Getting to Medellín’s Museo del Arte Moderno is easy. Take the metro to the Súramerica stop and on your way out ask one of the (reassuring?) armed men in fatigues for directions. In slow-paced, precise Spanish they’ll tell you exactly — including street names and number of blocks — how to get to the Museo Sudamericana.
At least that’s the way it worked for me. The guards might instead – as one woman I asked did – direct you to take a bus heading right out of the area. In other words, you could do worse than starting your visit to MAMM, as the modern museum is called, by dropping into Museo Sudamericana. First of all, it’s on the way. Second, it’s free. Third, it’s the first step in making a trip the Medellín Art Museum worth the metro fare.
See, the MAMM simply isn’t very big. Like, only-one-gallery big. So – provided you have tolerance for a bit of amateur art – it’s best to make it a three-stop trip. Museo Sudamericana (we’ll call it MS from now on – but don’t think of the degenerative disease).
Treat the MS like MAMM’s lobby. After all, the museum is housed in a lobby; the guard will tell you not to stray up the prominent staircase. On a recent afternoon the single sala was filled with work by homegrown Colombian artists; in other words, members of the city photo club. There were photos of graveyards under purple skies; bony models Photoshop-ed into desert scenes; closeups of bugs, switches, mugs; and a series showing two blue-suited motorcyclists clutching each other before a white screen. Best viewed with compassion and a sense of humor.
As with Medellín premier public art collection, the Museo de Antioquia, what lies outside the MS rivals what hangs within. Sculptures are scattered under the building’s huge cantilevered overhang and the fronting garden, but the real gem is the fountain behind the building. Immense bodies and limbs spiral toward the sky almost as improbably as the water which, thanks to a number of pumps, runs up the flat spine of the sculpture.
You won’t find immensity at the MAMM. Tucked away on a pedestrian walkway busy with trees, the museum’s red brick home doesn’t have a sign out front. And there is only one gallery within. Perhaps as a consequence, art spreads to outside – recently white metal stands with printed reproductions of Colombian painter Débora Arango’s works lined the sidewalk. Indoors, fittingly enough, was an exhibit themed “Travelers,” which included one artist who had merely submitted travel photos taken by Bill Gates.
Visitors with children, or simply those feeling childish will enjoy the five-step art project, which takes you through tactile lessons on point, line, plane, color, three dimensions, then allows you to make your own work.
Your final stop, pointed out by numerous signs, is the Biblioteca Pública Piloto. Despite not being a museum, it has more art exhibits than either preceding destination. Start off by taking a seat in the Sala de Estudio direcly across from the entrance for a moment with the modest mural there. Among the stacks, there is just a set of jumbo dominoes on the floor and childish, but colorful mural.
Better to head upstairs, where you may still find a series of reprinted turn-of-the-century photos in one hallway; a forgettable, Technicolor group of modernist acrylics in the library’s only proper gallery; and an expansive area filled with childrens art efforts – which you may find hilariously similar to ‘modern art’ you saw earlier in the afternoon. Ponder this, and conclude your trip, with an overpriced beer at the purposefully grungy library cafe.