Published On: Tue, Feb 2nd, 2016

Anthony Wile Highlights Colombia’s Well-Deserved Cultural Resurgence

Colombia has fully emerged from its decades of drug-war driven internal strife and as the clouds part, beauty well beyond just the region’s world-renowned gorgeous women is emerging from the shadows. Businesses are thriving, foreign investment is soaring and the tourism industry is booming.

And as lovers of the arts are discovering, Colombia’s richly artistic cultural heritage has emerged intact from this period of strife that beloved native author Gabriel García Márquez called a “biblical holocaust.” Perhaps this should not be surprising. After all, ceramics unearthed by archaeologists in Colombia are some of the oldest in the Americas, dating from as long as 4500 BCE.

Today, myriad artists working in diverse media – music, sculpture, painting, street murals, literature all conveying the passion and intensity that is unique to a people who have endured such struggle and loss – are bursting forth onto the global stage. And as is the case with any good art, these artists each tell the story of their beautiful country and its resilient peoples in their own unique way.

photo courtesy of Anthony Wile

photo courtesy of Anthony Wile

Anthony Wile, strategic investment advisor for High Alert Investment Management and executive director of the PharmaCielo Foundation, which works to directly benefit rural Colombians, is a longtime collector of Colombian art. Wile considers Colombia his second home, and described his appreciation for these artists and their works that adorn his Toronto home.

For over 15 years, I have spent much of my time in Colombia and am fortunate to have become friends with a number of the artists who, in my mind, transmit the unique energy and passion that exudes from the Colombian people. Returning to my Toronto home with a new piece of art or some new music from these artists is a bit like bringing some of the Colombian sunshine back with me.”

Anthony Wile is not alone in his enthusiasm for the resurgence of Colombian art. Financial Times reporter Maya Jaggi wrote in 2015, “[F]or five decades [Fernando] Botero was almost alone in the international limelight — rather as the Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez was the sole writer known outside the country. Now, just as its novelists have done, Colombia’s visual artists have emerged from 50 years of solitude.”

And as they emerge from isolation, many of these artists are sharing their newfound recognition and success with their countrymen through efforts devoted to improving the lives of fellow Colombians.

Multiple Grammy Award winner Juanes, for example, grew up in Medellín during the height of infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s rampage. He now devotes much of his energy to assisting victims of anti-personnel mines through his Mi Sangre Foundation. In 2006 his performance at the European Parliament to draw attention to the issue led to a $3.15 million donation by the Parliament to assist in demining Colombia, as well as to provide rehabilitation services for landmine victims.

photo courtesy of Anthony Wile

photo courtesy of Anthony Wile

In December 2015, Anthony Wile supported a Bogotá auction hosted by Juanes to benefit the foundation. Juanes had given 30 guitars, donated by Yamaha, to artists to be transformed into pieces of art that would “touch the conscience and promote social transformation,” and be auctioned at the gala to raise funds for the foundation’s work.

The creativity of renowned sculptor and painter Cristóbal Gaviria, better known as Gavi, was on display at the event and so captured Wile’s attention that he purchased the piece to add to his collection. (See photo.) Wile, who has spent much time with Gavi and his wife, Gloria, over the past 15 years at their home in the hills above Medellín, keeps their friendship alive even in Toronto by adorning his home with Gavi’s pieces. Other pieces in his collection are by German Londoño, Hugo Zapata, Fernando Peláez, among others.

Both Juanes and Gavi were widely noted in the U.S. and international press last year when Juanes personally presented Pope Francis with the gift of one of Gavi’s sculptures, “Christ,” during the Pope’s appearance in Philadelphia at the World Meeting of Families in September.

The most exciting thing to me about the resurgence of Colombia’s cultural scene is the opportunity to learn of so many brilliant artists whose work was less accessible during the country’s darker times,” Wile related.

While many people are familiar with Ferdinand Botero’s unique sculptures and paintings of rotund people or Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth installment at Tate Modern, Mateo López’s Motorcycle Diary or José Asunción Silva’s melancholy nocturnes, and certainly Shakira and Juanes on the modern-day musical stage, Wile says, “There are so many others who are finally beginning to receive the recognition I believe they so deserve.”

Indeed, expositions such as ArtBo, the International Art Fair of Bogotá, Cartagena’s International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Medellin’s Botero Plaza and Museum of Modern Art, which recently received a $12 million expansion called “an expression of the transformation of the city” by its director, have been recognized in numerous international publications.

A 2013 book, Art Cities of the Future, named Bogotá one of the most exciting cities to watch for contemporary art in coming years. And Hemispheres magazine called Bogotá “the next great art scene.” The article explained, “When peace and prosperity hit the capital in the mid-2000s, international collectors started to take notice and were shocked to find a fully formed arts powerhouse that had been quietly developing under their noses for decades.”

It’s not just “traditional” art that’s getting the spotlight, either. Street artists, both Colombia natives and internationally known artists, are creating murals that “make Colombian walls and streets feel alive with colors and messages,” writes Matador Network. Often politically bold, both large cities and tiny villages are awash with colorful murals that tell the country’s story, past and present.

The global musical scene, long familiar with Shakira’s voice as well as her beauty and the passionate pop and Latin good looks of Juanes, is now swaying to the beat of some of Anthony Wile’s other favorites, as well. Carlos Vives’s Vallenato style, Fonseco’s “Tropipop” sound and Joe Arroyo’s salsa groove might be heard emanating from Wile’s speakers one day, and Grupo Niche’s vibrant Caribbean rhythms and Latin rockers Aterciopelados the next. The list of diverse Colombian musical options is seemingly endless.

After so many years in cautious isolation and shadows, the sun is once again shining brilliantly on the diversity of artistic expression emanating from the vibrant, ever hopeful Colombia.

Guest Author: Lolita Di

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About the Author

- Sierra is a copy writer for The Dispatch, focusing primarily on pop culture and stories linked to the latest Christian headlines, both in the U.S. and overseas.

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