Held in March 1974, Barranquilla, Cali, Medellín was the first exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno of Bogotá that clearly set out to compare regional artistic production from the position of the capital of the country. Eduardo Serrano Rueda (born 1939), who had directed the Galería Belarca from 1969 to 74, curated the exhibition. The participating artists, mostly draftsmen, were Álvaro Barrios (born 1945), Efraín Arrieta, Ramiro Gómez (born 1949), and Carlos Restrepo (born 1950) representing Barranquilla (years later, these last three artists would form the Grupo de Arte Experimental El Sindicato, 1976–79); Pedro Alcántara (born 1942), Edgar Álvarez (born 1947), Ever Astudillo (born 1948), and Phanor León (1944–2006) representing Cali; Félix Ángel (born 1949), Oscar Jaramillo (born 1947), Saturnino Ramírez (1946?2002), Javier Restrepo (1943?2008), Alberto Sierra, and Juan Camilo Uribe (1945–2005) representing Medellín.
Barranquilla, Cali, and Medellín are at a considerable distance from each other and from the capital of Colombia. The Colombian and international events held in those cities rendered the art scenes there dynamic and vigorous, while also providing venues to disseminate local art often critical of the cultural discrimination of the capital city.
In the forties, fifties, and sixties, cultural life in Barranquilla—which is on the Caribbean coast of Colombia—largely revolved around gatherings in bookstores and cafés. From 1954 to 1969, La Cueva bar was the meeting place of the Grupo de Barranquilla, whosemembers included writers Gabriel García Márquez, Álvaro Cepeda Samudio, Alfonso Fuenmayor, and German Vargas; painters and visual artists Alejandro Obregón (1920–1992), Cecilia Porras (1920–1971), Feliza Bursztyn (1933–1982), Nereo López, Enrique Grau (1920–2004), Juan Antonio Roda (1921–2003), Orlando “Figurita” Rivera, and Noé León (1907–1978); and other figures important to Colombian culture. Starting in the sixties, the graphic work and objects by artist Álvaro Barrios (born 1945) were known throughout Colombia for their relevance to contemporary conceptualist tendencies.
Cali—which is the capital of the department of Valle del Cauca in southern Colombia—was the site of three events that proved very significant to artists active in the seventies: the Festivales de Arte (started in 1961); the Festival de Arte de Vanguardia (1964–66)—organized by Pedro Alcántara in conjunction with what were called the nadaístas,an oppositional movement that eschewed any sort of artistic or literary tradition in Colombia—an event formulated as a reaction to the government-sponsored Festival de Arte; and the Bienal Americana de Artes Gráficas (1971, 1973, 1976, 1981, and 1986 editions) supported by the Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia of Cali and Cartón de Colombia, a private company.
Medellín—capital of the department of Antioquia located in the Central Andes—gave rise to a generation of artists with novel proposals for the Colombian art scene. The city supported them by means of events like the Bienal Iberoamericana de Pintura de Coltejer (1968, 1970, 1972, and 1981 editions) intended as a venue for discussion of new tendencies in international art.