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In this article, Walter Engel, an Austrian critic who lived in Colombia, reviews the group exhibition held on the occasion of the opening of “El Caballito” gallery in Bogotá in 1956. Engel asserts that the opening of the gallery represents a major step forward for the patronage of Modern art. Engel goes on to remark on some of the works on exhibit, attempting to demonstrate how they embody the modern approach of their makers. Regarding Músico callejero [Street Musician] by Luis Alberto Acuña, for instance, Engels highlights an evident change in style as the artist has gone from “bulky sculptural volumes” to “angular pictorial planes.” Finally, Engel invites readers—especially those interested in Modern art—to visit the new gallery whose owners, judging from the artists invited to participate in this first show, clearly support Modernism. 


This article evidences the support for Modern art in Colombia in the fifties, the decade during which it took hold in the country. A professional art critic, Walter Engel (1908-2005) praises the private initiative of Cecilia Ospina de Gómez, who opened “El Caballito” gallery in 1956. In his opinion, both the artists invited to participate in the first exhibition at the gallery and the works they exhibited provide resounding evidence of the type of work that the new gallery will advocate. Artists like Enrique Grau (1920-2004), Fernando Botero (b. 1932), Alejandro Obregón (1920-1992), and Guillermo Wiedemann (1905-1969), all of whom were engaged in exploring Modern visual languages, confirm the gallery’s intent. 


This article was published in the first issue of the magazine Plástica, directed by artist Judith Márquez (1925–1994), a journal dedicated to the aesthetic problems surrounding the advent of avant-garde art in Colombia. As this publication makes clear, this period witnessed a convergence of critics, artists, and editors, all of whom were instrumental to building the Colombian art scene.


In the mid-fifties, Bogotá, a city once indifferent to Modern art, woke up to the upheaval its formulations entailed. The art criticism of the day largely supported Modern art, thanks in part to foreign critics who resided in Colombia such as Polish-born Casimiro Eiger (1911–1987) and Vienna-born Walter Engel. Similarly, a few galleries that showed new art had opened. Eiger himself directed “El Callejón” gallery, which was located less than ten blocks from spaces like Galerías de Arte and the Biblioteca Nacional.

Camilo Sarmiento Jaramillo
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of the Engel/ Marks Families, Ontario, Canada