Santiago Montoya

Colombian, b. 1974

Contemporary Colombian artist Santiago Montoya follows a multidisciplinary approach that embraces traditional painting, found objects and video documentary. In carefully structured series, he uses the aesthetics of materials to introduce meaning, resulting in collections where appearance and concept bear equal weight. He comments on a broad swathe of political issues, from conservation and dispossession to the transmission of information, aiming to uncover reality and bring to light the victory of the human spirit over adversity.

Montoya was born on 11 September 1974 in Bogotá, the second of three children in an enterprising family; besides running a cacao plantation, his father has worked variously as a racing driver, pilot, ship’s captain and fisherman. In 1983, the family fulfilled a long-held dream of moving to Old Providence Island in the Caribbean, where they lived until 1985. Montoya had been painting from around the age of eight, and at 10 he began classes with a local artist. Experimenting with different techniques, he developed a personal drawing style and started using watercolours, reflecting the vivid hues of his remote Caribbean setting. Montoya often travelled with Colombia’s national BMX team and took the opportunity to visit major international museums. By the age of 12 he was already aspiring to be like Pablo Picasso and become an artist.

After completing high school in Bogotá in 1993, Montoya undertook a mandatory year of military service and then enrolled for a Master of Fine Arts degree course at the Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá (1995–2000). There he studied with the painter Luis Roldán and received training in a range of disciplines, from video to sculpture. Admiring the directness of Picasso’s artistic approach and strongly influenced by both Abstract Expressionism and Francisco Goya’s overwhelming black paintings, he set out to explore the language of composition and colour. In 1999 he took part in group exhibitions in Colombia and Germany and held his first solo show, Camila. Following graduation, Montoya ventured on an epic journey to Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina, and visited Antarctica. In 2001 he got married.

Montoya’s first major sequence of works was the Target series (2003), a set of paintings of circles based on geometric abstraction – for him, ‘Colour and form achieving a perfect communion ... like a mathematical progression’. His next project continued the quest for new formal possibilities. A chance viewing of an exhibition in New York introduced him to the work of the American Conceptual sculptor Tom Friedman, who showed Montoya that there was room in art for many of his ideas. Influenced by the American’s subtle humour and use of ready-mades, Montoya began to incorporate found materials into his own work. The resulting Digital File series (2004–2007) is a collection of square compositions constructed from previously painted old canvases, referencing modern methods of storing information. This expansion of the traditional medium of painting provided a fresh resource for structuring and visually articulating his thoughts.

During a second trip, undertaken with his wife in 2004 to 2005, Montoya explored large tracts of south-eastern Africa, driving some 29,000 kilometres and recording the experience in four video and photographic documentaries, News from Africa (2008). His intention was to draw viewers into a dialogue or personal encounter with the complex reality of this little-known area. The irony of some of the photographic titles – Excess Baggage, Diamonds are Forever – suggests a wry but compassionate interpretation of some of the continent’s challenges.

Montoya turned next to cash money as a theme. The Great Swindle (2007–2012) looks at paper money as a platform of political propaganda, exploiting iconic pictures to bolster power and embed imagery in the national consciousness. The series journeys through history exploring iconography and idealism across a cultural spectrum, from model planes and boats inspired by Communist China’s food coupons of the 1950s and 1960s to portraits of fallen dictators. On a formal level, Montoya perfects his fabrication process, using artworks meticulously constructed of banknotes as aesthetic representations of his research and keen observation.

Forgive Me Father, For I Have Painted (2011) is a series of paintbrushes and tubes of acrylic enclosed in clear resin, which responds to contemporary art’s fascination with new media, often at the expense of classical painting techniques. For although Montoya acknowledges the importance of investigating novel approaches, since college days he has been convinced that painting is an enduring and expressive medium both for representation and for conveying ideas.

In 2006 Montoya was shortlisted for the IV Uniandinos (Alumni Association of the University of Los Andes) Arts Prize, awarded by the Galería Espacio Alterno, Bogotá. He has exhibited widely in Colombia and in Venezuela, Mexico, Panama, the United States, Korea, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, presenting the solo shows News from Africa at Arte Consultores in Bogotá (2008) and The Great Swindle at the B-146 Gallery in Zürich (2009). Group shows include Formarte, organised by the Fundación Corazón Verde, Bogotá (2009), the Tina b. Contemporary Art Festival, Prague (2009), Inner Journeys at Maison Particulière in Brussels (2013) and Conscienta: Latin American Consciousness at the Lloyds Club in London (2014).

His first solo exhibition in London, The Great Swindle, opened in November in 2012 at Halcyon Gallery. Improbable Landscapes, the artist’s second solo show at the gallery, launched his series of large tapestries in June 2014, followed in the autumn by Tally Sticks Project, a large site-specific installation created by Montoya for presentation in the main gallery. In October 2015, Halcyon Gallery presented Unfinished Business, which saw Montoya continue to develop his dialogue spotlighting society’s contemporaneous relationships with money and the economy at large. From October 2016 to March 2017, The Great Swindle is reprised as a major institutional show curated by Dr Jose Luis Falconi at the Art Museum of the Americas – OAS in Washington D.C. On 9 January 2017, Surfin’ USA opened in London as Santiago Montoya’s sixth solo exhibition at the Halcyon gallery. From October to December 2017, Missteps (and Other Paths), was held at Espacio El Dorado, Bogota, Colombia. This seminal exhibition curated by Dr José Luis Falconi questioned and reflected on the still intact promise of the Colombian national project.

Montoya’s works have been exhibited at many art fairs: MAC21 International Contemporary Art Fair, Marbella, Spain (2003); the 5th International Art Fair, Zürich (2003); the International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Florence (2003); ArtBo Art Fair, Bogotá (2006–2011); the Latin-American Art Fair (FIA), Caracas (2008); SCOPE Basel, Switzerland (2009–2010); the Korea International Art Fair (KIAF), Seoul (2010); PINTA Art Show, London (2010–2011 and 2014); Arteaméricas, Miami, Florida (2011); Foro Sur, Cáceres, Spain (2011); Houston Fine Art Fair, Texas (2011); PINTA Art Show, New York (2011); Art Stage, Singapore (2013); and Bienal del sur en Panamá, Panama City (2013). His works are held in international public and private collections including the Embassy of Colombia in London, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston and the Art Museum of the Americas (AMA) – OAS, Washington D.C. as well as in the permanent collection of Colby College Museum of Art.

‘History has always fascinated me’, observes Montoya. ‘The psychological approach to history is always of great interest to me: how our behaviour is different depending on the context we live in. How we behave and respond to the world that surrounds us, and the world that others have created, transformed or destroyed.’


2000 MA Fine Arts, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá

2018 If So What? Art Fair, San Francisco, USA
2017 Mal Paso (y Otros Senderos), Espacio El Dorado, Bogotá
2017 Surfin' USA, Halcyon Gallery, London
2016-2017 The Great Swindle, AMA | Art Museum of the Americas, OAS , USA
2016 Money Talks, Halcyon Gallery, London
2015 Unfinished Business, Halcyon Gallery, London
2015 Embassy of Colombia, London
2014 Tally Sticks Project, Halcyon Gallery, London
2014 Improbable Landscapes, Halcyon Gallery, London
2012 The Great Swindle, Halcyon Gallery, London
2009 The Great Swindle, B-146 Gallery, Zürich, Switzerland
2008 News from Africa, Arte Consultores, Bogotá
2002 Circle, 108 Fine Art, Miami, Florida, USA
2001 Recent Works, Arte Consultores, Bogotá
1999 Camila, Galería Espacio, Bogotá

2020 US NOW, Halcyon Gallery, London
2018 Comfortably Numb: A Critical Investigation into the Culture of Drugs and Narcotics, Another Space, New York
2018 Dulce Tumaco: Una mirada desde el arte y las historias locales, Espacio Flora, Bogotá
2018 El Tiempo Del Fin, ICPNA (Peruvian North American Cultural Institute), Lima
2017 Pelé: Art Life Football, National Football Museum, Manchester
2016 Summer Exhibition, Halcyon Gallery, London
2015 Pelé: Art, Life, Football, Halcyon Gallery, London
2015 Repeat to Change, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
2015 The Art of Creating, Halcyon Gallery, London
2014 Conscientia: Latin American Consciousness , Lloyds Club, London
2013 Innner Journeys, Maison Particulière, Brussels
2011 Solemn, Arte Consultores, Bogotá
2009 Tina b. [This Is Not Another Biennial] Contemporary Art Festival, Prague
2009 Formarte, Fundación Corazón Verde, Bogotá
2008 Art Exchange, B-146 Gallery, Zürich, Switzerland
2008 Certain Things, True Things, Arte Consultores, Bogotá
2008 Sintonizar, Galería Entrearte, Bogotá
2008 El totazo, Galería Casa Cuadrada, Bogotá
2008 Colombian Art, Arte Consultores, Bogotá
2008 Crosscurrents, Contemporary Paintings, Luz Botero Fine Arts, Panama City
2008 Cuestión de corazón, Galería El Museo, Bogotá
2008 Documentan, Galería Casa Cuadrada, Bogotá
2007 Documentan, Galería Casa Cuadrada, Bogotá
2007 Te, Arte Consultores, Bogotá
2007 Equus Arte, Fundación Corazón Verde, Bogotá
2007 The New Colombian Painting, Tseretelli Gallery, Moscow
2007 Popular Pop, Galería Entrearte, Bogotá
2007 Diversity, VI National Art Salon, Galería Casa Cuadrada, Bogotá
2006 Recent Works, Galería Casa Cuadrada, Bogotá
2004 Pintura fresca, Cámara de Comercio de Bogotá
2004 The New Colombian Painting, Parc de l'Orangerie, Strasbourg, France
2004 Animarte, Fundación Corazón Verde, Bogotá
2003 Solidarte, Galería El Museo, Bogotá
2003 Navidarte, Museum of Modern Art, Bogotá
2003 Group Exhibition, Kleiner Prinz Gallery, Baden-Baden, Germany
2003 Mixed Exhibition, Contemporary Art Gallery ‘Am Tunnel’, Luxembourg
2003 The New Colombian Painting, Colombian Embassy, Warsaw
2003 The New Colombian Painting, Penderecki Museum, Warsaw
2003 Grands et jeunes d'aujourd'hui, Espace Auteuil, Paris
2003 Young Painters, Galería El Museo, Bogotá
2003 Recent Works Abstractions, Galería Proyecta, Bogotá
2003 Grupo Arte, Bogotá
2003 Aliento, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Bogotá
2002 In Centimetres, Galería El Museo, Bogotá
2002 The New Colombian Painting, Etaj 3/4 Gallery, Bucharest, Romania
2002 The New Colombian Painting, Constanta Museum of Art, Constanta, Romania
2002 The New Colombian Painting, Municipality of Athens Cultural Centre
2002 The New Colombian Painting, Szombathely Art Gallery, Hungary
2002 Galería Casa Cuadrada, Zürich, Switzerland
2002 Color, Arte Consultores, Bogotá
2001 Arborizarte, Fundación Corazón Verde, Bogotá
2001 Admirarte, Galería Casa Cuadrada, Bogotá
2001 The New Colombian Painting, UNESCO, Paris
2001 Four New Artists, Galería Casa Cuadrada, Bogotá
2000 Santiago Montoya, Arte Consultores, Bogotá, Colombia
2000 Alternatives in Process, Galería El Museo, Bogotá
2000 Figure and Colour, Galería Fenalco, Bogotá
1999 Colombian Worlds, Frankfurt, Germany
1999 Casa de Risaralda, Bogotá
1999 Galería Casa Cuadrada, Bogotá

2006 Shortlisted for IV Uniandinos (Alumni Association of the University of Los Andes) Arts Prize, Galería Espacio Alterno, Bogotá

Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME
AMA|Art Museum of the Americas, OAS, Washington, D.C.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Embassy of Colombia, London
The Farm Group Collection, London
Shikumen Capital Collection, Hong Kong
Universidad de los Andes Art Collection, Bogotá, Colombia

2015 Pelé: Art, Life, Football exhibition catalogue with essays: Brian Winter, ‘Why Pelé Still Inspires Us’; Dr. Bernard Vere, ‘Andy Warhol, Pelé, and the ‘Athletes’ Series’ (Halcyon Gallery)
2014 The Great Swindle, exhibition catalogue with essays: José Luis Falconi, ‘To Pay the Bill with Bills (or How to Keep Cash Flowing)’; Robin Greeley, ‘Follow the Money’; Christian Viveros-Fauné, ‘Santiago Montoya’s The Great Swindle, A History’; Justine Ludwig, ‘Currency Faith, An interview with Santiago Montoya’; José Luis Falconi, ‘Money Talk(s), An Interview with Miguel Palacios on Finance and Fiction (or the Fiction of Finance)’ (Halcyon Gallery)
2014 Improbable Landscapes, exhibition catalogue with essays: José Luis Falconi, ‘Financial Sublime(s)’; José Luis Falconi ‘Perfect Storm(s)’; Beatriz Esguerra ‘Forgive Me Father For I have Painted’ (Halcyon Gallery)
2008 News from Africa, exhibition catalogue with texts by the artist (1000 Voltios)
2002 Abstractions, exhibition catalogue with Foreword by Germán Rubiano Caballero (Art Editions)
2001 The New Colombian Painting: an Itinerant Exhibition, exhibition catalogue with Foreword by Eduardo Serrano (Colombian Ministry of Culture)

Atmospheric image Atmospheric image
Atmospheric image Atmospheric image
Atmospheric image Atmospheric image
Atmospheric image Atmospheric image