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In this article, the theoretician Marta Traba critiques the 1978 Salón Nacional de Artistas. The Salón has been an annual fixture since 1940, and is considered the most important event on the Colombian visual arts calendar. In her article, Traba discusses the involvement of young artists in the Salón, pointing out that there are essentially two types of artists: those who are looking for instant success by indulging the public’s taste, and those who are not trying to please the public but prefer to explore conceptual as well as visual art problems that interest them. In Traba’s opinion the latter group, that includes Ana Mercedes Hoyos, will succeed and will contribute to the development of contemporary art in Colombia.     


This was the first article published by the critic Marta Traba (1923–83) after having lived abroad from the late 1960s through the early 1970s. She wrote this text about the 1978 edition of the Salón Nacional de Artistas on her return to Colombia. Marta Traba was an Argentine critic who lived in Colombia; she played a leading role in the field of art criticism, hosting art programs on radio and television, and publishing essays and articles in newspapers and magazines.


In her article, Traba describes Ana Mercedes Hoyos and her painting Atmósferas as the only winner at the Salón; Traba argues that, despite her youth, Hoyos has mastered a conceptual form of expression as well as a visual art language, an accomplishment that the critic considers worthy of acknowledgment. Traba critiques the other winning work at the Salón, the project A-la-cena-con-zapatos exhibited by the El Sindicato group, which Traba dismisses as “a copy of a commercial formula used in Punk Art.” The influential Colombian artist and critic Álvaro Barrios (b. 1945), on the other hand, believes that A-la-cena-con-zapatos is the first political-conceptual work to win a prize at an event of this stature [see Orígenes del arte conceptual en Colombia, doc. no. 1098159]. The article also mentions other young artists whose works, according to Traba, should be taken seriously because they represent an expression of solid, meaningful thought.    


The Colombian artist Ana Mercedes Hoyos (b. 1942) gained a measure of recognition when she won first prize at the exhibition Espacios Ambientales in 1968. Atmósferas, the prizewinner at the Salón, is a large painting in which the artist applies white extensively through the use of transparencies; it is essentially a sequel to her previous work (the Ventanas series). In Traba’s opinion, Atmósferas reveals the artist’s profound interest in form and color, and reflects her musings on light and painting itself.     


The jurors at the 1978 Salón Nacional de Artistas were as follows: Santiago Cárdenas (b. 1937), the Colombian artist who won the prize there in 1976; the Brazilian Aracy A. Amaral (b. 1930), who was at the time the director of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo; and Waldo Rasmussen, the director of the international program at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York.

Juanita Solano; Laura Trujillo
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Gustavo Zalamea Traba, Bogotá, Colombia