Olga de Amaral

Olga de Amaral (b. Bogotá, Colombia, 1932-) is a Colombian visual artist known for her large-scale abstract works made with fibers and covered in gold and/or silver leaf. Because of her ability to reconcile local concerns with international developments, de Amaral became one of the few artists from South America to become internationally known for her work in fiber during the 1960s and ‘70s. She is also considered an important practitioner in the development of postwar Latin American Abstraction. She has developed a unique language with a diversity of vocabulary from weaving, painting, and sculptural traditions. Her works are owned by major museums throughout Europe, North, and South America, and also reside in distinguished corporate and private collections.

Biography and education

Olga de Amaral was born in 1932 as Olga Ceballos Velez in Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia to parents from the Antioquia region of Colombia. De Amaral was raised in a traditional religious family with 5 sisters and 2 brothers. Upon graduating from high school, in the years 1951-52, she got a degree in Architectural Design at the Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca in Bogotá. After graduating she started to work as the director of the Architectural Drawing Faculty at the same school.

 Leaving for the United States in 1954 to study English at the Colombia University De Amaral soon moved and studied Fiber Art at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA (1954–55).  

In 1956, Jim Amaral visited Colombia to see Olga, initially for a few weeks. Shortly after, Jim Amaral and Olga Ceballos Velez married and settled in Bogotá. They started a family (children Diego and Andrea) and a workshop of handwoven textiles. 

Moving to New York in 1966 De Amaral met Eileen Vanderbilt from the World Crafts Council and became its representative for Colombia. With Jack Lenor Larsen's collaboration, Olga de Amaral displayed her tapestries in New York (solo exhibition in Jack Lenor Larsen’s New York showroom in 1967), taught at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and in Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine. 

After returning to Colombia, the Amarals travelled to Popayán and Tierradentro region with its must-see San Agustín. Later Olga visited Peru as the WCC representative. On a rapid visit to Ireland to participate in a WCC conference, Olga met Lucie Rie, a British ceramist who inspired her to incorporate gold into the tapestries. At the beginning of the seventies, the Amarals moved to Barcelona and then to Paris. They visited Greece, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, and England. They made contacts with the centres of European art. They lived for a time in Europe, then returned to Bogotá, visited different areas of Colombia, and then went back to France, amid exhibits, work, and new friendships. Another important journey for the artist was her travel to Japan. Nowadays Olga de Amaral lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia.

At first categorised as two dimensional, representational wall hangings, in the late 1960s her works entered the genres of sculpture, installation, abstract and conceptual art. De Amaral’s art deftly bridges myriad craft traditions; it’s concerned with process and materiality, with the principles of formalism, abstraction and metaphysicality. The artist has developed a distinct voice in her field through her command of conventional techniques for constructing textile objects while progressively pushing the boundaries of orthodox understanding of how textiles work as objects in space. 

She has gradually moved fabric-based works beyond the category of woven tapestry - one that privileges flatness, adherence to the wall, pictorials, and an obsession with the organic and the physical properties of materials - into a more conceptual practice that embraces strategies otherwise found in painting, sculpture, and architecture.  


2018 - TEFAF Maastricht, SmithDavidson Gallery, Maastricht, The Netherlands

2014 - Olga de Amaral, SP-Arte (São Paulo International Art Fair), São Paulo, Brazil

2008 - Golden Fleece, Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel

2007 - Strata, Casa de Vacas Cultural Center, Madrid, Spain

2005 - Olga de Amaral: Resonances, Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal 

2004 - Threaded Words, Embassy of Colombia to the United States, Washington D.C., USA

2002 - Times and Land, Museum of the Nation, Lima, Peru

1999 - Kreismuseum Zons, Dormagen, Germany

1999 - Textilmuseum Max Berk, Heidelberg, Germany

1999 - Woven Gold, The Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

1998 - Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA

1998 - Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

1997 - Art Museum of the Americas, Washington D.C., USA

1997 - Olga de Amaral: Monoliths and Other Landscapes, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USA 

1997 - Olga de Amaral: Rétrospective 1965-1996, Musée de la Tapisserie Contemporaine, Angers, France

1997 - Olga de Amaral: Seven Stelae, Federal Reserve Board, Washington D.C., USA

1997 - University Art Museum, Downtown, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA

1997 - Olga de Amaral: Estelas and Landscapes, Pereira Art Museum, Pereira, Colombia 

1996 - Nine Stelae and Other Landscapes, curated by Jacquelin Pilar, Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, CA, USA 

1996 - University of New Mexico Center for the Arts, Albuquerque, NM, USA

1993 - Olga de Amaral: Four times (a retrospective), Museum of Modern Art in Bogota, Bogota, Colombia

1987 - Alchemy 50, Tate Modern, London, UK

1986 - Colombia nelle Corderie dell'Arsenale, 42nd Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

1979 - Olga de Amaral, Panamanian Institute of Art, Panama City

1973 -  Banque Nationale de Paris, Paris, France

1972 - Museum of Modern Art, Bogotá, Colombia

1971 Woven Walls by Olga de Amaral, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, NY, USA

1970 - Tissue Walls: Olga de Amaral, Luis Angel Arango Library, Banco de la Republica, Bogota, Colombia

1966 - In Grey and Pink, Tate Modern, London, UK

Born in Bogotà on November 30th, -0001

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