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This article expresses the official point of view on the controversy that was sparked by the decision to award no prizes at the XXIII Salón de Artistas Nacionales [XXIII National Artists’ Salon] (1972). The article is written by Germán Rubiano, the Colombian critic and director of the art museum at the National University of Colombia. By way of introduction to the event, Rubiano’s article inquires: “Is the National Salon representative?” He asks what traits or features could be considered representative of Colombian art, and how might they be defined. He also wonders whether it is the general public (art history professors or art critics, the Instituto Colombiano de Cultura [Colombian Cultural Institute], (Colcultura) or modern art museums and galleries) that irrevocably decide which are the most representative traits of Colombian art. Rubiano deems the XXIII Salón de Artistas Nacionales to be a representative exhibition, though it is but a sample of Colombian art. In his article he mentions the presence of several generations of artists and the variety of artistic languages on display at the Salon and concludes that “there are works of art for everyone.” 


The XXIII Salón de Artistas Nacionales [XIII National Artists’ Salon] (an official exhibition of Colombian visual arts) opened at the Museo Nacional [National Museum] in Colombia on November 3, 1972, and included works by forty-five artists. When this article appeared, the art historian and professor Germán Rubiano Caballero (b. 1938) was a member of the Junta Asesora de Artes Plásticas del Instituto Colombiano de Cultura [Visual Arts Advisory Board of the Colombian Cultural Institute], (Colcultura). His essay is thus one of the few that present the official point of view on the matter, together with the one by Juan Antonio Roda (1921–2003), titled “Razones de una decisión” [Reasons for a Decision].    

Rubiano holds a degree in philosophy and letters from the Universidad Nacional [National University] of Colombia, and studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art (University of London). He has been a professor at the Universidad Nacional since 1961, and in 1972 became the director of the University Museum of Art.

The Instituto Colombiano de Cultura (Colcultura), which at that time was a division of the Colombian department of education—was created as part of the constitutional reform sponsored in 1968 by the Carlos Lleras Restrepo administration, and became the first decentralized public entity with a specific role in the cultural sector. The Colombian poet Jorge Rojas (1911–1995) was appointed director of Colcultura in 1969, and his tenure was criticized by the artists Bernardo Salcedo (1939–2007) and Álvaro Herrán (b. 1937) who parodied the official institutionalization of art on the opening day of the Salon (see “Bernardo Salcedo y Álvaro Herrán presentan en el XXIII Salón Nacional su obra ‘Colombiana’” [Bernardo Salcedo and Álvaro Herrán Present Their “Colombian” Work at the XXIIII National Salon], doc. no. 1078424).

Rubiano mentions the diversity of generations represented at the Salon, that included works by the Maestro Luis Alberto Acuña (1904–1984) and submissions by art students from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia [Colombian National University], Universidad de los Andes [University of the Andes], and the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Cali [Cali School of Fine Arts]. Among the ranks of established artists he mentions: Carlos Rojas (1933–1997), Olga de Amaral (b. 1932), Santiago Cárdenas (b. 1937), and younger artists such as Antonio Caro (b. 1950) who are, according to Rubiano, “trying to make a different sort of art, or a new sort of art.”

The traveling exhibition of the XXIII Salón de Artistas Nacionales [XXIII National Artists’ Salon] was presented in thirteen Colombian cities: Bogotá, Cali, Popayán, Pasto, Manizales, Medellín, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Cúcuta, Bucaramanga, Tunja, Ibagué, and Neiva. The works in the exhibition were grouped under the following headings: “Arte político” [Political Art], “Dibujo figurativo” [Figurative Drawing], “Arte geométrico” [Geometric Art], “Grabado” [Prints], and “Pintores primitivistas” [Primitivist Painters]. 

This article was edited by Camilo Calderón Schrader (ed.) for the book 50 Años, Salón Nacional de Artistas [National Artists’ Salon: 50 Years], Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, (Colcultura), 1990. 

Katia González Martinez
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of German Rubiano, Bogotá, Colombia.
Courtesy of Casa Editorial El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia