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Published in the catalogue to the exhibition commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Primer Salón de Arte Moderno, this text by Sylvia Juliana Suárez presents the idea, process and results of a curatorial and editorial project formulated by cultural manager and art critic Camilo Calderón Schrader. In order to bring the first edition of the salon—held in 1957—to bear on the present, Calderón Schrader proposed a commemorative exhibition featuring the works that had been exhibited fifty years before. He also formulated a careful historical research project that would enable a retrospective reading of the event while linking it to the political, social, and cultural occurrences that took place in Colombia in the fifties. The result of this initiative was the exhibition held at the Casa Republicana of the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango in Bogotá from November 2007 to May 2008, as well as the catalogue in which this text appears.


This text by historian and curator Sylvia Juliana Suárez (b. 1981) makes clear the complex context in which the Primer Salón de Arte Moderno was held. It places emphasis on the political events that occurred in 1957, specifically the end of General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla’s dictatorship, the establishment of the Frente Nacional, and suffrage for women. Suárez also discusses the cultural events and publications that emerged during those years that served to strengthen the role of art in the country. “The first Salón de Arte Moderno had an indisputable depth that allowed it to become the cornerstone of future readings of the history of Colombian art and culture,” states Suárez. This commemorative edition of the salon required locating the works exhibited in the first edition of the event. It also set out to highlight their specific historical, political, and cultural context in order to formulate a coherent curatorial proposal. Suárez and her team broke ground in the field of artistic research by conceiving a way to think about art from another time and to construct a dialogue between that art and the present, thus returning to the idea of historical consciousness.


The basis for the curatorial and research project formulated by Camilo Calderón Schrader (b. 1941) and Sylvia Suárez was “to take another look” at the show held in 1957 as well as its repercussions during a fifty-year period. In Colombia, the fifties witnessed the beginning of the rise of the country’s most widely known Modern artists, figures like Alejandro Obregón (1920-1992), Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar (1923-2004), and Edgar Negret (b. 1920). Their works helped give rise to local criticism. By reviewing the criticism and other archival material from the fifties and by conversing with witnesses and major players in the events of the day, the research team was able to reassess the value—to use Suárez’s term—of the work of certain artists beyond what Bogotá-based Argentine critic Marta Traba called the “Modernist canon. ” Indeed, Traba’s voice was something of an institution in the visual arts in Colombia.


The research team consisted of historian Jorge Orlando Melo (b.1942), who studied Colombian political history in 1957; art historian Álvaro Medina (b. 1942), who analyzed the salon as an event representative of the visual arts; and Carmen María Jaramillo (b. 1958). In conjunction with her team (Nicolás Gómez, Felipe González, Natalia Paillié, and Julián Serna), Jaramillo presented the artistic context of the time, which witnessed, among other things, the opening of exhibition venues, the greater participation of women painters, and the consolidation of Modern art.

Erika Martínez Cuervo
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Sylvia Juliana Suárez Segura, Bogotá, Colombia
Courtesy of Banco de la República, Angela María Pérez Mejía, Bogotá, Colombia