Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

This document is Edgar Negret’s response to the press release from the Ministry of Public Works in which he set forth points related to the controversy generated about Abstract art in Colombia based on the monument to Bolívar, a sculpture the artist was commissioned to create. Regarding the notice of cancelation of the construction of the monument to Bolívar due to lack of funds, the daily newspaper, El Tiempo, presented Negret’s statement. The artist was frankly disconcerted about the development of the dispute related to the construction of his work in the Parque Simón Bolívar [Simón Bolívar Park] in Bogotá. Moreover, he questioned the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (the agency that commissioned the work and later denied its support for the official initiative) for its failure to provide a public response to his open letters, sent to the main daily newspapers in Colombia. The artist stated that such irresponsibility on the government’s part struck a blow against art in Colombia. Given the situation, he announced his decision not to leave his house/museum to the Colombian government. He reported that he had taken the initial steps toward donating the first set of his works to the Museo de Bellas Artes [Museum of Fine Arts] in Caracas.

Annotations

The importance of this document is the veritable avalanche of criticism it set off in Colombian public opinion throughout the second half of 1980. The Ministry’s first reaction was to declare the cancelation of the project to create a monument to Bolívar that had been commissioned to Edgar Negret (1920?2012). Subsequently, it issued a second press release stating that, “at no time” had it commissioned Negret to execute this project, insinuating that he was doing it for his own account. The text states that, deeming the cost of creating the monument excessive, the administration had not taken any legal steps to acquire the work. Given that official position and the silence that followed the press release, Negret was represented—in his own words—“as some kind of idiot who began to construct a work that nobody had commissioned.” After these insults to his work and person, Negret had to contemplate [the idea of] voluntary exile.

 

This was the crest of the wave of controversy generated about the monument to Bolívar (initially or allegedly) commissioned to Negret by the Colombian Ministry of Public Works and Transport. Discussions in the press indicated that it would have been the largest monument constructed in Latin America (measuring 30x80x80 meters). It would have been placed in a small square in what is today known as Parque Simón Bolívar in Bogotá, and would have been an integral part of the celebration of the sesquicentenary of the death of the Liberator.

 

These events occurred just days before construction of the monument was to begin. In Negret’s opinion, the monument “will be the best work I have ever sculpted, in a lifetime dedicated to sculpture.” The members of the Academia Colombiana de Historia [Colombian History Academy] took their disagreement with Negret’s design to the public in a press release. The historians stated that “there is no justification for such a large investment in a work that will not transmit any cultural or historical message to a people who need to expand their knowledge of the heroic act of emancipation.” 

This document must be read along with “Desagravio de artistas al maestro Edgar Negret” [doc. no. 1089597]; “No se ordenó monumento de Negret” [doc. no. 1089334]; “Será un Monumento Popular” [doc. no. 1098751]; “Críticas por monumento a Bolívar” [doc. no. 1098736]; and “Académicos vs. Artistas” [doc. no. 1089362].

Researcher
Julián Camilo Serna Lancheros
Team
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Credit
Courtesy of Casa Editorial El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia