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  • ICAA Record ID
    Appel, Karel
    Villa El Salvador : Kerouaciana
    Karel Appel : street art, ceramics, sculpture, wood reliefs, tapestries, murals, Villa El Salvador. -- New York, USA : Abbeville Press, 1985
    p. [242]- [245] : ill.
    Book/pamphlet article – Testimonials
    Appel, Karel. "Villa El Salvador: Kerouaciana." In Karel Appel: street art, ceramics, sculpture, wood reliefs, tapestries, murals, villa El Salvador, 242- 245. New York, USA: Abbeville Press, 1985.
    Appel, Karel; Kerouac, Jack, 1922-

These remarks by Karel Appel, founder of the COBRA Group (COpenhagen-BRussels-Amsterdam) were on his 1976 trip to Peru that was then under nationalist military rule. He tells about his arrival to the country and the steps taken to create a mural with the participation of the inhabitants of Villa El Salvador, the largest “young town” (slum) in Lima. To that effect, he obtained the informal consent from the local authorities, as well as support with materials supplied by a paint factory. Appel then started working on the walls of the then Municipal bank with the support and intervention of the neighbors. After the artist had returned to Europe, the residents continued the work on the mural, even though they did so destructively. When shown photographs of individuals of the Villa defacing the mural with political inscriptions and graffiti, Appel commented ironically, “the people have now finished my mural and it looks really pretty.”


Almost a decade after the participatory collective mural project was carried out in Villa El Salvador, Appel gave this testimony on the event. Originally, he was attracted by the communal managerial vocation of the community, coupled with the range of reforms taken under military rule that were still ongoing. However, a few months prior General Morales Bermúdez (1975– 80) had ousted General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968–75) from the leadership of that national process. The optimism and perhaps naiveté of this first-hand chronicle can be summarized in two ways: by the use of the term “Indians” describing the inhabitants of the slum, and for using a title such as “Kerouacianas,” a clear allusion to the novelist and poet Jack Kerouac and the various meanings that the word “voyages,” portrayed in his famous novel “On the Road” (1957), provided to the Beatnik generation. Incidentally, another important poet of that movement, Allen Ginsberg, appeared together with the French art critic Pierre Restany among those responsible for the archetypical countercultural book that collected this valuable chronicle.

[For further reading, please refer to the ICAA digital archive for the following texts: [“El retablo es ‘Folclor Dadá’ y es arte, opinó plástico holandés Karel Appel: ‘lo que vio en la Escuela de Artes Plásticas no era arte’, dijo…”] (without author) (doc. no. 865535); and “Pintores peruanos continuarán labor del artista Karel Appel” by Felipe Adrianzén (doc. no. 865553)].

Daniel Contreras Medina
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru