Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail
  • ICAA Record ID
    El nuevo giro de la historia del arte en los Estados Unidos / Damián Bayón
    Arte en Colombia : internacional (Bogotá, Colombia). -- No. 38 (Dic. 1988)
    p. 41-42 : ill.
    Journal article – Essays
    Bayón, Damián. “El nuevo giro de la historia del arte en los Estados Unidos.” Arte en Colombia: Internacional (Bogotá, Colombia), no. 38 (December 1988): 40–41.

In “El nuevo giro de la Historia del Arte en los Estados Unidos,” [The New Turn of Art History in the United States], Argentine historian and critic Damián Bayón criticizes an article by journalist Grace Glueck published in the New York Times that discusses recent trends in the United States. In his text, Bayón exposes the fallacy of presenting structuralist and Marxist approaches [to art] as if they were a methodological innovation that had originated in the United States. Bayón asserts that, in the field of history, this interdisciplinary approach had been practiced in France, and even in Latin America, since the mid-20th century simply because historians from those places were “much more aware of what universal cultural represents.” In Bayón’s view, the book by his mentor Pierre Francastel, Painting and Society (a work that Bayón translated into Spanish), is an excellent example of this. Bayón admits that he was “greatly surprised” by the fact that Glueck mentions feminism as an approach to the study of art. Bayón also critically discusses English, North American, and Swiss historians associated with this “new turn in art history”—figures like Timothy J. Clark, Thomas Crow, and Kurt Foster. Bayón expresses his fear about the wholesale application of interdisciplinary methods in the United States because, rather than enriching the vision of art, they place it in a secondary position by employing only extra-aesthetic paradigms. Bayón does recognize figures who oppose this tendency, including North Americans such as Sidney Freedberg, Robert Rosenblum, Hilton Kramer, Carter Brown, and mostly Susan Sontag, whom he sees as a fundamental figure. While Bayón supports moving beyond “rote” and “routine” teaching of art history in the United States—which he was familiar with thanks to the ten years he spent in that country teaching from an interdisciplinary perspective—he denies that that approach is innovative and fears its extra-artistic radicalization. 


Starting in the seventies, Argentine historian and critic Damián Carlos Bayón (1915–1995) was one of the most influential intellectuals in Colombia, thanks to his assiduous participation in events of an artistic and academic nature, as well as his work as a correspondent for the magazine Arte en Colombia Internacional. Bayón, who studied art history with French sociologist Pierre Francastel—who influenced Bayón greatly—was crucial to the development of regional thinking about the conditions surrounding Latin American art. His book Aventura Plástica de Hispanoamérica [The Visual Arts Adventure in Latin America] (1974) is a milestone in the history of thought on art from the Americas.  


After the death of Marta Traba (1923–1983), an Argentine critic who had lived in Bogotá since the 1950s, Bayón, along with Mexican-based Peruvian critic Juan Acha (1916–1995), was largely responsible for disseminating the Latin American intellectual tradition in the Colombian art scene. Along these lines, the aforementioned article (“El nuevo giro de la Historia del Arte en los Estados Unidos”) is key to understanding both methodological concerns and theoretical points of reference pertinent to the historical and critical vision that characterized thinking on Latin America art and its reality, especially in the context of materialist theories of cultural dependency.

Sylvia Suárez
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Centro Damián Carlos Bayón del Instituto de América de Santa Fé, Granada, España