Art Basel Miami | Wilson Diaz: Amarillismo

Photo by Miss Rosen © Wilson Diaz

“Amarillismo”, an on-going installation by Colombian artist Wilson Diaz on view at Instituto de Vision (Booth N6), features second-hand vinyl records that the artist has been collecting in cities throughout his native country since 2008.

Organized in four rows, with ten albums going across, and set against a yellow wall, Diaz has selected a series of albums that blatantly appropriate narco aesthetics. The music, which blurs the line between propaganda and art, has become the centerpiece of Diazʼs exploration of the thin line between popular culture and massive brain washing.

Photo by Miss Rosen © Wilson Diaz

The Colombian music industry began in the 1930s, hitting its peak between the 1950s-70s. By the mid-80s, interest had all but disappeared, and musicians began relying on narco-traffic money from Cali and Medellin in order to survive. For “Amarillismo”, Diaz has selected albums produced by different Colombian record companies, such as Disco Fuentes, Zeida, Sonolux, and Discomod—all of which incorporate various aspects of narco style into their work.

The records featured in “Amarillismo” are from the 1970s and 80s, a particularly volatile time in Colombian history, as the drug trafficking was reaching an all-time peak. As Gallery Director Karen Abreu explains, “We lived in violence for so long, it became a part of our aesthetic and imagination, sadly. Narcos controlled the production of vinyl and the art market as a way to clean their money.”

Photo by Miss Rosen © Wilson Diaz

Abreu points to a record by Julian Conrado titled “Arando la Paz”, and indicates that the musician himself was involved in the drug trade. unlike many of the other album covers in the piece, Conrado does not don the gear of the paramilitary. Instead he sits i the jungle in a woven hat and a floral shirt, his direct gaze challenging and compelling us to meet his dark eyes. “Arando la Paz” stands apart from the other albums, much less sensation yet just as compelling.

Abreu continues, “For Diaz, a very important part of his practice is the appropriation of mass produced images.” Everywhere we can see evidence of the influence of the narco aesthetic in popular culture: the men are fighters while the women are lovers, each offering a highly charged way of looking at the other.

Photo by Miss Rosen © Wilson Diaz

Diaz first presented the work in 2011, as part of a study researching the relationship between Colombian musicians and politicians between 1970-1988. From this, “Amarillismo” began to emerge and take shape, giving a place for the artist to present records made by ex-Presidents, police, guerilla fights, and comedians.


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.

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