Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Olga de Amaral studied textiles at the Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Michigan. Amaral is a renowned artist whose technique, which incorporates fiber, paint, gesso and precious metals, transforms the two-dimensional textile structure into sculptural presences that seamlessly blend art, craft, and design. In their engagement with materials and processes, her works become essentially unclassifiable and self-reflexively authentic.
Amaral is an important figure in the development of post-war Latin American abstraction. Her creation of “off stretcher” works, using non-traditional materials, acquires greater historical resonance with each passing year. Understanding and being understood is an important part of her work. Through a complex system based on artisanal technique, she finds answers to inner questions. As a result, Amaral’s work is deeply driven by her exploration of Colombian culture and threads of her own identity. Architecture, mathematics, landscape, and the socio-cultural dichotomies of Colombia are woven together with each strand of fiber. Her golden surfaces of light embody the hidden aspects of her inner self. .
The use of gold, inspired by the intertwined histories of pre-Hispanic and Colonial art, gives her work a presence at once sensual and otherworldly. In his prologue essay to the book Olga de Amaral: El Manto de la Memoria (2000), Edward-Lucie-Smith comments on the transcendent qualities of her art: "A large part of Olga's production has been concerned with gold, but there are in fact no equivalents for what she makes in Pre-Columbian archaeology. Nevertheless one feels that such objects ought in logic to exist — that she has supplied a lack."
Throughout her career, Amaral has gathered myriad accolades that speak volumes of her importance in both academic and artistic circles. In 1965, she established and directed the Textile Department at the Universidad de los Andes (University of the Andes) in Bogotá. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973, and in 2005 was named “Artist Visionary” by the Museum of Art and Design in New York. In 2008, she served as honorary co-chair for the benefit of the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 2011, she was honored at the multicultural gala of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 2019 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's Caucus for Art (in New York).
Galleries and institutions worldwide have exhibited Amaral’s work, the full range of which is represented in the collections of over forty museums, including the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan, San Francisco’s De Young Museum, the Museum Bellerive in Zürich, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Renwick Gallery of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. She currently lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia.
Her long-established recognition in the United States has now extended to Europe. She has had solo exhibitions in Paris (Galerie Agnès Monplaisir, 2010), London (Louis Blouin Foundation, 2013), Brussels (La Patinoire Royale - galerie Valérie Bach, 2018) and has been featured in important group shows, such as the upcoming Southern Geometries: from Mexico to the Land of Fire at the Fondation Cartier in Paris.