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In this essay, which is the introduction to the book Ciudad–Espejo [City–Mirror] (2009), the Colombian critic Natalia Gutiérrez bases her review of Colombian contemporary art on the works presented at the 39 Salón Nacional de Artistas [39th National Artists Salon] (2004). She explains that this Salon, which attracted many photographic and video submissions, revealed that a large number of Colombian artists were interested in the city as a subject. Gutiérrez tries to look beyond idealized portrayals to find a sense of contemporary art, and compliments the work of artists who see the city in terms of ideological relationships and forces that are susceptible to being photographed. She focuses mainly on the work of photo-journalists who showcase a crude reality with no attempt to stimulate any sort of analysis, using their camera to scrutinize reality from the outside with an ethnographic or archeological slant; she is also interested in works whose spectacular editing overshadows the city itself.


The Salón Nacional de Artistas [National Artists Salon] was founded in Bogota on October 12, 1940, when Eduardo Santos was the president of Colombia and Jorge Eliecer Gaitán was the Minister of Education; they launched the event as the Primer Salón Anual de Artistas [First Annual Artists Salon]. The Salón Nacional de Artistas is still operational (as it was in 2009) and has consistently been one of the most important art events in Colombia. The critic Natalia Gutiérrez (b. 1954) was unimpressed by the comments made by visitors to the 39th National Artists Salon (2004) and by some of her colleagues, and decided to review the works in the exhibition herself. The result is the essay published in Ciudad Espejo [City Mirror] (2009).   


In her essay, Gutiérrez takes a very personal look at Colombia’s contemporary art, especially its photography, which is one of her main interests. Her definition of what she considers to be the most important works in terms of an urban statement, “Nada está flotando…” [Nothing is Floating] is a key document that helps to understand her own unique perspective. In fact, it is the basis for subsequent interpretations of Colombian contemporary art. Gutiérrez studied anthropology at the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, and the History and Theory of Architecture and Art at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, also in Bogotá. She has worked as a critic and university professor, and is currently at the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas [Aesthetic Research Institute] at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Her Master’s dissertation, Cruces, Arte, Artista: José Alejandro Restrepo [Crosses, Art, Artist: José Alejandro Restrepo] (2000) (see doc. # 1091801) was published by the Mayor’s office in Bogotá.  


For more information, see the essays and interviews published in Ciudad – Espejo [City – Mirror] (see “Amodorrado en el fondo de un Sahara brumoso…” [Drowsy in the Depths of a Hazy Sahara], doc. # 1099051; and “Entrevista a Miguel Ángel Rojas” [Interview with Miguel Ángel Rojas], doc. # 1099201). 

Juan David Berrío
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
© Natalia Gutiérrez, Bogotá, Colombia