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Museum of Modern Art (Bogota, Colombia)

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Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá / Address: Calle 26 - Bogotá D.C., Bogotá, Colombia / Tel: +57 12860466

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      28.02.2011 12:56
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      Check before you go if you want to guarantee you see some modern art...

      This weekend I had planned to go to a museum and the cinema, and seeing as the only movie theatre in the centre of town is opposite the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogota, I thought that would be a good option. When the listings for this week came out, I saw there was nothing showing that I really wanted to see, so decided to press ahead with just the museum trip.

      Right now I'm wishing I hadn't bothered, as the museum was nothing at all what I expected, and was very disappointing. It was missing that crucial ingredient: modern art.

      I really like modern art. I like the way you can see in it what you will, and how anything can be 'art' if you stick it in a gallery and scribble the artist's name on a plaque next to it. Mostly I wish I had the nerve to do just that. While perhaps not quite as regional as more classical pieces, there are still geographical variations in modern art and so I was interested to see what Bogota considered worth exhibiting, either of local or international artists.

      Bogota is laid out on an American style grid system, so although I didn't know where the museum was, I knew how to find it. It's on Calle 24, between Carerra 6 and Carerra 7 but though I found the aforementioned cinema easily enough, it took me a while to locate the museum as it's set back from the street, and the sign is currently obscured by a large tree. It's not in the exact centre of town - from where I live I walk into the centre and out the other end to get here - but it's also not too far.

      I saw a door and headed in, but immediately wondered if I'd come in the exit as it didn't look very entrance like. There was a desk to my left but it looked more like an info one than a ticket office, so I loitered for a moment outside the gift shop, checking other people were indeed getting their tickets there.

      Entrance for adults is 4000 pesos, or about £1.30. Contrary to what you may believe, that's not all that cheap, and I could have two pizza lunches for the same amount, or 8 ice creams from the Gelateria across the street. Still, I don't begrudge paying a little, especially when I feel like I'm going to get a good few hours entertainment out of it. Unfortunately, I was out the door within half an hour feeling like it had been a waste of time as well as cash.

      The first exhibit removed any doubts about where I was. It was ridiculously modern, a multimedia fusion of films and lights but at the same time a confusing installation because I utterly failed to make the connection between Piccadilly Circus, the Mona Lisa, Marilyn Monroe and an unidentifiably gymnast competing on bars. There was no supporting information, so you just had to guess.

      Next to it, I saw a sign explaining that the current temporary exhibit was to do with the Holocaust. I wrongly assumed that that would be just one of the things on offer, and that there would be some permanent galleries too. That's not the case, so at the moment if you go, all you will get is a rambling exhibit to do with Nazi Germany which morphs into general oppression and racism (including locally in Colombia) towards the end.

      It just seemed like a really odd thing to have in a Modern Art Museum, not least because there was virtually no art involved. Most of the walls are covered with written histories of the time, of the sort you'd normally find in a history or war museum. By this point I was expecting something along the lines of "(not very modern) German art from the days of Hitler" but even that was missing. There was a small exhibit of photos but these were mainly head shots of people and unlabelled, which made looking at them of even less interest than sitting through a friend's holiday snaps.

      I would say 90% of the wall space was taken up by printed boards, covered in a tiny font and requiring serious reading. One or two I could understand but so many of the same changed the ambience completely. It's like displaying a single car could be 'art', but have a dozen and it's a car show room. Equally one unmade bed might be 'art', but a bunch together is a slightly unkempt Silent Night superstore. I would agree that what I got for my money was a museum exhibit, just not one fit for, or normally associated with, art, modern or otherwise.

      In fact, the only vaguely arty thing I saw was a massive graffiti wall where you can sign your name or scribble an essay. It was pretty much the most interesting thing to read in this museum (and, after all, who goes to an art gallery to read?) boasting such gems as:

      Hitler es malo

      Jesus esta con ustedes

      Maz paz, menos Guerra


      I enjoy art galleries as a rule, but the one and only thing that made me smile in this one was when I rounded a corner and there was a polite notice asking patrons not to draw on that wall...though it was clearly too little too late as someone already had, no doubt because the main doodle canvas has only the smallest blots of unadorned space left.

      The museum is an odd place. It doesn't feel like a permanent gallery space, it feels like a warehouse that is temporarily housing some exhibits. It has tight corners but masses of empty floor space too. Unfortunately the exhibits stuck to the walls, leaving a great empty expanse in the middle and creating bottlenecks in the too small crevices all the exhibits seemed to be clustered into. There were a few guided tours on while I was there, and they made it impossible to get even a quick glimpse of some of the displays as the crowds blocked any view. The place was remarkably busy for a Sunday, especially considering it is not one of the (many) museums here who waive their entry fee on this day.

      The various floors are connected by spiral staircases, and I didn't see any lifts. The toilets, which I didn't visit, were also up a flight of stairs, as is the museum's entrance, so as far as I could tell it would not be accessible to those with mobility difficulties.

      The museum has no cafe, and only a small, odd shop. Rather than selling nice arty things, or even anything related to the exhibition, it stocks mainly books, and odd ones at that - the translated lyrics of Oasis, and an English Cuisine cookery book caught my eye.

      I had a quick whizz round the rest of the exhibits (genocide, racism, discrimination and all those fun themes) but soon left. It was not what I had been expecting, and now what I thought I had paid for. Essentially it was an art museum displaying next to no art, and that was a letdown.

      This exhibit is in situ until 30th March 2011. Depending on what comes next, I may return but I can't guarantee it. If you are considering a visit I would strongly advise finding out what the current exhibit is since you can't simply skip whatever it is and go to the permanent collection instead when one doesn't exist. Alternatively I would recommend the much more normal (and free!) Museo Botero a few blocks away which showcases contemporary Colombian works.


      Spanish website: http://www.mambogota.com/index.php

      Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 6pm, Sunday noon to 5pm. Closed Mondays.

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