Posted on March 15, 2018
This year, the museum is celebrating 40 years since its founding. The anniversary is noteworthy. But it’s even more remarkable considering the museum was established by some 20 artists amid the country’s fighting and the mounting violence among the country’s drug cartels. The city had hosted three major art biennales in 1968, 1970 and 1972, encouraging the artists to begin planning for a museum to exhibit contemporary art.
The museum’s location in Medellín also makes it an extraordinary landmark: in the 1980s and 1990s, the city was one of the most violent in the world. It was from here that Pablo Escobar ruled his cocaine empire and where he was killed by Colombian police in 1993. According to Human Rights Watch, more than seven million Colombians were displaced, disappeared or murdered during the 52 years of fighting. The Museum of Modern Art was founded by artists in 1978 and opened its doors to the public in 1980.
“People didn’t go out then,” said the museum’s director María Mercedes González. “Life took place indoors. But the artists, this museum, as well as many other social and cultural institutions persisted. There was a very powerful social will, a barrier of resistance, and, despite war and economic crisis, this city was resilient.”
Encouraged by growing popularity — it hosted the First Latin American Colloquium of Non-Object and Urban Art in 1981 — the museum by the 2000s was actually expanding. In 2006, city leaders approved the museum’s relocation to the Talleres Robledo building, in the Ciudad del Rio area. In 2010, the museum called for architectural proposals to increase its exhibition space. Five years later, it opened new galleries, a theater, book and gift stores and a cafe.