The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this letter to the editor of the Bogota-based newspaper El Tiempo, a group of artists, journalists, and individuals connected to the Colombian art world voice their displeasure at the Academia Colombiana de Historia’s position on the planned monument to Simón Bolívar, “The Liberator,” to be made by sculptor Edgar Negret. The letter condemns the Academia Colombiana de Historia (A.C.H.) for its ignorance of the artistic tendencies of the eighties. It also rejects the description of Negret’s work, which the authors find offensive to the nation’s entire artistic community. They also refute the lack of intelligence attributed to the general public by the historians. Finally, the text claims that the A.C.H. is one of the institutions that stands in the way of progress in Colombia.
This letter is significant as one of the few instances when a substantial portion of the artistic community stood up for itself before Colombian society, defending their rights as professionals with a specific area of expertise. The letter is signed by a number of important members of the Colombian artistic community of the eighties, including the sculptors Feliza Bursztyn (1933-1982) and Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar (1923–2004), and painters Carlos Rojas (1933–1997) and Manuel Hernández (b. 1928), among many others. This is one of the most interesting episodes in a controversy that continued into the second half of the eighties, one in which an abstract sculptor like Edgar Negret (b. 1920) was given unconditional support by the artistic community.
The monument to Simón Bolívar that the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte [Ministry of Public Works and Transportation] commissioned sculptor Edgar Negret to make was at the center of the polemic. The Academia Colombiana de Historia expressed its opposition to the choice of this artist, and in response the artistic community defended its right to self-determination. The work was to form part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the death of Simón Bolívar, popularly referred to as “The Liberator,” to be held in the plaza in Bogota now known as “Simón Bolívar Park.” At a press conference days before Negret was to start working on the monument—which the artist said “will be the greatest sculpture of my entire career and the sole focus of my attention”—members of the A.C.H. made public their dissatisfaction with the proposed monument. They stated “there is no justification for such a large investment in a work that will convey no cultural or historical message to the public, which is in need of a comprehensive understanding of the heroic struggle for liberation.” That criticism referred in part to the decision to construct a monumental work (30 x 80 x 80 meters) that would require funds which, in the opinion of these historians, could be put to better use in another type of project. This was the starting point for a downpour of criticism of all sorts, ultimately leading to the cancelation of the project and a statement issued by the Ministerio de Obras denying that it had at any point commissioned the project.
Other documents related to this article are “Académicos vs. Artistas” [see doc. no. 1089362] and “No se ordenó monumento de Negret” [doc. no. 1089334].