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This document makes some relevant points in the debate over abstract art in Colombia that was sparked by the monument to Bolívar, originally commissioned from the sculptor Édgar Negret by the Ministry of Public Works. In the article, the Colombian artists Feliza Bursztyn, Carlos Rojas, Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar, and Manuel Hernández publicly expressed their defense of what they did. As explained by the commentator Gloria Valencia Diago, the debate over Negret’s work prompted questions about the very existence of abstract art in Colombia. She said, “It is not about the defense of a particular monument, but rather the offensive mounted by some people against Colombian creativity, against abstract reasoning.” A little over a month after the debate began, the artists mentioned above met at the newspaper offices of El Tiempo to express just how serious and professional they were about their work as abstract artists, explaining the relevance of their work in Colombia and how it had been mistreated.


This article appeared during one of the most interesting phases of the debate about abstract art in Colombia in the late 1980s. It describes one of the few occasions when abstract artists came together as a group to make a joint public statement about the relevance of their work and how hard it was for artists to work. The article is particularly interesting for its insights into the public perception and reception of abstract art in Colombia, still undeniably hostile thirty years after the first exhibitions.


The debate that sparked this defense of abstraction had its roots in the uproar stirred up by the monument to Simón Bolívar that had been commissioned from the sculptor Édgar Negret (1920?2012) by the Colombian Ministry of Public Works and Transportation. The monument was to have been part of the celebration of the sesquicentennial of the death of the liberator and was to have been installed in a small square in what is now called the Simón Bolívar Park in Bogotá. Just days before construction on the monument was to have begun—a monument that Negret said “would be the best sculpture of my career, to which I am totally committed”—the members of the Colombian Academy of History called a press conference to express their dissatisfaction with Negret’s design. They stated that “they cannot justify such a large investment in a work that will communicate no cultural or historical message to the general public, who would have to be extremely familiar with the particular creative process.”


The original objection called for a better use of the funds that had been earmarked for the construction of the monument (that measured 30 x 80 x 80 meters), and in so doing unleashed a flood of criticism. Ultimately, the Ministry of Works cancelled the project and stated that it had never commissioned Negret to produce the work in the first place.


The material in this article is also mentioned in: “Desagravio de artistas al maestro Édgar Negret” [Artists Make Amends to Maestro Édgar Negret] [see doc. no. 1089597]; and “No se ordenó monumento de Negret” [The Monument was Not Commissioned from Negret] [doc. no. 1089334].

Julián Serna
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Casa Editorial El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia