from the first to the last stone


The Museum of Modern Art of Medellín is 40 years old. The private company and the support of the public administration were of fundamental importance to lift this citizens' initiative.

The day it was founded there was nothing: no building, no works, no exhibitions. It was a meeting of friends in the gallery The Office, which was in the center of La Playa. Then they said that officially the Mamm began on August 24, 1978. No minutes or signatures. Only that intention.

Alberto Sierra, One of the founders, once told to this newspaper, as a metaphor, that day a "small fire" was lit.

"At that time there was no money and no guarantees to have a museum." Even later, in the 1980s, when the headquarters was already in Carlos E. Restrepo, there was poverty and the artists worked together with the cleaning, "says the Marta Elena Vélez, artist and other founder.

Tulio Rabinovich, director from 1981 to 1990, the first to last so many years (his predecessor, Jorge Velásquez, he was only one), he never received a salary and the employees were he, an assistant, a manager and a messenger.

The situation was not only difficult for them. The historian Carlos Arturo Fernández He also remembers the financial problems of the Museum of Antioquia in the 1980s: "If someone visited him, the lights in the room were switched on to save energy bills".


In an interview for EL COLOMBIANO in 2015, Sierra, curator and founding ambassador of the office in 1974, remembers that first moment: "It hit me in my head that we had to have a museum, after the absence of the Biennale, after we had not been there for six years. nothing happened in Medellín, I had a gallery of modern art, so I just told my friends that they were going to be collectors at the gallery, & # 39; let's make a museum of modern art. "

The foundation was in 1978, but the first headquarters of the Mamm was inaugurated two years later with an exhibition of 160 works by 60 artists from Antioquia. The head office was located in Carlos E. Restrepo, a neighborhood that was built in the late 1960s and designed to redevelop Otrabanda, as it was known in the western sector of the river. It was designed as a modern citadel surrounded by universities – the National, the Antioquia and the Pontifical Bolivarian -, a library and green zones.

It was also a site whose center was a common hall and which made a good cultural link possible. "It was a privilege, we created trade unions to create a regional hall with the public control library or with Suramericana," he recalls. Natalia Tejada, Director of the museum between 1991 and 2007.

The two floors of that first location served to make 29 years of history. One of the rooms was the Rabinovich Hall ("a stone quarry of the bravest artists", described by Sierra), an important source of creators who would swell up the collections that Mamm has today. It would be the donations from Débora Arango in 1987 what would change the story that was brewing in that young museum in Medellin.


The 90s were not the best for the institution or for the city. Drug trafficking even infects art scenes with fear. On Saturday, December 9, 1989, an anonymous voice called a media outlet to warn that in an hour an artifact would explode in the Mamm. They evacuated the place and although they tried to deactivate it, it eventually exploded and damaged part of the installation and the works.

The art historian and professor, Carlos Arturo Fernández, remember that it was a time that there could be no openings at night; They usually had to be done around noon. "The city closed itself up to defend its small survival space."

There was a bad omen for the institution at the time. In the 1990s, successive administrations also bet on the capital museum of the city, than on Antioquia, by size, urban renewal, tradition (founded in 1881) and by the decided support of Fernando Boterowho has made several donations.

If the Antioquia had his Botero, the Mamm had his Débora. Natalia Tejada The main reason why they left Carlos E. Restrepo to the new head office in Ciudad del Río in 2009 was because there was no room. An example of this was when they had to dismantle the permanent room Débora Arango to participate in the MDE07, a meeting for contemporary art that took place in the city.

Stone on stone
The Mamm was resurrected when he went to Talleres Robledo. From the two-story building in Carlos E. it was moved to a 2,900 m2 warehouse. The strategic location made it the cultural epicenter of the sector.

It continued to grow and on 2 September 2015 the museum opened the expansion and tripled the space (now it has 9,861 meters2). It went from having 6,000 annual visitors in Carlos E. Restrepo to 55,000 in Talleres Robledo. For 2017 it reached the record of 110,000 thanks to the new space. This year the guidelines expect more than 120,000, while on July 31 and went by 75,000.

The growth of the Mamm not only meant more rooms, it was also an expansion as a cultural project to reorient the programming. "Today in the contemporary world these crosses are of fundamental importance in the understanding of art," he explains. María Mercedes González, Director of the institution, when referring to parallel cultural programming.

Currently, the collection amounts to more than 2,000 pieces. González says that the new works have entered the collection thanks to the generosity of the artists. "We would like to think about acquiring contemporary art with a special focus on the Colombian."

And there they go. According to Carlos Arturo, before people did not like going to a museum. For him, the most important thing Mamm now has is having a link with the city, which is visible in the presence of more people. "When it was in Talleres Robledo, everything would happen."

This will of course not be his last stone.

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