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This article by journalist Maryluz Vallejo Mejía—reporter and cultural editor of the Medellín-based newspaper El Mundo at the time—recounts the history of “El Jardín del Arte,” as María Antonieta Pellicer de Vallejo’s modernist home was called. The residence also housed the Mexican consulate in Medellín. On the basis of testimonies from those who knew Pellicer de Vallejo and attended her legendary parties, the article depicts a combination of art patronage, unconventional and bohemian lifestyle, and gatherings of intellectuals and artists that took place at “El Jardín del Arte” from the mid-fifties through the sixties. Vallejo Mejía underscores the support that Pellicer de Vallejo gave sculptor José Horacio Betancur, whose work she collected. The reporter discusses the successful exhibition of the work of Father Julio Jaramillo, a figure about whom little is known. Sculptor Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt aptly sums up the role played by “El Jardín del Arte” when he describes it as “[…] the center of the conspiracy against the inanity of the local milieu.”
In the late fifties, María Antonieta Pellicer de Vallejo—a Mexican artist who lived in Colombia—established a sort of informal cultural center known as “El Jardín del Arte” at her modernist home in the Laureles section of Medellín.
An ample residence with large windows located across the street from Santa Teresita church, “El Jardín del Arte” had three levels and a large yard with swimming pool. At her home, Pellicer de Vallejo, who was known as the “stepmother,” amassed a collection of art that included bronze sculptures as well as plastic objects. A patron of the arts, she held exhibitions and organized gatherings of artists and intellectuals. The residence contained a hyperrealist mural with nude male figures as well as works by painters and a collection of sculptures by Colombian artist José Horacio Betancur (1918-1957), whom Pellicer de Vallejo supported economically. The extravagant parties Pellicer de Vallejo organized, which were attended by artists and members of the Medellín high society, were harshly criticized by the neighboring church, which went so far as to excommunicate those who attended. Stones would be thrown through the windows and the police called when those parties were held. After Pellicer de Vallejo’s death, the house was looted and ultimately demolished.
This text reconstructs the history of an informal cultural center that combined art patronage with bohemianism in a city characterized by economic prosperity and a fiercely Catholic ruling class with conflicting morals.
Maryluz Vallejo Mejía is currently a professor of journalism at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. She is the author of the book A plomo herido: Una crónica del periodismo en Colombia -1880-1980.