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    [Esta bienal que por tercera vez inaguramos es la realización colombiana...] / Rodrigo Uribe Echavarría
    Tercera Bienal de Arte Coltejer Medellín. -- Medellín, Colombia : Colina, 1973
    p. 7- 8 : ill.
    Book/pamphlet article – Essays
    Uribe Echevarría, Rodrigo. “[Esta bienal que por tercera vez inaguramos es la realización colombiana...].” In Tercera Bienal de Arte Coltejer Medellín, 7–8. Exh. cat., Medellín, Colombia: Colina, 1973.


In this prologue to the catalogue of the 3rd Coltejer Art Biennial, held in Medellín in 1972, the president of the sponsoring company, Rodrigo Uribe Echavarría, explained what he considered to be the double significance of the Biennial, the most important and renowned art exhibition held in Colombia in those days. He referred first of all to the project’s “intrinsic spiritual, creative, and aesthetic value;” he also mentioned the modern private sector’s “obligations to particular segments of the community.” Uribe Echavarría devotes most of his essay to the latter aspect, noting at one point that the textile company’s objective was to stand with everyone: “we stand with the ignorant and the intellectuals, with the have-nots and with those whose needs are few. Our activities reach everyone.” He stated that the intention was to bring mankind together and that money “is not a goal.” Implicitly, Uribe drew parallels between private enterprise as a modernizing, transformative force (that is “dynamic, yielding to evolution, profoundly receptive, influenced by renovating forces that are changing the world through scientific and technical progress”) and art that “suffers from constant, rapid evolution.” He reminded his readers that the Biennial sought a “humanist” objective and was conceived with “clear social intentions: to educate through art, to promote culture, and to expose mankind’s essential concerns to the country and the world.” Uribe also said that “the point is not to discover the nature of art, but to ascertain whether it exists or will survive,” and that the 3rd Biennial presented “an informative cross section of the work being produced by artists, both young and seasoned, who are searching for a new kind of art that fluctuates between chaos and beauty.”


Coltejer, the textile firm, which at the time was among the oldest and most powerful companies in Colombia, sponsored four art Biennials in Medellín in 1968, 1970, 1972, and 1980. These events had a significant social and artistic impact, and helped launch avant-garde movements such as Conceptualism, Systems Art, Body Art, Happenings, and Installations. The 3rd Biennial was arranged in four major categories: Figurative Art, Non-Figurative Art, Technical and Scientific Art, and Conceptual Art.  


This document clearly expresses the mentality that prompted the company to promote and finance a modernizing event of this nature, which had an impact on artistic production and the art market at local and national levels. Eventually, however, the project was discontinued for a variety of reasons, including financial difficulties the company increasingly found itself facing.


With the Biennial, the city of Medellín followed international trends by encouraging the ideal of updating “Colombian art,” legitimizing modernist ambitions through exposure to contemporary trends, and “educating” the masses. These and similar objectives contributed to the creation of several Biennials all over Latin America. Most of them enjoyed a relatively brief existence, with the notable exception of the Sao Paulo Biennial which has been active since it was started in 1951.     

Santiago Londoño Vélez
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Reproduced with permission of Rodrigo Uribe Londoño, Sabaneta, Antioquia, Colombia