With its 64 years of history, the Tertulia Museum is today, an emblematic institution for the city of Cali and a benchmark of the country's plastic arts. It has a collection of more than 1500 works of American art, exhibited in different thematic and monographic exhibitions in the Collection Rooms. With a varied program of exhibitions, an educational and cultural component articulated and coherent with the region, the Museum has been characterized as a setting for the vindication of cultural values and the social appropriation of artistic practices, enriching the experience of the most than 75 thousand people who visit it every year.
The current headquarters has a variety of exhibition rooms, an auditorium-cinema, an open-air theater, several workshop spaces and didactic rooms, and a large garden area open to the public. This series of spaces were built under the leadership of a team that always wanted to live up to its time and exceed the limits traditionally assigned to the province. The museum’s history has not been easy and free of ups and downs, but thanks to the support of hundreds of individuals and institutions, the Museum has managed to reinvent itself several times and forge a name with a very strong identity.
This enormous cultural complex had its origins in 1956, when a group of cultural managers and intellectuals from Cali who were interested in politics, art and culture created La Tertulia in a large house in the traditional San Antonio neighborhood as a meeting place in times of dictatorship.
In 1968, and under the general spirit of modernization and growth in the city, it was established as a Museum of Modern Art, with the construction of a building designed to meet the technical requirements of exhibitions, being the first in the country of this nature. In 1971, simultaneously with the Pan American Games, the first American Graphic Arts Biennial takes place at La Tertulia, for which a new temporary exhibition hall was built. The great success of this first Biennial would give the Museum an international character, and would feed the art collection with graphic works from all over the continent.
In 1975 the Auditorium was founded, which would soon become a Cinematheque, welcoming the city's cinephile spirit in the 70s and 80s. During those years, the growth of La Tertulia continued with spaces such as children's workshops, the residence hall, the restaurant, the shop, and the entching workshop. All these new constructions would indicate that the interest of the Museum was directed not only to exhibitions, but that both production and education were a fundamental part of the mission of the institution, where the original idea of a plural and open meeting space continued to prevail.
During the turn of the century, the economic and social crisis in the city, marked by decades of the boom and bust of drug trafficking, a series of challenges for the financing and maintenance of the Museum arose. Although these were difficult times, the Museum never stopped working closely with the city and its artists to keep the activity alive.
In the most recent decade, the Museum has concentrated its efforts on reconditioning its spaces to contemporary specifications, making its processes and equipment more technical and modern.
In 2012, the assembly of the Art collection rooms would provide an ideal space to review the history of the institution and would mark a new moment of momentum for the Museum's activity. In 2015, a new building was added, La Casa Obeso Mejía, a traditional “Caleña” house on the other side of the Cali River, which with its different environments integrates with cultural activity, lending its spaces for exhibitions, workshops, conferences, and different projects that cross the formats and means to elaborate different current questions.