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


Document first page thumbnail

Historian and art critic Germán Rubiano provides an overview of the XXXIII Salón Nacional de Artistas held in Bogotá in 1990. In his presentation of the event, he emphasizes the work of the Instituto Colombiano de Cultura (Colcultura), the organizing body, on the fiftieth anniversary of the salon’s first edition. Rubiano also discusses the venue where the exhibition took place—one of the pavilions of the Corferias convention center —which proved a good choice for the 1,200 works exhibited. Most of the text addresses the most important works in the exhibition as well as the range of media they employ.


The XXXIII Salón Nacional de Artistas marked the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the event with an exhibition that, by means of different forms of expression, evidenced the implications of the eighties on the visual arts in Colombia. Many works in this exhibition were influenced by the Italian trans-avant-garde and by interest in the installation genre; pieces on exhibit included early formulations of conceptualism on the Colombian art scene, as well as performances and photographs.  


The exhibition took place at the same time as the Feria Internacional del Libro (International Book Fair), which brought it an even larger viewing public. As Rubiano indicates, that did not mean that viewers were equipped to develop a critical reading of the works; indeed, the public’s lack of education and information about the arts became patent. Rubiano’s vision of the salon contemplates not only the works presented, but the event in its entirety, including its organization.  


Rubiano comments that many of the works exhibited bore no direct relationship with “the dramatic and complex reality” facing the country. Gerardo Mosquera, a Cuban critic who Rubiano cites in his text, points out the basic problem that, though there was quality work on exhibit, it had little to do with Colombian identity. The tendency to imitate or to appropriate languages totally unrelated to the local context is one of the most important criticisms voiced in this article.


The works were exhibited on two different floors of the pavilion. The first housed what were considered two-dimensional works and the second the three-dimensional works. This criterion, though, did not prove adequate since the variety and quantity of works on display required another principle for their distribution. The layout of the sculptures and the installations was particularly inadequate, making it hard to appreciate those works. The exhibition featured more figurative than abstract painting, and the boldest works were, by and large, the three-dimensional ones.


Colombian artist María Teresa Hincapié (1954–2008) was awarded first prize at the XXXIII Salón Nacional de Artistas for her performance Una cosa es una cosa [A Thing Is a Thing]. In that work, she removed a number of objects—decorative objects, food, clothing—from an old suitcase and organized them in a rectangular space; she then repeated the process, packing and unpacking incessantly.

Erika Martínez Cuervo
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of German Rubiano, Bogotá, Colombia