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In this article, Javier Arango Ferrer reviews and criticizes the IX Salón de Artistas Colombianos [Ninth Salon of Colombian Artists] that opened at the Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá on August 7, 1952. Participants in the event included established artists, such as María Teresa Zerda, José Domingo Rodríguez, Hernando Tejada, Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo, and Blanca Sinisterra de Carreño. Arango Ferrer defends the importance of art criticism to evaluating emerging tendencies in the visual arts in Colombia. He also discusses parallel exhibitions, like the Salón de Los Otros [The Others Salon], held in 1952, organized by artists whose work was not accepted by the jury at the government-sponsored event. Arango Ferrer provides an analytical and critical overview of some of the participating artists, as well as an interpretation of how certain local artists formulate the idea of the “modern.”
The position formulated by surgeon, ophthalmologist, professor, and art historian and critic Javier Arango Ferrer (1905–1985) on the Salones de Artistas as a recurring event is interesting. He supports dissident salons like the Salón de Los Otros since they provide “new stimulation” and “help to establish […] forms of expression that may be revolutionary and difficult to accept.” The Salón de Los Otros, which was held in 1952, included work by young artists as well as those who had already gained public recognition: Guillermo Wiedemann (1905–1969), Luis Alberto Acuña (1904–1993), and young artists Beatriz Daza (1927–1968) and Bolivian Sofía Urrutia (1912–2002), among others. This alternative salon presented new visual languages developing in the country, languages that differed from the ones endorsed by the Salón Nacional as the proper models for the nation’s aesthetic. Significantly, the official salon was organized by caudillo Laureano Gómez’s ultraconservative pro-Franco administration. Indeed, this is why Arango Ferrer asserts that the Salón de Los Otros will have greater impact on Colombian art than the Salón Nacional de Artistas, and that the alternative event will prove the source of new tendencies.
Arango Ferrer analyzes the work of those participants in the IX Salón de Artistas Colombianos that stand out for one reason or another. In terms of the painting, and especially the portrait genre, included in the salon, Arango Ferrer asserts that the work of Sinisterra de Carreño (1907–1995) provides keys to assessing all the portraits included in the show. In Arango Ferrer’s view, Sinisterra’s pictorial agility and “keen sensibility” are illustrated in a use of color comparable to [that seen in] the School of Paris and Titian, as well as contemporary artists, such as Bolivian Sofía Urrutia and fellow Colombian Lucy Tejada (1920?2011). Those artists, Arango Ferrer argues, were at the forefront of contemporary Colombian painting in the fifties. As the niece of President Laureano Gómez, Blanca Sinisterra de Carreño enjoyed considerable recognition in the Colombian cultural scene. Arango Ferrer favorably compares her to other emerging female painters who were transforming visual language, artists who formulated a radical break from the sort of work she was doing.
In Arango Ferrer’s view, the tension between the academy and the avant-garde, “the imminent opposition between order and adventure,” has been and will continue to be the eternal debate for generations. And it is precisely this debate that gives rise to the Salón de Los Otros. The IX Salón de Artistas Colombianos failed to show new aesthetic tendencies capable of furthering Colombian art or of formulating a rupture with existing art. As Arango Ferrer demonstrates in this article, the salon, despite its conservative bend, featured some works of great interest insofar as they portrayed the sociocultural context of Colombia in the fifties. Complementing this article is the text in the catalogue 50 años. Salón Nacional de Artistas [50 Years. National Salon of Artists] by Camilo Calderón Schrader (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1990), p. 67; and “IX Salón de Artistas” by Casimiro Eiger in Crónicas del Arte Colombiano [Chronicles of the Colombian Art] (Bogotá: Editorial Banco de La República, 1995).