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This article documents a $20,000 prize awarded to the Colombian artist Ana Mercedes Hoyos for her work in the exhibition Espacios ambientales, held by the Museo de Arte Moderno of Bogotá (1968). The work awarded the prize was Blanco sobre blanco, sobre blanco, sobre blanco. Other artists who participated in the exhibition included Santiago Cárdenas, Álvaro Barrios, Feliza Bursztyn, and the laborer Celso Muñoz. The text briefly summarizes the artist’s education both at the Universidad de los Andes and at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. It cites her participation in some group exhibitions and one individual exhibition held at the Galería Ud. Finally the article states that, out of the original prize of $25,000, $5,000 would be awarded to Muñoz for the work Bogotá, una ciudad en marcha para beneficio de todo el país.
The exhibition Espacios ambientales was one of the first held in Colombia that was limited to installations. As the artist Álvaro Barrios (b. 1945) told it, the idea arose after a visit he made to Italy, from an exhibition entitled Lo spazio dell’immagine [The Space of the Image]. Upon his return, Barrios suggested to the art critic Marta Traba (1923-83) that she hold an exhibition based on installations in given spaces. The exhibition was held in late 1968 at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá—at the time, still located at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
In addition to contributing to the development of unconventional approaches in art in Colombia, this exhibition made it clear that the viewing public was dealing with new ways of conceiving, viewing and understanding works of art. This became more evident when two students from the Universidad Nacional staged an outburst in the museum, destroying two of the works being shown there. They justified their acts by saying that this was “elitist art.” Paradoxically, one of the works damaged was that created by the laborer Celso Muñoz.
The work by Ana Mercedes Hoyos (1942?2014) was a labyrinth rendered in wood and “screen,” which led to a small lighted window through which white airmail envelopes entered in a continual stream. Muñoz’s work, in turn, consisted of a large model of the city of Bogotá situated on the museum’s sculpture patio. As it happened, the prize awarded to Hoyos in this exhibition was the first the artist had ever received.