For two Bogotá galleries, in the Colombian capital’s trendy El Poblado neighbourhood, art biz has never been better. It could seem so different from the noisy cafe art invasion happening in the nearby art district of Calle 14, but Black Phoenix and Casa Albert both exhibit decorative porcelain, jewellery and objets d’art handmade from reclaimed wood, cloth and plastic. “Casa Albert is a museum for black folk art,” explains Malafío Galán, one of the curators. “In a Colombian forest where the Negroes lived, these people were made into jewellery, pottery and furniture. We collected their work, and the years we kept some of it, they lost it. Since then, we’ve been collecting their reputations, and people find us.”
Among Casa Albert’s offerings is a linen napkin presented to the property’s founder in 1945. He offered it to his girlfriend and son in lieu of her calling him on the day of his planned marriage, which the paramour did not commit to. “I’m spending over 50 years here and I still want to buy the whole house,” he told the newspaper El Espectador. Casa Albert, however, has decided to throw in the towel, and put the place up for sale.
Elsewhere, in Dariane, a former biscuit factory has been converted into Black Phoenix Gallery. “Our motto here is eclectic cultural products from coffee to cloth and weaving,” says Mayra Dorado, a sculptor and director of the gallery. In future, it will expand to include avant-garde architecture, history and food, and it’s already home to a hugely popular shop offering contemporary Colombian art and design.
Seán Connolly is the Observer’s Bogotá correspondent