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Art critic Marta Traba assesses the work on exhibition at the Salón de Arte Moderno [Salon of Modern Art] that took place at the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango of the Banco de la República de Colombia. Traba claims that this event was the best exhibition of 1957. Unlike the X Salón Nacional de Artistas [Tenth National Salon of Artists], the Salón de Arte Moderno presented the leading figures in Colombian modern art, such as sculptors Alicia Tafur, Julio Abril, Julio Fajardo, Hugo Martínez, Edgar Negret and José Domingo Rodríguez; and painters Cecilia Porras de Child, Judith Márquez, Lucy Tejada, Luis Alberto Acuña, Fernando Botero, Enrique Grau, Alejandro Obregón, Marco Ospina, Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar, Carlos Rojas, Hernando Tejada, and Guillermo Wiedemann. In this text, Traba discusses each of the works on display and compares them to the earlier production of each artist.


This article by Marta Traba (1923–1983), an Argentine art critic who lived in Colombia for many years, was published in Prisma, the magazine of art criticism Traba founded in 1957 and subsequently directed. The text evidences the sensible if demanding way she accompanied the development of new generations of Colombian artists from the time of her arrival in the country in 1954. It also attests to the values that Traba defended in her early criticism, values that questioned the generation of artists active in Colombia in the twenties and thirties. 


The Salón de Arte Moderno, organized in 1957 by art dealer Cecilia Ospina de Gómez, was the first exhibition held in the gallery of the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango of the Banco de la República de Colombia, a building that was completed that same year. Though there had been earlier events dedicated to the exhibition of new trends in Colombian art (the Salón de Arte Contemporáneo [Salon of Contemporary Art], for instance, held at the Museo Nacional of Colombia in 1948), the 1957 Salón de Arte Moderno was a critical event in the history of Colombian art. It brought together a number of different developments in the realms of art and criticism, as well as developments in institutions, all of which were essential to strengthening modern art throughout the country. The opening of the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango of the Banco de la República, for instance, has proven extremely significant to the cultural history of Colombia. Since the time of its creation in 1957, that institution—which holds one of the largest collections of Colombian art anywhere in the country—has worked tirelessly to disseminate Colombian and international art. Other significant developments at this historical juncture include the reinvigoration of the cultural scene in Colombia after a period of repression under the military government of General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (1900–1975); the consolidation of a modern tendency in Colombian art (a process intimately bound to the emergence of abstract painting and sculpture and to the figurative abstraction characteristic of modern Colombian painting); and finally, the development of an alternative to the Latin American art prevalent in the twenties and thirties, a tendency connected to Mexican muralism and similar movements.
Taller Historia Crítica del Arte (U.N.): Sylvia Suárez
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Fernando Zalamea Traba, Bogotá, Colombia