Word of Mouth: Art Museums of Cartagena

Four establishments bearing everything from Zenú artifacts to politically-charged photography

by Leora Novick

As enticing as the rainbow-colored, sun-soaked streets of the old city of Cartagena, Colombia may be, the city’s museums hold an abundance of art, both modern and historic, to fill your days with design inspiration. From hand-stenciled gold relics from the early Zenú society to today’s well known and emerging Colombian artists, each individual museum has a very distinct voice and aesthetic, adding an additional tone to an already multi-hued visit.


Casa Museo La Presentacion

It seems only fitting that a former school in Cartagena’s colorful San Diego neighborhood should now play host to a roster of local art events, exhibitions, antique shows and even a monthly farmers market. The transformation of Casa Museo La Presentacion began in 2014, and visitors continue to flock to this once secret enclave, partaking in each seasonal event and exploring the storied past of this former convent. From workshops and dance recitals to an occasional marriage ceremony in the attached chapel, no day is alike at this melange of art and design.


Museum of Modern Art

In the southern tip of Cartagena’s walled city, the Cartagena Museum of Modern Art splays out onto the streets, with its guerrilla-style promotion spread throughout the Plaza de San Pedro Claver. For 5,000 Colombian Pesos (roughly two American dollars), you can visit the museum’s two floors: on top level, a temporary exhibition and the bottom level’s permanent showcase featuring Colombian artists Alejandro Obregon and Enrique Grau. Eduardo Ramirez Villamizar, one of the country’s most renowned sculptors holds pride of place in the museum, where his hanging iron shapes tell a linear narrative against the exposed brick walls.


Zenú The Gold Museum

Gold was an important marker in Colombia’s history, from its original discovery and the start of goldsmithing to attracting the attention of treasure-hunting Spaniards and eventually changing the course of Colombian history. The Museo del Oro Zenú, centrally located in Cartagena’s Plaza de Bolivar, highlights the history of Cartagena through the rise and fall of its gold supply. The museum examines the history of the original settlers of Colombia while chronicling the journey of gold, and visitors can examine handcrafted designs stemming from the Zenú society with origins as early as 200 BCE.


NH Galeria

Tucked in a quiet street corner, running parallel to Cartagena’s walled perimeter, the NH Galeria feels a world away even before you step inside. Draped in a cheerful sunflower yellow coat of paint, this design outpost heavily features Colombian-born artists alongside well-known contemporary designers, in an attempt to highlight the country’s local talent. Bogota-based artist Olga de Amaral works with different fibers to explain the connection between light and space. The fluidity and seamless movement of her designs are evident in her shimmering “golden surfaces of light” exhibit while Cartagenian artist Ruby Rumié favors a mixture of medias, working with sculpture and photography among others to focus heavily on political and geographic statements. Entrance is free, and the friendly staff is more than happy to point out their local kinsmen’s work.

Images by Leora Novick