso Piloto, made in collaboration with CCCB in Barcelona, parallels recent urban developments in Barcelona and Medellín. The exhibition shows us how Medellín, for many years known to be the most violent city in the world, has developed into a modern and much safer metropolitan, through smart and effective urban interventions, such as the metro-cable that
connects a large part of the city to the public transport network, but also through many social and education art initiatives and neighborhood projects all throughout the city.

We are reminded of our meeting at Casa Tres Patios two days earlier, where many local art initiatives presented themselves to us. The presentations at Casa Tres Patios primarily focused on the positive input of educational art programs in the neighborhoods. Our curator and guide Nydia on the other hand takes a more nuanced position. According to her the enormous growth of social art practice is a response to the turbulent history and stimulated by the different art schools in town. But the success of these programs and urban interventions is too often measured on formal aspects, while the social problems my still continue. The upcoming exhibition called MDE15, compiled by a team of curators including Sharon Lerner, Edi Muka, Fransesco Escobar & Tony Evanko, specifically calls attention to the ethical questions that surround these practices. And it is through programs like this that the historical art museum aims to be at the heart of social politics in this rapidly changing vibrant city.

Rieke Vos

Museo Casa de la Memoria: Memories… but which ones

The Museo Casa de la Memoria is an active project in permanent development which acknowledges the complexity of the armed conflict in Columbia and the different forms of violence related to it (excerpt from the flyer of the museum).

Gabriel Monsalve is mediator at the Museo Casa de La Memoria and welcomes us. He makes his perspective at once transparent: he grew up in a popular neighborhood of Medellin during the most violent years – and he lost friends and relatives, they where killed or they disappeared. He knows many violent groups and how they intertwine with the people living in Antioquia and its capital Medellin. He also studied history.

The museum works on a local level, dealing with what happened in Medellin, but it strives to contribute to a more general level in how all this is linked with the economical, political, social and cultural components of Colombian society.

Gabriel Monsalve underlines that memories are always multiple. He has a personal point a view, besides his knowledge of history. This is why the museum gathers a lot of testimonies of different people: it is about the victims and how they suffered, through passive testimonies, political actors, who with their decisions contributed to a certain development, and of the perpetrators.

The Museum also deals with the narcotraffic and how it corrupted so many aspects of society and how people got involuntarily implicated. The notion, that all America needed to be controlled by the US. gabriel comments the well known fact that the USA, resp. CIA introduced the traffic of drugs, also to finance the fight against communism and their varied war activities. The ambivalent work of the DA, which started in the 1970ies. How the drug cartels bought land and enterprises, offering jobs, bringing almost everybody in the cycle of corruption. Spies who worked for all sides.

The drug cartels became very powerful, they had cattle farms, owners of the farms where often kidnapped by Guerilla. The violence was also leading to the migration to the cities. And the total lose of control of the development of the druglords by the CIA, by the governments.

He describes how impossible it was, not to be involved: e.g. if somebody saw a person, maybe even a child, give something even just a glass of water to a guerrilla – it might be reported. And that at the same time how some Guerillas protected the people. And how the peace process with FARC is a very complex issue. And that at the outbreak of the civil war everybody first assumed it would last maybe a few months – and not 12 years.

About the how the drug traffic, the exploitation of resources continues, also by multinational companies. A good example is the well known Chiquita brand. But what do you do when your parents tell you one day: “get money, no matter how?” Gabriel told us history he lived, and he knows very well through his studies. In the schools, he answers one question, there is still very little knowledge generated. The Television is privately sourced and the media owner are linked with big enterprises, so only one kind of knowledge will be spread. Despite all of that: he thinks, things are also changing in a good direction. And asked about the impact of the Centro Cultural Moravia, he says, he wished, he had had this possibilities and alternatives as a child. 15 years ago, Medellin was the most dangerous city in the world. In the 30’s it was one of the leading industrial cities. And today is mainly about service – and tourism.

In the main exhibition “Medellin – memories of violence and resistance” the visitor can go deep into history through a digital timeline, under lied with newspaper articles and other documents. In videos victims tell their stories. I listened to Fabiola Lalinda, who lost her son and how long she had to fight to know what happened – and to receive his ashes: “It was not only losing my son, it was losing any trust in authorities.” What I need to go deeper in is the Ciriri movement she lead. Then you can also listened to music linked to the whole history. In vitrines some fact are strongly demonstrated: 900 pencils stack up for the 900 teachers who where murdered, effectively destroying the education system. All of this just a small glimpse into a very varied exhibition.

Somebody asks about Pedro Escobar and about the Netflix Series “Narcos”: this museum is not about one person. And it is about the victims. As we discuss later on, someone observes, that the museum is by its architecture a very strong structure, almost like a fortress. And about the perpetrators.

Marianne Burki

Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellin
We were greeted in the entrance hall of the new extension of the MAMM, which just opened on September 2nd, by Maria Mercedes Gonzalez, director and Emiliano Valdez, chief curator, who is originally from Guatemala.

They briefly outlined the history of the MAMM, which was founded in 1978 in the Carlos E. Restrepo neighbourhood of Medellin by artists, intellectuals and entrepreneurs who wanted to secure a place for modern and contemporary art in Medellin. In 2009 the MAMM left its bohemian neighbourhood to relocate to a new building, the Talleres Robledo (a former steel mill and as such heritage architecture) in Ciudad del Rio – a development area, where a new medical centre, hotels and residential projects are currently being built. The new extension of 7200 m2, was designed by the Peruvian 51+1 architects in alliance with the local firm CtrlG. The new complex comprises exhibition galleries, public spaces an auditorium, a documentation center, storage, workshop rooms (‘labs’) and service areas making the MAMM a fully fledged contemporary museum. Being mainly a space for temporary exhibitions before, the new extension now makes it possible to show the MAMM collection on a more permanent basis.

The collection is displayed on the 4th floor of the new building. The MAMM is funded for 30% by the mayor’s office and the other 70% comes from private sponsors, admissions, renting out of spaces and other commercial activities. The visitors mainly come from Medellin and there is a special emphasis on education, with programs for schools and young adults. The MAMM team however sees more and more tourists arriving from the USA, Europe, Israel and other Latin American countries.

Emiliano Valdez gave us a tour through the building, along the several exhibitions which were on view at the large ground floor galleries: In And In Between Geographies, curated by Valdez, a group show about travel, displacement, migration, including the work of a host of Colombian, South American, American and European artists. The show partly played on the specific geographical position of Medellin/Columbia.

Then there was the first retrospective exhibition by the Colombian artist Jose Suarez Londono (Medellin, 1955) titled Muestrario/Samples. Londono has gained an international reputation for his diary like prints, drawings, notebooks and works with rubber stamps. He has shown for instance at the Drawing Center in New York (2012). The Londono exhibition was obviously made with great dedication, wonderfully installed and had travelled to other venues before, such as CAPC in Bordeaux.

Like many contemporary art venues, the MAMM has a small project room, coined ‘Programma C’ here, in which guest curator Inti Guerrero presented the Medellin duo Henry Palacio Clavijo and Roman Navas Montoya. The artists created a shed like sculpture out of simple materials, inspired on the settlements of informal architecture in the Medellin hills, like Moravia, and at the same time reflecting elements of modern architecture, like those of le Corbusier.

Om the 4th floor the permanent collection was on display. The mainly Colombian collection is shaped through donations of artists and private collectors, and consists of works from the eighties and nineties. Now the collection can be on more permanent display, the idea is to professionalize collection policies and develop a future vision with a focus on certain areas, especially where there are significant gaps. Programs are developed to establish young collectors circles as well as other means to enhance the presence of the permanent collection. At the 4th floor there was a small presentation of graphic works from the Artes Graficas Panamericanas portfolios, which started in the seventies as well as an overview of the large gift by artist Debora Arango, of her socially engaged realist paintings from the fifties, sixties and seventies.

We ended our short tour at the roof terrace where we found, much to our surprise, a spatial installation by Dutch artist Gabriel Lester.

Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen