From Ancient Gold Sculptures to Graffiti: A Thriving Art Culture in Bogotá, Colombia

A man sits on a ledge of a heavily graffitied wall in Bogotá

Updated October 22nd, 2018.

I didn’t intend on visiting Colombia on my trip. However, the majority of backpackers that I met as I was going through Peru and Ecuador told me how beautiful and friendly Colombia was, and that it was the out and out highlight of their trip.

Towards the end of my time in Ecuador I had a few days free and after a quick look on Skyscanner, I found some cheap flights to Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, for a four day mini trip: one of the best decisions that I made on my entire South American adventure.

I had three full days in Bogotá, with the other day a traveling day. When you get a taxi from the airport in to Bogotá city the first thing that stands out at you as you’re driving in to town is the street art on the buildings and bridges, everywhere really. It’s amazing. It’s really colourful, incredibly impressive, and turns a bunch of boring grey structures into eye-catching works of art. I wish they could brighten up all cities like this.

I arrived on a Monday which was a mistake as I went to go to the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) but it was closed as a lot of things seem to be on Mondays. Thankfully, the Botero museum was open though.

Botero – A Colombian Treasure

I had never heard of Botero before Colombia, but when I was looking at things to do in Bogotá, the Bolero museum came up as a must. It was free, it was in the La Candelaria (historical) district (where most tourists stay) and the art was really different and interesting. Well worth spending a few hours in, plus you’re allowed to take photos inside, just don’t get too close to the art as alarms go!

Botero was born in 1932 and is probably Colombia’s, if not South America’s most famous artist. His style, known as ‘Boterismo’ portrays people and figures in a distorted (overly-large) size. His art can be found all over the world from Barcelona Airport to the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Botero was born in Medellin, Colombia and his work can be found throughout the progressive city – don’t miss the Medellin Walking Tour to find out more. 

Botero

One of the pieces in the Bolero museum

Graffiti Walking Tour – Bogotá

Another thing that came up to do in Bogota which stood out was the graffiti walking tour. To take part in the tour you need to e-mail the guide ahead of time and he tells you when and where the tour starts. If I impress nothing else upon you during this article, I want to impress upon you how brilliant this tour was, and how it ended up being one of the highlights, not just of my time in Bogota, but of my entire three month trip in South America!

APCSome of the graffiti in Bogota, APC are one of the biggest street art collectives in the city

The graffiti tour is a free walking tour (donation at the end), mainly in La Candelaria for about 2-2.5 hours, where one of the graffiti artists himself, a friendly Aussie called Crisp, takes you around to lots of different pieces of street art.

The best part of this is that as he is a street artist himself, he knows all the artists, so he is able to tell you things about them: so you can pick out their style, what they prefer to paint about and he explains what a lot of the more political art is about. So, as well as getting a lesson in street art, you also find out a lot about the historical and political aspects of Bogota and Colombia in general.

graffitiAnother example of the amazing street art in Bogota

In Colombia, unlike most countries in the world, street art is not illegal. It is ‘prohibited’, which means that, if the police feel like it and catch a street artist at it, they could give him/her a fine (basically a bribe). The art is incredible.

The mask below is one of the objects that Crisp makes. Every mask has a different design and he sticks them high up on the streets, all over the world. I bought this one off him (he sells art too).

maskMy very own Crisp mask!

There are tonnes of these dotted around in Bogotá as well as in cities all over the world, the bugger was that I had to then keep this mask safe for the last two months of my travels!

Bogotá Free Walking Tour

After this great walking tour I then went on the free walking tour given by Bogotá city of key landmarks in the capital (no donation needed at the end), it was decent, but after the incredible graffiti tour, it was a bit of a letdown.

The tour lasted about an hour. Even though it was in English, the guide didn’t have a great grasp of the language and he kept forgetting things to talk about. I would advise you to do this tour first (you might as well do it, it’s free and does cover some stuff that Crisp doesn’t) and then go on the much better graffiti tour.

square

The main plaza in Bogota, tonnes of pigeons!

Birds-eye Views of Bogotá

The following day, my last in Bogotá, I went up the teleferico (cable car), which seems to be a staple in most South American cities! Not the best organised thing in the world, but worth it for the amazing views… It makes you realise how vast and sprawling this Colombian city located high in the Andes actually is!

bogota telefericoGoing up the teleferico, best to do it in the morning when there isn’t as much smog and mist.

El Museo del Oro (Gold)

I then finally visited El Museo del Oro. To visit it properly you definitely need to give yourself at least two hours, preferably three. There is so much there to see, and most of the exhibitions come with English signs and information too. The level of detail of some of the gold is just stunning, a really enjoyable museum to visit.

goldOne of the pieces in El Museo del Oro

Bogota was the biggest surprise of my trip to South America. The food; the culture; the people, were amazing and as I was only there for such a short time it has given me a real craving to go back. I strongly urge you to visit Bogota, and to most definitely go on the graffiti tour, well worth it and a great introduction to Bogota, and to Colombia. If I had time, I would have loved to explore the rest of the country!

By S. G. A. Martin

 

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