A nation brimming with creative talent, Colombia has long been proud of the way its artists have held a mirror to society, whether it be through literature, art, photography or recently, urban design. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Medellín offers a fine collection of museums for visitors to enjoy these creative mediums, with three in particular standing out: El Museo Casa de la Memoria, El Museo de Arte Moderno and El Museo de Antioquia. Together, these museums provide every form of artistic expression one could hope for, while providing a unique insight into the country’s complex past and promising future.
Museo Casa de la Memoria
“You must remember in order not to repeat”. This is the motto of Medellín’s fascinating Museo Casa de la Memoria. Initially dreamt up by the town hall as an initiative to support conflict survivors, it eventually opened to the public in 2013. The museum consequently won a Human Rights Award in 2015, leaving no doubt that those looking to gain a deeper understanding of Colombia’s complex past should head straight for the Museum of Memory.
Medellín experienced its worst bouts of violence during the 1980s, when the infamous Medellín Cartel was at the peak of its power. However, even after the dismantling of the imperious drug network, violence continued to rage up until the mid 2000s, during which time countless innocent members of society were either killed or directly affected in some manner. This was an extremely complicated period influenced by countless actors including drug cartels, politicians, guerrilla groups and government-supported militia, with the Memory Museum seeking to explain the conflict while providing a space that represents all those touched by “la violencia”. Not just a memorial site, the museum also offers incredible context as to why Medellín’s recent turnaround is quite so impressive.
Designed in a unique, long, granite construct surrounded by trees and memorial plaques, the museum is approximately 15 minutes from Parque Berrío Metro on foot. Make your way to the top floor where you are free to explore the museum library and archive, which not only documents Colombia’s conflict via newspaper cuttings, personal affects and photos, but also the conflicts of numerous other Latin American countries. On the ground floor lies the permanent exhibition: a jaw-dropping collation of testimonials from survivors, together with reports, photographs and a detailed timeline of events featuring interactive screens. The basement finds temporary exhibitions from local artists which tackle themes of memory, identity and urban design, while you can also find a café and outdoor area to sit and reflect.
Museo del Arte Moderno
Found in the neighbourhood of Ciudad del Río (walking distance from Industriales Metro), the Museo del Arte Moderno (MAMM) often flies under the radar for visitors to the city. Part of this is due to it having opened a little over 3 years ago, while for many travellers, Ciudad del Río simply doesn’t appear in many guidebooks as an area to visit. The towering exterior, formed from five floors of striking burnt steel panes, seeks to emulate the makeup of Medellín’s haphazard hillside comunas (neighbourhoods) which have continued to grow in each and every direction over the decades. From the top you can appreciate the beauty of the valley thanks to a superb panoramic view on the 5th floor balcony.
Inside you can expect to find contemporary artwork that, perhaps unsurprisingly, engages with many of the city’s demons and past troubles. Paintings, installations, moving images, sculptures, collages, and many more styles are on display, offering a window into the diversity of the creative talent found across the country. Better still, the variety of work constantly keeps the viewer entertained and all but ensures that there is something for everyone.
Museo de Antioquia
A splendid art deco building located in the hustle and bustle of downtown Medellín, El Museo De Antioquia is found just a stone’s throw from Parque Berrio Metro. Not coincidentally, the entrance to the museum lies at the bottom of Botero Plaza, known for its enormous, humorous sculptures created by the legendary local artist Fernando Botero. The Museum of Antioquia has always been an institution of education and culture since opening in 1881 (in another part of the city). It has held its current location – the old Municipal Palace – since 2000, following a heavy push from then-incoming mayor Juan Gómez Martínez.
The permanent collection takes up two floors and includes some 100 pieces of Botero’s most well-known works, all of which the Medellín-born artist donated to the museum. Botero’s style is known for its astute societal observations, regularly depicting famous cultural figures (both national and international) in comical, oversized fashion. The bottom floor of the museum has recently been devoted to detailing the centrepiece of Medellín’s turnaround – innovative urban design – and draws parallels with other urban architectural successes. The remainder of the museum is devoted to exhibiting the work of current and former Latin American artists, spanning pre-Columbian work, classical oil paintings and contemporary works that tackle modern day issues.
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