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In this text, Beatriz González recounts the history of the Salón Nacional, including the years during which it was not held (starting in 1980) and the reasons why. She also discusses the two retrospectives of the event: the first, which was held at the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango in 1966, featured award-winning works from seventeen editions of the Salón; and the second, held in 1974, featured award-winning works from twenty-four editions of the Salón. González asserts that these exhibitions evidence the importance of the Salón actually taking place, as well as the consequences of its temporary suspensions. González, an artist, criticizes the significant failings of the government in the area of culture, mentioning specifically the lack of funding and the need to construct venues suited to events like the Salón Nacional.


Colombian artist and critic Beatriz González (born 1938) calls this text—published in the magazine Arte en Colombia the year after the twenty-ninth edition of the Salón Nacional—“Un lustro es mucho tiempo” [Five Years Is a Long Time]. That title indicates from the outset how disconcerted she was by the absence of the Salón from 1980 to 1985, a period during which the event was not held due to structural changes in its organization and a lack of funding.  


González’s thesis is that the 1985 edition of the Salón was a failure because of how poorly the regional versions of the event had been managed. Regarding this, González—echoing Marta Traba—states that the Salón Nacional failed to act as a “thermometer of art in the country,” but was instead a “patchwork made of the various acts of irresponsibility with which [those local shows] were put together.” The diversity of selection criteria for those regional events evidenced that the decision to name a different group of jurors for each exhibition was by no means savvy. 


This is one of the texts by González published after she became an art critic in the early 1980s. In fact, her prolific work in the field of criticism has been crucial to the revision of recent local art practices. González has not only participated in various editions of the Salón Nacional as an artist, but has also been a major supporter of the event and its actual realization. She makes frequent reference to the theory of art critic Marta Traba (1923–1983), who asserted that the Salón was a crucial event in that it served to “take the temperature” of art in Colombia.


Significantly, at the time this article was written (the late 1980s), Colombia was in the throes of an exceedingly difficult socio-political situation. In 1985, Virgilio Barco (1921–1997) was elected president, and the turnover of power took place in a very discouraging environment. The eighties witnessed the height of the drug trade, which brought with it an increase in violence and, as a result, a significant loss of interest in cultural and artistic matters; the country was focused solely on its social problems.

Erika Martínez Cuervo
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Beatriz González Aranda, Bogotá, Colombia