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Marta Traba wrote an exhaustive chronicle on “the high and low points” of the Festival de Arte de Cali (1964). She highlighted the performance of the actress Fanny Mikey, the enthusiastic organizer of the event, who became “Califanny” for the ten days of the festival. In Traba’s opinion, the flood of seemingly undifferentiated events was a problem. For example, there were twenty-two exhibitions presented without distinction “to a viewership that lacked any scale of values,” when only a few of the artists exhibiting work were truly worth the effort. As a countermeasure, she proposed that only contemporary art languages with “some quality” be exhibited, with simple explanations for Cali’s unschooled art viewers. Among the artists showing work, Traba focused on the “Pop” trend of Alberto Gutiérrez, described by Traba as “the first breath of Pop breathed in Colombia: fresh, invigorating,” and that of Hernando Tejada, in whose workshop the critic also found “Pop” work, although this was not evident among the works he showed. She was bothered by the apologetic tone of certain designations such as “Cali, capital of Latin American culture” and the supposed originality of the Grupo Nadaísta. She believed that euphoria of that kind was a sign of an underdeveloped culture. The prizes awarded to Lucy Tejada, Beatriz González, and Nirma Zárate (in painting), as well as to Alberto Gutiérrez and Leonel Góngora (in the Salón Nacional) served as a pretext for Traba to conclude the article with four theses on contemporary art in Colombia.
This article, by the Argentine critic and art historian Marta Traba (1923–83), is outstanding as an exhaustive report on the IV Festival de Arte de Cali (June 18–30, 1964). There is no other article on the festival as complete as this one, describing so many activities. Especially interesting was Traba’s criticism of the slogan “Cali, capital of Latin American culture,” in which the artists and intellectuals of this city had taken pride for some years.
Between 1961 and 1970, Cali was a paradigm city, holding ten annual rounds of the Festival de Arte de Cali, an event that invited a range of artwork, both national and international. For ten days each year, there was an intense cultural schedule that included lectures, roundtables, exhibitions, concerts as well as ballet and theater performances. The actors Fanny Mikey (1930–2008) and Pedro Martínez (of the Teatro Experimental de Cali or TEC), directed the first few rounds until 1966. Then the direction was taken over by Maritza Uribe de Urdinola (1923–2009). Before assuming this role, she had been secretary of education of Valle del Cauca and a representative to the legislature for Valle del Cauca as well. Her experience in the public sector and the backing of the Cali political elite guaranteed political and business connections for the successful management of such a cultural event. In June 1968, with the support of the cultural promoters Gloria Delgado and Martha Hoyos, at the VIII Festival Nacional de Arte de Cali, Uribe de Urdinola delivered to the city the Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia. The building, which was a modern structure designed by the architect Manuel Lago, would be the site for future Latin American graphic arts biennials.
For some years, the Grupo Nadaísta, made up of the writers Gonzalo Arango (1931–76), Jotamario Arbeláez (b. 1940), Elmo Valencia (b. 1926), and the artist Pedro Alcántara (b. 1942), used humor and irony to challenge the Festival de Arte de Cali (considered the official festival). Finally, they organized the simultaneous Festival de Arte de Vanguardia. From 1965 to 1969, during the same month as the official festival, they produced alternative events in which they promoted an irreverent, rebellious, and anti-official stance. They also managed to break with some of the traditional conventions of the official Festival de Arte. Together, the Festival Nacional de Arte de Cali and the Festival de Arte de Vanguardia represented the official and unofficial positions in the Cali cultural world, positions maintained well into the 1970s.