Nothing brings me greater joy than traveling to a new country … and then spending days indulging in as-yet-undiscovered (by me) art galleries and high-fashion boutiques. Our recent trip to Colombia with Rebecca Recommends’ newest DMC client, Amakuna, not only cemented for Charlie and me how diverse and alluring this country is, but also opened our eyes to cosmopolitan Bogotá and its incredible wealth of designers and artists. This is the largest city in the country and a melting pot of cultures from throughout a diverse region. Modern architecture meets historic colonial facades and everywhere one turns, there’s green, from the countless urban parks to the lush mountains to the east.
Here, a round-up of my art and fashion must-dos when in Bogotá (please do reach out for more information about Amakuna – they can arrange for expert guides, as they did for us, to take in the very best of high-end shopping and insider art gallery tours).
It was a bit unnerving just how much Charlie and I loved and wanted to take home with us from the St. DOM store (there is a second store in Cartagena), where Colombian designers are on incredible display – the carefully curated merchandising exhibitions alone are worth a visit. The store and its local Colombian fashions have been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Latin American Vogue and other publications. Earrings, shoes, handbags, dresses, jumpers, T-shirts, sweatshirts – somehow it all found its way into our luggage home. I bought a native-inspired cape (“Fashion with a spirit made in Colombia”) from Adriana Santacruz that will long remind me of our stay. While we didn’t have the time to indulge, there is an entire homeware division at St. DOM to peruse as well … next time …
BITACORA, a fashion and design house in the Teusaquillo neighborhood, is an ongoing project run by Nicolas Cuestas, with new collections of fashion, design and art every four months or so. Incubating projects, ideas, experiments and concepts intertwine, a remarkable chance for those with an artistic appreciation to view creativity in process.
Shopping of another form – for delicious local delicacies – is almost too easy at the boldly colorful and abundantly welcoming Paloquemao food market, set in a historic railroad warehouse. With one of Amakuna’s fabulous guides by our side, we chose the freshest of produce, indulged in street food and bought local flowers (which cost next to nothing as compared to UK and US prices), which we enjoyed for days in our hotel room during our stay. (Be sure to indulge in the juice culture here – you’ve never tasted anything like the shakes and juices the stands create, with all manner of local fruit, milk and ice).
Our custom Colombian art tour with a curator arranged through Amakuna was priceless, opening up doors we may never have known existed. Celine, our expert guide, introduced us to Ana Gonzalez’s work and contemporary artists Leyla Cardenas and Alberto Miani, who is known for his drawing and painting of chairs. There is a quite a culture of drawing in Colombia, which you’ll likely notice in many of the art galleries you pop into.
Art takes many forms in Colombia, from young, emerging artists as we saw, to national treasures such as Fernando Botero and his “chubby” paintings. For these, a day at the Museo Botero is in order, where one can view 123 of the master’s works, as well as 85 pieces by Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Renoir and others.
Ancient artifacts masquerade as art history at the Banco de la República’s Gold Museum (Museo del Oro), where I could have spent hours poring over the incredibly well-displayed pieces that offer an excellent primer on Colombia pre-Hispanic history. More than 13,000 pieces of gold and 20,000 stone and clay artifacts are housed here.
A hidden gem outside Bogotá’s main center, the art museum of the Cultural Heritage Direction of the National University of Colombia is a must for those interested in architecture – the museum and theater are modern masterpieces.
Celine also led us through various neighborhoods for an introduction to Bogotá’s prolific street-art scene. There’s an interesting insight into Colombian history here, as we learned about the decriminalization of graffiti and its promotion as a new form of artistic and cultural expression. There’s much to learn about the technical aspects of graffiti and the intended messages (such as those by Bastardilla, who paints with an eye toward women’s rights in Colombia).
Just one more reason I’m dying to return to Colombia is the International Art Fair of Bogotá, the ARTBO Fair, held for four days in October. This important cultural exchange focuses on quality and diversity of art and is refreshing and must-do for those in the artistic circuit.
In the coming weeks, I hope to share more from our Colombian adventures with you, including romantic Cartagena and the lush coffee region. In the meantime, feel free to reach out for an introduction to our new friends at Amakuna.